It Has Been 64 Days Since I Left Uganda…

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..Somehow it feels as if only a few short weeks have passed since we left the land with the red dirt and a slice of my heart.

I try to take time to live a bit of life before I publically scribble my thoughts in cyberspace. I realized I hadn’t shared for a few weeks about my current status and specifically about my okay-ness with God; whom I hold both responsible for giving me life and giving me the privilege of knowing the little lives we left in Uganda. He and I have had words over how it all went down; but my words are filled with less venom in recent days. Our current status (His and mine)–is at times dicey, but the projection for long term okay-ness is quite good.

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Brownies, Boy Scouts and the Big Dance

 

Has anyone ever made you feel stupid? Or extremely small?

As an adult in those circumstances, I roll my eyes on the inside. I realize the person making me feel small is probably hurting far worse than they made me feel. I mentally place my hand on my shoulder and dust it off. But sometimes that person is from our past and our memories are more inked in. The words are on a permanent feedback loop. Or sometimes, like me, you suppress those mean messages right up until they randomly  fall out of your head. Continue reading

The Unveiling

For as long as I can remember I have been enamored with survivor stories. I read their autobiographies, watch their movies, and re-tell their tales. When I encounter a survivor up close and personal…I squeeze out every detail of their story in an attempt to learn their secret. How does one endure the unthinkable? Did you ever lose hope? Did you blame God?  How is your heart now? I am intoxicated by each individual narrative. I find hope from their healing. These people have become my life heroes.

 Much like super heroes, survivor heroes, are given the choice to demonstrate their “pain powers” for good or for evil. They can live their experience; grow, and eventually turn their pain in to passion. These are the super heroes I follow, they are the ones I cannot get enough of…they inspire me. If a survivor’s pain powers are not used for good he can fall in to cavernous traps of bitterness. He might adopt patterns passed down while simultaneously inflicting pain upon others. The most popular option in our culture is for the survivor to hide her pain history. Not one of us is superwoman, navigating life’s roughest storms without a single scratch. Or if this woman exists, she and I aren’t friends. I steer clear because she doesn’t do wonders for my self-esteem, nor do I find her life very interesting. I guess she should be, with the whole flying capabilities and red cape, but she is cliché. And quite honestly, I live with a low level of annoyance toward those putting up appearances of perfection—real or imagined. There’s only One perfect one. Now sweet pea, remove the cloak of invisibility and wear your wounds on the outside, and we can grab some coffee. Tell me your tale, describe the mystery and miracle behind your survival story and we will be best friends forever.

Writing has been a survival tool for me over the past 18 months. Words on paper placed in the hands of others has given me courage. In the midst of the pain process…I am finding my most honest and real words bring the most healing. While at the beach transitioning from Uganda to the United States, I found Nature was speaking very loudly and I was doing my best to listen. I recorded some of those messages in the form of essays and realized they might be worth sharing with others. I hope my mini memoir: OCEANS BETWEEN US  might bring you (or someone you love) a bit of encouragement as we travel together down this winding road called life. 

(You can download your free e-book of Oceans Between Us by clicking on the sidebar.) 

Grateful to be on this journey with you.

…There are more adventures to come.

Jenni 

 

The 30 Second Version

 

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This is written for all those who don’t know…but care.

I know you care because you asked. And I wanted to figure out how to give you the 30 second version while we were washing our hands in the bathroom at church, or in the checkout line at Target, or while we were pumping gas before you scurried off to work…but I couldn’t do it.

I also realized when I tried to formulate the words for the 30 second version, I was much better at writing than delivering a verbal summary of an 18-month epic adventure. So I don’t blame you for not knowing, I just appreciate you taking the time to come here and not expecting me to fumble through something I am clearly still fumbling through.

Cause I really am better. I am not in my shaking mad phase any more. I am not doubting God’s goodness as much. I am not choosing a bitter agnostic outlook on life.  I am ready to go to church and the grocery store and the gas station…so that’s an improvement. I am out of the sweatpants phase, certainly that points to growth?! But I am not quite in the place where I can fully give you the 30 second version without making you feel slightly uncomfortable.

So if you don’t know–and Lord knows I don’t expect folks to wait on baited breath for the latest installment of the crazy Cockerham adventures–please know I humbly understand. Let’s just think of this as grabbing a quick cup of coffee together. Remembering our other option was for me to look at the floor and then up at you awkwardly wishing you hadn’t asked where our adopted children are–or when we were going back to Africa to get our kiddos–or how’s life going now with 5 kids–or any other sincerely kind questions you simply didn’t know the answer to. It is less awkward and fumbly for us to catch up here. I will leave without a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes…and you will have the scoop. We are all better in the end.

Not sure what you knew or where we left off so here goes:

October 2013 we went to Uganda to adopt 2 kiddos.

November 2013 we were granted legal guardianship of those 2 precious kiddos, but told we must stay in Uganda for 3 years…so I stayed with all 5 children and Chris went back to North Carolina.

March 2014 We were hopeful to appeal our court case–but also were growing fatigued from the wait so Chris decided to join our family adventures in Uganda taking a leave of absence.

May 2014 We realized it could be a long wait and possibly not receive an appeal, so Chris resigned his job at Hope Holly Springs and Chris accepted a position at Restoration Gateway to serve on their team.

Late June 2014 We moved to Restoration Gateway.

July 2014 It was discovered/confirmed that Jonathan and Caroline were NOT true double orphans and had living parents.

July 2014 Jonathan and Caroline were returned to their families.

July 2014-March 2014 The Cockerham Family stayed in Northern Uganda serving at Restoration Gateway.

Insert Jim Gaffigan’s high pitched squeaky disapproving voice:  Wow, sad story. But that wasn’t so bad? Hasn’t she been away from the kids for almost a year now? Does she think she can do better than their own flesh and blood? What’s her problem? Isn’t it great news for her kids to be reunited with their families? 

Yes, but what takes longer than 30 seconds is that there are little people I love in Uganda who are hurting. Reliable sources say at least one of the two is suffering even. I don’t know the full extent but I know life is far from happily ever after. This is not spoken by a bitter woman wishing for a diverse stair-step family photo, nor disappointed she won’t be able to color coordinate five kids’ outfits for church. I am not a western mom who believes she can provide more, etc. It is an unjust ending for a child whose physical, emotional, and mental needs are not being met. It is innately mommy to want your child to avoid pain. Therefore, it is a debilitating place to know your hands are tied and it is the “right thing to do;” because he should never have been trafficked by his family in the first place. But the sting still stings and the grief is still close and it is still too soon to deliver the 30 second version. And so for that reason…we are here grabbing coffee and I am grateful. Feel free to sit down to coffee again soon…we may talk about this or other messy life matters…but in my heart this is the safest place for me to share my story with you.

So…just…thanks.

Humbly,

Jenni

 

 

 

 

To The Ones Who Should Have Been

Hello Sweet Friends,

Last spring in Uganda, almost like two ships passing in the night, I met Courtney…and then she was gone. When we met I was distracted, single-momming it with 5 kiddos, strung out after 4 long months without Chris. This fresh face was one I was so thankful to meet. Her words have continued to ring true in my life and in the lives of those I love. The chord of pain hits us all in different ways…but the notes of truth reverberates within our soul and we all hum a similar melody.

I found the heart and soul of this blog so very compelling I just had to reblog it. Every time I would go to the computer to write anything this week about motherhood all I could do was hum the refrain of this blog. Why put different words to ones that ring so true? Courtney–grateful for you and your gutsy, honest writing.

I hope that you (the unseen or somehow forgotten) feel celebrated this week. You are seen. You are known. You are loved.

Stories We Tell

Mother’s Day is Sunday. And while I will be celebrating this holiday for the first time with a kiddo in my home, I can’t stop thinking about this time last year. I’ve had several people ask me what I’m doing for my first Mother’s Day. It’s a fine and valid question. Makes sense to ask it. I’ve been so caught off guard though at how much it all still stings a tiny bit. A whole year later. We still talk about him. We still wonder how he is and what he’s doing and if he’s okay. We still pray for him. His pictures are still all throughout our house. I remember so fully this week a year ago. How so physically sad I was. How mad I was that I wasn’t getting to celebrate a holiday that I was supposed to be celebrating. How unfair it all felt. How…

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Out of the Sweatpants Phase

I was about a decade behind on the Friends phenomenon that took over the western world. As a Young Life leader I spent every Thursday night with my Apex High School friends. Friends was pre-DVR, therefore I never got in on the witty banter and coffeehouse camaraderie until I started having babies. As a mom with 3 itty bittys I found myself looking for a 20 minute mental break. Friends was the perfect past time. To this day, I quote Friends in any and all relevant life circumstances. Last week I wrote my Friends’ friends to enthusiastically alert them I was out of the sweat pants phase!  For those of you who know of Chandler’s post break up depression, you know it is a very real phase that one must go through. After taking a much needed time out this past weekend–Chris said, “Jenni, you’ve done some real good thinkin.” (This was Joey’s response to Chandler being banned to a box for 6 hours.)

Chris was right though, I have done some “real good thinkin” over the past few days…over the past month even. My head and heart are less hazy, angry and dark. Colors appear brighter, my heart feels lighter, and I am far more hopeful about the future. Ask me to bust in to out a few lines of, “It is Well with My Soul,” and we might have to put a pin in it…but I am certain I could hum a bar or two.

What has made the difference?

Sticky note reminders: I received two notes within the past week from old Young Life friends. They are two very different young women with two very different stories. Each shared how my faith and friendship made some small difference in their world. One friend went as far as to scan a letter I had penned 16 years ago reminding herno matter how hard and painful life becomes–there is a God who loves her. She was now (unintentionally) throwing my words back at me. I wondered…did I really mean what I wrote? Did I have any idea how hard or ugly life circumstances could get? I think somewhere deep inside I did, but we all need reminders.

The prayers of My People are legit. Sometimes things can only be moved forward through prayer. No doubt in my stuck, stubbornness it is the prayers of the saints (aka: my busted, broken, but wonderful friends) that have moved things down the field. You know who you are…for real…thanks.

Books (the Book and the mentors I mentioned earlier) are speaking loudly to me. One author, who speaks about God in ways I hardly thought possible without a lightening bolt to the forehead; likened his experience of silence from God to a door that had been bolted and double locked on the inside. His questions were so cutting and cold that it made my doubts look and feel lamb-like. I needed an advocate, giving permission to ask the hard questions–instead of stuffing it or falling off the faith cliff.

During my time of “real good thinkin” I found Lewis’ words especially interesting,

“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But rather a special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ 

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask–half our great theological and metaphysical problems–are like that.”  C.S.Lewis  A Grief Observed

No amount of thinking will fully get my heart unstuck. Yellow is not square nor round. The circumstances surrounding our story this side of heaven won’t likely make sense.

The silence has broken and recently messages of His presence in my life and in the lives of those I love are emerging.

The gap between my heart and God’s had become tremendous. I am certain He remained close–but for me–it felt like there were oceans between us. The healing over the past few days and weeks has been nothing short of miraculous. It is not a coincidence that God re-routed us to the beach for the past month. My most spiritual moments unfold at sea. I began to compile my mental notes and messages. Writing has always been therapy for me. While kicking and screaming…I have been writing. While praying and reading…I have been writing. I have placed some of these words in to a mini memoir of sorts. I am going to put it in to ebook form to share with you. It will be my gift of gratitude for your willingness to stick with our story, for following our epic adventure, even when it didn’t end awesome–and for putting up with my many tantrums along the way.

In the sweatpants phase on Friends you do a lot of moping, crying and eating of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. If you are me, you roll your eyes a lot. You scowl, and kick things. You question what went wrong. Staying stuck in this phase leaves you fat, angry, and not super fun to be around. I am thrilled to have shed the sweatpants and moved on to the next phase.

I don’t know what this next phase has in store but I am pretty sure it entails attempting to live life palms up:

Palms up means you have nothing to hide and nothing to gain or lose. Palms up means you are strong enough to be vulnerable, even with your enemies. Even when you have been tremendously wronged.  Bob Goff

Sweatpants are off.

Bring on the next phase.

Palms up.

 

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

 

 

 

I Need a Time Out

This weekend I made the intentional (and what many would say extremely selfish) decision to not go away with my family to one of the most magical places on earth. I intentionally decided to hang back, to be alone. Because I simply could not go.

Actually I could go…but I really didn’t want to.

(Insert Jim Gaffigan’s voice here) How can she do that?  How can she be so selfish to miss out on Family Camp at Windy Gap?  She will miss out on the horse rides, ropes course, music, skits and games. Won’t her husband the be Lone Ranger in the hoe down?  (Louder and more high pitched:) Doesn’t she know her kids NEED her? Doesn’t she know her children live for this weekend each year? Shouldn’t she choose another weekend to be so selfish?  Why? Why would you not go with your family to family camp this weekend? Why?

Because I need a time out.

Did you ever put your kid in time out because you needed one? Who knows what might have happened if you hadn’t put him in time out? A few minutes more without the time out and the neighbors would be bringing social services to your front door?

What appeared to be punishment for the child was actually for their protection.

(No? Just me then.)

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And Round and Round We Go

That is me…going round and round and round. Flying, suspended, arms and legs dangling, really not sure when or where she will land. Daring to ask God the difficult questions. There is no way to “church up” this blog.

Reader caution advised: If you are uncomfortable with questioning the Christian status quo or with God being placed in the line of fire…just. stop. reading.

Why all the rants lately? Take it down a notch. Boy, she’s really got a bee in her bonnet.

My italicized words in my blog are often delivered in my head in the voice of Jim Gaffigan.  Actually not Jim…but Jim’s high pitched disapproving voice of someone questioning the bizarre things he comments on like cake or hot pockets. Feel free to read from here forward in this way. My blog will be funnier and surprisingly, make more sense.    .

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Crisis of Faith…Are you there God? It’s Me Jenni.

I woke up at sunrise.  While it was still quiet, with coffee in hand,  I slipped out onto the deck of a friend’s beach home.  I have set aside this time each morning for the past 20 years.  It has become habit.  The sound of the raging waves was intoxicating.  Rhythmic.  The beach, the ocean IS my happy place.

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I sat and looked out over the the depths.  So vast.  All emcompassing.

I searched the waves (as I always do) looking for something.  I am always looking for dolphins.  They inhabit my happy place and bring more happy.

This morning I search, certain to see nothing, just as in my heart I feel nothing.

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