2106 Goal Setting: What 2015 taught me about Doing Hard Things

This post is going to be a reflection on the theme I chose at the beginning of this year and how that’s worked itself out in the past 12 months. I wish this was going to be an upbeat fun post… and those are coming next week as I take on Goal setting for 2016 (following Lara Casey’s Make it Happen Process). They will include the best of moments and my favorites of this past year as well as what worked and didn’t and my big dreams for 2016.

I’ve so enjoyed looking forward and getting excited at all that is ahead. But I’m just going to start off with the hard post and the post that’s weighing so heavy on my heart. Some might think me crazy for writing publicly about these things, and maybe I am. But if you’re a writer then you get when you just have words inside that must come out and in being written actually help you process and heal. So read along, pray for me as I continue to process and heal, know that through all of this a very good God sustained in amazing ways and that I wouldn’t trade any of it for a year that was smooth sailing but had little growth.

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I am more than ready to say goodbye to 2015! I am. I’m ready to have this year be something to look back on instead of going through. It was not an awful year, in fact it was an epic year. It was also a hard year Maybe my mistake was having my year’s theme be DO HARD THINGS! what was I thinking?? I’ll tell you what I was thinking.. I was thinking like work out more or brush the kids teeth religiously or get up earlier…that kind of hard.  But that’s not what the Lord was thinking. I think His focus was more on the hard things my heart would come to encounter, knowing I would need Him to change me and mold me in a way I never have had to before.

Here are some of the life changing Hard Things that 2015 brought our way.

When my brother lived with us: In February my brother, who is 18 years younger than I am, moved in with us for a short time. We knew it probably wouldn’t last long but we knew it was a moment in time with him that we might never get again. It was so good and it was so hard. I loved having my brother doing life with us, watching us do life as a family with lots of littles, my kids viewed him as a human jungle gym and constantly wanted his attention. There are things that I know he was dealing with and things he needed to deal with and wasn’t. No matter how hard we wanted him to care about taking responsibility for work, phone, bills, plans… he just wasn’t there yet. It was hard to be his sister but having to act like his mom. I battled resenting that. But with him always there I couldn’t stay mad at him and his needs were constantly there in front of me reminding me that Jesus loved him far more than we did, far more than our parents did, far more than even Tony knew.  I prayed so much for him in those weeks and still do. In a matter of weeks he found another place to call home for a time. But we laugh now because God crosses our paths with him in the craziest of ways these days. I love that kid. And I’m so glad God put him into our family.

uncle tony

When Felicia went crazy: A year and a half we moved onto a street that quickly brought us relationships with our neighbors and their kids. One neighbor, Felicia we met on day one as she asked for money and cigarettes. We didn’t give her that but we did welcome her and her kids into our home on almost a daily basis going forward. I asked her one day to tell me the stories about her many tattoos and she told me many chapters worth of hurt and heartache and loss and mistakes made. We helped them get stuff for back to school, halloween and Christmas. I baked her son’s birthday cake when she didn’t. Again, it was probably one of the most frustrating relationships I’ve ever had because she took and took and took and I continually had to give the idea of her changing or becoming responsible back to God. I wanted to give without the hook of her having to change as a payment or condition. I am tearing up just having to type this out because watching someone who truly did become my friend turn to drugs and slowly go out of her mind and lose her kids who had become friends with my children, was one of the most heart wrenching things to watch and be involved in. Being for her and also for her kids and knowing that advocating for them both meant putting them all in situations that would tear apart their family and yet be the only way to provide opportunity for help and healing.  They got evicted and aren’t our neighbors anymore. Her children are in foster homes. I see her on a rare occasion when she really needs something. She’s in denial about her need and she is moving on. I will miss her and her kiddos so much. I worry about them but know that it’s out of my hands and that again, Jesus loves them and knows exactly what is going on with each of them. But much like my friend April in Raleigh, I wonder if in the friendship who needed who the most. Because as hard as it was, I’m a different person because of her.

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When my husband quit teaching high school and started a non-profit ministry:  Not that Making Things Happen was the reason Dan decided to pursue what God has laid on our hearts for over a decade now, but as his wife it made me his biggest cheerleader and co-founder!! We have wanted to do this years before but we knew it was risky and that there would be rejection as well as so many unknowns as far as provision went…especially when you have 5 kids and are in the middle of an adoption process!  But you know it’s something God wants you to do when He won’t leave you alone about it and He almost throws you into it. We knew now was the time. We knew we were ready… and in the areas we weren’t ready He would be there for us and He would sustain us. If you want to know more about this ministry check out our website HERE. But, in a nutshell we started The Identify Network as a ministry to come alongside of churches to help equip them to counsel, communicate and love those within their families who struggle with Same sex attraction or gender identity issues, and how to love those outside of their church walls who are in the LGBT community.

Yep, not a subject that’s easy or fun or popular to talk about in any arena.  We’ve lost LGBT friends who think we are wrong and harmful for our views on biblical sexuality and we’ve lost relationships with believing family who think our story is an embarrassment and that our ministry dirties grace because we emphasize love.  It’s messy…it’s easier to put up walls instead of having hard conversations…. but it’s SO full of hope!! In the six months we’ve been a network we’ve met with and talked to countless people who want that hope and want to navigate this subject in a way that makes it about people to be loved and not issues to be won. It’s been hard…. but it’s been so so good!

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When we got matched with Isla’s birth mom months before she was due: This was our first adoption where we had to wait for our baby to be born. I never knew how nerve wracking and emotional that wait is before then. We had time so I wrote her and poured my heart out to her about our family, about our hearts desire in adopting another child with down syndrome, about our love for our children’s birthparents…. I didn’t expect her to write back and equally pour out her heart to me about her own desires and fears and hopes and dreams for the little girl growing within her. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the family she wrote about and her rich heritage.  I didn’t expect her words to be written in such a way that I felt like I knew her and could feel her hearts cry and the hurt and love she had so abundantly.  I didn’t expect for my heart to be torn into two knowing I would be heartbroken if she kept her baby but I almost wanted her to more than to give her to us…and I told her that!  I knew that’s how powerful her love for this child was. But I also trusted that a mothers love like that could look towards the future and make difficult choices that were what was best despite crushing pain in the present.

Thus began our relationship that would cultivate into something far more beautiful and far more difficult than I could ever imagine as we met and bonded over OUR daughter in a Las Vegas Hospital. Her and her husband became fast friends with Dan and I, we clicked. The four of us advocated for this little girl in a way that made the NICU staff scratch their heads and ask questions about how this worked? This wasn’t the way they typically saw the adoptive couples interact. This was so awkwardly beautiful. The hard part was that we all loved Isla, we all wanted her, we all wished we could hold her and bond with her… us for the purpose of bonding and beginning to attach and them for the purpose of beginning to let go. But due to Isla’s medical issues, neither of us could do that so we just loved each other more and talked and filled in more of both of our stories that had started months earlier.

That first week of knowing them and my new daughter in person was beyond wonderful and insanely heartbreaking at the same time. I cried so much… I’m crying now just writing about it. We are still navigating what loving and healing between us all looks like right now. I know once time has healed and with it colored the sorrow and what if’s with joy and acceptance, then doing this the hard way… making room in our hearts for each other will be one of life’s sweetest gifts!

 Isla Olivia Rose Collage

When I lost the support and approval of my parents:  Losing Asher over seven years ago I was immersed in a process that couldn’t help but to change me and I embraced the grief with all I had… because in doing so I not only felt closer to my son but I found healing there. With loss of relationship with my parents and close family friends that I’ve experienced for over a year now… I have done everything but embrace the process. I’ve fought, resisted, raged, cried, tried to figure it out or a way out, defended and explained till I’m blue in the face, I’ve let it color my world with despair and confusion. How could God lead us through so much “hard” and us find Him to be so good in it, only to have what felt “good” turn out to be our biggest source of opposition and discouragement? How can those who I’ve been so proud to be apart of be so quick to part with us?

I love my family, I love my faith, I love my denomination. I have even come to love a life often viewed with much controversy….due to adoption, social justice issues, ministry and a walking out of our faith that goes beyond the church bubble many of us have grown up in. I just somehow have to find a way to embrace the difficulty, rejection, and misunderstandings that will undoubtedly come without letting it break my heart and crush my spirit. Because honestly, right now… I feel broken and crushed. Yes, there is joy… but I’m ready for healing to come. I’m tired of having an overarching feeling of sadness…and the tiredness that brings with it. If I’m honest, I don’t know really even what to do. I want to put up walls and boundaries because my heart is always hoping and wishing and begging for things to not be the way they are and I’m tired of getting hurt and rejected over and over. I’m tired of having to defend or wanting to prove that God’s at work in the life of my husband and in the hearts of my kids.  I know that the Jesus told us that people would reject us, hurt us, and misunderstand us….When we started our ministry I expected that, I was just looking a different direction for those attacks to come. He spoke plenty about family and His calling colliding…I just couldn’t imagine it would collide with MY family. I want a relationship with them so badly and I want their approval probably even more but right now I can’t have it and live out the life Dan and I feel like we are supposed to live.

I can’t change Dan’s testimony and ongoing struggle… I can’t change the challenges that having 6 adopted kids brings with it…. I can’t change the theology we cling to… But I do know that we can boast in our weaknesses,  we can try to honor God as we succeed and fail often in raising lots of littles…. I do know that if I’m going to err it’s going to be on the side of God’s grace towards us….and as much as I want to keep these words, this life of mine, private and inside a journal by my bed or the walls of my home, that’s not what I feel like God’s asked of me.

But this I do know, I walked through the storm of losing a child and look back at the person I used to be before that journey and don’t wish to ever go back to who I once was. I’m more than ready for the kind good hands of the Refiner to bring about change in me, to emerge refined and molded and thankful to be beyond the confusing and painful days of grief and into a time of redemption and trust in the One who understands situations like this, even if I never do.

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When we had to explain difficult things to our little ones: I mean, pick one of the situations above… any of them, they all have impacted our children. Our kids are home with us every day all day…. they are very observant…. and they ask a kabillion questions a day! So we get the crazy questions… the funny ones… and the very hard to answer ones.

Explaining that their neighbor friends wouldn’t be coming over to play anymore and yet their mommy was still coming over on occasion was heart wrenching. My kids cried. I cried telling them. But I was able to tell them about a God who is everywhere at the same time… that He was going to be their friends mommy and daddy until He brought them a new one!  Explaining why Tony left all of the sudden and wasn’t coming back… that was hard. But again, to tell them that God loved their uncle more than they did (which they love LOVE uncle tony) they got that!! Explaining why Daddy wasn’t a teacher anymore…. well, they loved that… explaining what we would be doing instead, interesting but a great way to point to the provision and care of God. And How important the Church is!! Explaining why grandparents aren’t around and why they aren’t a part of their lives…. that’s hard. But living in a home where conflict and differences abound, they are starting to understand why we need Jesus to forgive others and the beauty of grace and mercy needed in our own lives.  Explaining why mommy and daddy needed to be in Las Vegas for so long and that Isla had a birth family who loved her… and the many conversations that inspires about the many birth families of all of theirs we love and the ones we wish we knew so we could love them by name… That’s always hard. But Oh, I hope they never tire of the picture we are able to paint for them as we tell them of mommy and daddy’s adoption by God through Jesus and the price He paid to make us His own children!

all six sundays on south lake

When I had to come to the realization that I’m not in a place to homeschool right now:  I’ve always wanted to homeschool my kids. I remember talking to Dan about it far before we started talking about marriage or even kids. I was homeschooled and loved it. I love the culture of homeschool, I love the opportunity homeschooling provides, I love the many options out there for homeschooling curriculum.  But right now…. with where we are in life and ministry and family, I’m not in a place where I can homeschool them and have our family thrive in a way we want us to.  My failures as a wife and mom are many and when I look at my desires and hopes and dreams for my family and home, I can’t homeschool and reach for those goals at the same time. At least not right now.

Dan and I have talked about this for some time now as we intentionally parent and discuss how we are raising each of them. And I think adding Isla when we did in many ways was a confirmation in the direction we were praying towards. I still battle not feeling like a failure in this area….and I truly do think that this is something that will allow me to teach them another day. I know that there is a many areas that I’ve neglected the past 7 years that are crucial to being the kind of mom I want to be to them. I hope this will give me the time and opportunity to pursue those areas with intention. God has given us this incredible ministry and as we start off I know it will require more of me than I would have to give if I had education on my plate as well. I wouldn’t trade a bit of the past 7 years with them every day for anything… and I can’t wait to see what adventures lay ahead with them. But for right now… for the next 5 months, the Chappell kids will be going to the public elementary school down the road from where we live. I want to sob my head off and dance a jig all at the same time. Ah, the emotions of motherhood. Ya’ll it’s HARD! But GOOD!!!

kids in living room eating
So that’s my Do Hard Things List.  I feel like it’s a saga of sadness in some ways but I know that in the years to come they will also be stories of struggle that were life defining and are things we wouldn’t go back and change even if we could. I hope you not only know how to pray more for our family but also see your own struggles and imperfections in a new light and feel the hope and goodness of a sustaining God in all of it.  I learned when I started blogging as I navigated a journey of grief followed by incredible joy and healing that although it’s not all pretty and easy to write about it’s all part of the good story that a Good Author is writing and that we can keep turning the pages knowing that the end is worth living out each chapter…. no matter how hard it may be.
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Now… off to pick a new theme for 2016. I think I’ll go with something like…. rest a lot, or rejoice… or something not involving the word Hard! 😉
Check back next week for a series of posts all about my favorites and highlights of 2015 as well as the hopes and dreams for the year ahead!
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