Love Does, My Story

Is this real life or am I dreaming?

When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives, but we never were.

Tim Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Two weeks ago I joined a call with our Board of Directors, our Executive Director and our Battle for the Heart Coordinator (aka my sister) as we grappled with reality and many unknowns, seeking to hear one another and make a decision about three events in three weeks, one of which was scheduled to begin the very next day.  We didn’t want to make decisions out of fear, but we wanted to be aware of what was at stake in the decision we were facing.  I would be lying if I said we all agreed…

But we all committed to a decision and moved forward in unity. There is strength in unity.

I am a leader.

Leaders have to make difficult decisions in how we will lead our people.  I’m grateful I don’t carry this weight alone. I walk with men and women, most of whom have many more years of experience than me… yet they invite me in to speak, to listen, to grow and to lead in the safety of community.  Leadership isn’t my natural bent.

My reality in that moment was also that I had four little girls in the backseat who had just been released for spring break.  They barely had an understanding of what was occurring in the world around them and the decisions being made even on their own behalf.  Life as we know it was changing.

I am a mother.

It’s a story line that also feels surreal. Sometimes I look at these three beautiful faces and I’m undone by this call to love and shepherd their hearts.  I didn’t grow into motherhood the way most do, I was thrown into it with rapid fire.  I’d say I just began to find my groove, our normal was starting to appear survivable.

As we began to face the reality of social distancing and school closures, every bit of structure I have built to give myself a sense of control has been dismantled.  I keep looking around for the wife that will help absorb the disruptions and I realize –

I am the wife.

This may very well be the only role I joyfully entered thinking, I have what it takes. Obviously that is because I had no idea what marriage really means.  That poor man of mine, he is perfectly patient, loving and has given me space to grow into the woman God created me to be.

Like many of you, we are navigating a life that looks much different than before.  There are fears, uncertainties, risks and rewards… so many unknowns of the long-term impact of the days we are living.

Each day I find myself wondering if this is really real.  Do you remember the movie The Truman Show that was sort of an experiment in reality television where the show’s creator seeks to capture Truman’s real emotion and human behavior – but the main guy, Truman, doesn’t know everyone else is acting and the world is watching his every move.

I feel like that. Like I’m about to bump up against the bubble of the set of this not-real reality and then a voice will say, it was all set-up to see if you would survive, good job Abby, you didn’t die.

But this that feels so surreal, is actually real and I can’t find my footing.  Yes, I navigate well enough to make it through each day, but I can’t figure out what next week is supposed to look like.  The past two weeks tell me that new information will change what I think is the next best thing.  This is incredibly disorienting for a control freak.

And everything feels tender, vulnerable, unsafe and upside down.  The fact that there is a literal pandemic adds a whole other layer of pressure to my need to get things right… because obviously, if I don’t – failure leads to death.

I fully own that my feelings are all over the place. I feel frustrated, disoriented, vulnerable and in some ways like everyone’s safety is dependent on me.

I long to surrender, to release the weight of the world, to see God’s faithfulness, to experience his nearness and to be a channel of his love to my girls, my husband and those in my sphere of influence.

I want to walk this path well… I want to glean every bit of growth I can from it.

In the moment, I’m totally overwhelmed by expectations that are not realistic. I’ve tried to give myself grace to do what I can do and release what I can’t… but then I get this email that I’ve been expecting about how I’m supposed to facilitate “continued learning” – which essentially means home-school the girls since we do not know when they will ever go back to school.

And I feel like I would have a better chance of surviving the lion’s den than be given this task.

And it’s oh so painful to wade into these familiar depths once again… where surrender to the call on my life feels impossibly hard and unfair.  I fumble and stumble into the way of humility because my illusion of control has been dismantled and I learn once again the only way forward is in utter dependency… which feels so vulnerable.

It’s crazy as I consider…  The ones who want to help me can’t reach me. The ones who need me can’t help me. The ones who could release me don’t see me. And the one place I feel like I would be most likely to succeed… is the hardest to release.

I look to the left and to the right and realize, I’m not alone. The joke is not on me. We are collectively navigating this new normal, filled with uncertainty and unknown.  I feel a bit safer in the collective and want to be a voice that says, we are going to make it!

So I lean in to surrender.

I ask God what he is up to… in me and through me.

What is he saying?

And what does it look like to engage each day with courage, beauty and love?

I long to reveal his glory that others may see… he is good.

Sweet friend, you are not alone. This place we find ourselves, the collective vulnerability, as Brene Brown calls it… this is what gives us strength, breathes courage into our very lungs, gives us purpose to love one another in ways that seem counter-intuitive to our old life. For some it simply means staying home. For others it means showing up at the front lines.  For me… it means making space for this new reality where motherhood overlaps with ministry.

I shared with the girls one day last week, when we were basically all in tears, sweet girls, this is not normal and I am so sorry.  Life is not supposed to be this way.  It’s ok for this to be hard, we have to work together and we will get through this.  Let’s try to have fun in the midst of it.

It was a pep-talk even for myself.  But their response was priceless, What?? You mean we work for Wellspring now?!!??  😂

So let me introduce you to my new assistants, DSC_6666

They are super sassy, very disruptive, highly creative, love worship and are waiting for a paycheck.  [Don’t be surprised if I put them on donor development calls.]

I am humbled.

I grappled last night with what it means to be the woman God created me to be in this new normal.  We are all facing this – and the only thing we can control is how we choose to respond.

For me, I choose to believe his heart is good, this journey is purposeful, the destination falls nothing short of his promises… I have to believe… he is near.

Let me the voice that whispers to your heart of hearts, you have what it takes…. do not lose heart.

Much love,

a broken girl

Love Does

No One Chooses the Wilderness – Except that one time

Twenty-nineteen, the year that put me in therapy.

The year that broke me – and many others I know.

The grace is shaping something new out of broken pieces… the end result is yet to be revealed.

Did you know when the Children of Israel were freed from captivity in Egypt, God chose the path they would take?  There are two ways from Egypt to the land of Canaan.  One is short, a few days’ journey.  The other… much longer, through a desert. … this is the way the Lord chose for them. ¹

One might think the Lord could have saved a lot of time, [40 something years to be exact-ish], by choosing the shorter path.  He could have fulfilled a promise in a few short days.  I’m confident there would have been much less grumbling and complaining, at least one less golden idol and a lot less manna.

Jesus, it’s me, your resourceful, efficient, path of least resistance girl trying to show you there was an easier way.

If you ever dig into this story more, in Exodus chapter 13, verse 17 explains a little bit why God did this.  God did not lead them by the way of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people may change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”

In other words, the shorter, easier, path of least resistance was actually more than they could handle.

As I sit on the edge of 2019 looking back, I cannot help but see my year as one of a wilderness wandering journey that seemingly leads nowhere closer to his promises fulfilled… except maybe… I’m seeing that the work he is doing in me is much greater than the destination.

You see, the Children of Israel couldn’t handle the giants, and God knew that.  They had lived in captivity, their faith muscles were not yet developed.  They needed a journey in the wilderness to know who they are, who God is, and see his goodness in the parting of a sea, a cloud by day and a fire by night.  They needed to taste the provision of manna and stumble in the desert… they needed a journey that they would never have chosen on their own.  They needed a God to lead the way.

I apologize for being quiet so much of this year.  It is sometimes hard to find words that adequately express the work God is up to in my heart.  I’ve tried for months, yet only small pieces come together. I long to bring inspiration, but some days I can’t make sense of the tears.  Recently when someone was praying for me, she shared

…what he’s doing is, he’s drawing you deeper and deeper into another level of faith, too. Whereas if you could have it all organized and laid out, your brain would automatically try and figure out the next step or the next process, or the next thing that that needs to be done. But God did it that way so that you would deepen your trust in Him…

You don’t know me.

As she shared for minutes that felt like an hour, it was as if she was reading every word I had written in the past 12 months, weaving them together with threads of hope that this might be accomplishing more than I could imagine – that the pain of deep heart work would yield fruit for years to come.

It’s hard to say this was the most painful year of my life because it is drastically different than any before.  I can’t imagine anything topping the year I went from zero to three tiny people in a flash that literally solidified my need to color my hair every six weeks…. though I gracefully try to stretch it to eight.

This was a different kind of year.  The pain was a deep cry from within, questions that surfaced that I could hardly speak out loud… and when I did, nothing could hold back the tears.  I’ve come to see things in my own heart that slayed me.  I’ve been humbled as I grow in understanding my own brokenness and the way I saw God in the midst of it.

I realize I have a unique privilege to work in an environment that always presses me to dig into deep matters of the heart.  It is both a blessing and a curse. 😏  There is no hiding.  I must practice that which I quite literally preach… vulnerability and surrender.  Speaking of preaching, did you hear about that guy that said disgraceful things about women who preach?  :: table that for a whole other post :: dear Jesus please save him from himself [and a girl named Joy Wells – she’s got my back].

Oh my gosh, I’ve lost my path. I’m on the wrong platform.

Back to the wilderness.  That’s where I find myself again.

In September the deep work came to a soul shaking head that literally made me sick for a week as I faced what felt like a juncture of God inviting me to choose between my heart and my dream.  Both held parts of my heart for very different reasons, but to live out both directions seemed unachievable.  As I sat in the place of confusion I heard myself say,

God, I believe you are good but I do not believe you are kind. This is not kind.

As these words fell out of my mouth, tears poured out of my eyes and I was sitting on the familiar couch in the office of my therapist, she graciously held a safe place for me to fall apart.  I grappled with the path I am on and how I even got here in the first place, life was not supposed to be this way.  Now everything is up to me to get it right because failure is not an option.  I have stepped into the impossible, the journey has been pain-filled, not just my pain, but the deep pain of others.  She gently reminded me that failure is always an option… and I slowly began to breathe again.  Then she questioned if maybe what feels like is a choice between my dream and my heart might actually be a choice between control and faith.

Excuse me?

I mean. Whatever.

It sounds so much better when I am painstakingly weighing my dream against my heart instead of my control issues against my faith. Gosh golly. It was like a punch in the gut that took the wind out of my dream and painted it for very clearly what it was… a sense of control that I could cling to.

Y’all, my therapist does not waste time. She knows Jesus and she nailed me.

As I began to unravel more and more what was behind this I began to see the crisis wasn’t even about a choice at all… it was merely a catalyst for God to do a deeper work in me – how I see myself and how I see his goodness.  Kind-of like those children from Israel…

A sea didn’t split before me. Manna did not fall from heaven. I did not receive 10 commandments.

But I did hear his words over a period of weeks saying… I am doing something, you wouldn’t believe it even if I told you.  This path isn’t a mistake, it has a purpose.  I am strengthening your roots.  Please do not confuse my kindness with being nice – that is not the same thing.  I am much more concerned about what I am doing in you than what I am doing through you.  You are worth it… even if I never do anything else through you.

I found myself a bit disoriented at the end of it all, wondering what the journey was for to begin with. It seems we ended up in the same exact place where we started, except dreams had been stirred that were perfectly content being dormant.  While this remains unknown, I’m resting in believing there was a purpose.

In hindsight, as I’ve tried to connect some of the dots, I found an invitation into a new level of surrender.  Once again, I choked back tears at the thought of this word that feels so hard.  I don’t have much experience in surrender being easy.  Surrendering what I thought my life would be for the promise of what he has created me for has been costly at times. It is most definitely not a path of least resistance for which I am accustomed.  But it is an invitation to surrender to a plan that is beyond what I can imagine, believing that in my deepest place of doubt he is speaking, I have never doubted you.

This is 2019.  A wilderness journey. An unearthing of deep beliefs, questions and a growing in understanding truth and goodness; repenting of my own brokenness and surrendering to a call that is more than I can comprehend.

Some of you, like me, sit at the end of this year and breathe a sigh of relief to see it coming to a close. It has been brutal.  But sweet friend, you have persevered.  Beautiful one, you have given me courage as I watch you surrender to love in the midst of some of the greatest pains of your life.  I have no idea what his purpose is, but I do know his promise is much more than we can see or imagine.  Do.not.lose.heart.

One of the beautiful things echoed through my year is found in the closing of Psalm 23, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me … There are moments that clearly reveal goodness and mercy… while other places leave my head spinning, wondering what is even good. I consider the past year and feel like I’ve come a million miles in uncovering belief systems – as if God made it his sole purpose this year to pull off each layer like a flaky biscuit.  Just when I think I’ve stabilized, in his mercy, he brings greater revelation.  I feel pursued by God, almost relentlessly.

As I face the unknowns of life and at times even fall into fear of what may come, I hear the words again – surely goodness and mercy shall follow me… all the days of my life.  This isn’t just one day, or once upon a time – it’s a confidence that his goodness doesn’t expire. I can’t outrun it. It follows me. Until the end.  There’s goodness and mercy.  Both keep me humbled.  Mercy covers when I feel less than good enough. His goodness reminds me, it’s not really about me to begin with.

In the closing of this year, I invite you to remember, surely goodness and mercy shall follow you – all the days of your life. And for those of you, like me (and my sweet dad) who tend to see God’s goodness looking back… I invite you to consider turning around… and see God’s goodness going before you.

Here’s to 2020.  Let the goodness lead the way.

Much love,

A broken girl

¹ The New Matthew Henry Commentary
Love Does

With Every Breath that I am Able…

She walked up with a smile on her face as our paths crossed for the first time.  We each knew of the other, though we never met in real life.  It had to be surprising to see the swelling of tears in my eyes… but her gentle words comforted my reeling heart…  she hugged me and said, Good moms cry sometimes ~ you’re a good mom.

There is no way she could have known what my last hour had just held. Two tiny girls who mean the world to me fell apart in a pain that I will never fully comprehend.  It’s birthday week and their little hearts carry heavy burdens.  And often times this heart of mine bears the brunt of their breaking.

I have no words to comfort the depth of pain that questions how we all ended up in this place.  There’s no denying I wasn’t the mommy who brought them into this world… yet for some reason I’m the one who now leads them through these storms.  With each year their wonderings go deeper and the answers are hard to swallow.  They remember bits and pieces but it’s not enough to quench the ache they feel.  The hardest thing I’ve ever faced is holding my precious children and saying, It’s not supposed to be this way…

Oh don’t get me wrong, there is beauty and laughter and oh so much joy in our life… but some days the past rears its head like a jack-in-the-box whose handle has been turned one time too many… and we all fall down.

It’s what we do then that matters most.

I’ve heard it said, the place of deepest pain is the place of the greatest potential for transformation…  one might even hope healing.

As I hold these tiny hearts, wrapped in long legs and brown eyes, I fully own that I cannot fix what grieves them.  I will not paint a picture that glosses over their pain.  I can pull together every piece of my shattered heart and know that I have exactly what they need in this moment… to be present and know… it’s not about me.  I will sit and hold near, my arms have room for both the joy and the pain… and I remind them, it’s ok to be sad… I will never understand how hard this is for you… but when you are sad I want you to know I want to be sad with you.  You don’t have to take care of me… it’s not your fault. Please my sweet girl, let me be sad with you.  And when it feels so hard that you can’t even breathe….

Run to Jesus.

Jesus be near.

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It was the third day this week we’ve had to sit in a bath and wash our day away before dinner is even on the stove.  I’ve sat down countless times to try to write… but the truth is, this year has much more that I don’t want to remember than I do.  I’ve re-read my last blog, day, after day, after day for the last week.  There’s nothing like your own words to remind you of his goodness.

After it all settled down and my little loves bounced back, I walked out the front door to catch my breath.  It is there that I let my guard down… tucked in closely on another’s empty porch…the floodgate opens and my tears feel endless.

I grapple in my own heart with fully believing You are good, but dear Lord you do not feel kind…

I’m humbled by my own brokeness… the belief that his love should equal no pain.  The truth is his love endured the greatest pain, all for the sake of the glory on the other side.  He never promised surrender would be easy…

But maybe – just maybe – I can believe the work he is doing in and through us is worth more than the pain free days I long for.  Maybe, on the other side they will see clearly his faithfulness every step of the way. His pursuit. His redemption thread of grace upon grace.

I barely see through my fuzzy eyed contacts, ruined by the salt of tears.  But I watch my three little ladies fast asleep and believe tomorrow holds new mercies.  I have seen his kindness in the gentle hug of a new friend who spoke words that pierced my tender heart… as if God himself wanted to remind me, I am not alone.

Though I may not always have the words…

With every breath that I am able –  I will sing of the goodness of God.

Love Does, My Story, Uncategorized

In Pursuit of Glory… It’s not about me

…and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.         Ex 33:23

Moses is one of the most fascinating people in the Bible, from where I sit.

Think about it… the enemy so feared his birth –  a whole generation of males was murdered.  Yet he was protected.

He would later be called out of the desert to lead his people who were captives into one of the greatest stories ever told – of hope, rescue and restoration.

In the midst of it all, as he faced the doubts of who God says he is, he pursued a heavenly father with such confidence that he would settle for nothing less than standing in his very presence.  And he did.

Following a cloud by day and a fire by night, he declared, “I will not move from here unless your presence goes with me…” (Ex 33:15)

I can’t help but parallel my own story with his… I mean, let’s consider the similarities here.

Born to a people enslaved by a nation, death marked his birth, vengeance overcame him, he ran away and hid, a bush burst into flames and he heard the voice of God…

Ok – maybe I’m nothing like him.

Except… he questioned God.

“Who am I?”

This has been the echo of my voice for the past five years.  Who am I, that you called me into these deep waters?  Who am I, that you place tiny hearts in my hands?  Who am I, that your words flow out from me?  Who do you say I am?

And this is where Moses and Abby meet.  In the place of deepest doubt and undeserved grace rests a promise, I will be with you – every step of the way.

The past four months have been a collision course of sorts.  I have watched our family stumble into scenes that trigger pain of past lives, point to loss of innocence that I desperately wish I could preserve and stir questions of why us? why these precious girls? why God?   – where is your goodness?

As we navigate the day-to-day life that brings to the surface unexplainable fears, responses and behaviors, we fiercely pursue comfort, peace and healing.  In January we began to face the reality that our school was not a place that could provide the emotional safety that is vital to the journey we are on.  We prayerfully considered all options and made the decision to make a major move, not knowing how we would even afford it.

But God did.  We took the first step and he parted the waters before us.  His provision left me speechless and in awe of a God who sees me.

Our hope was that this significant move would provide a new level of safety for the hearts of our girls and bring a bit of relief to the emotional pressure that was a constant simmer in our home.  After a smooth transition I had hoped it would decrease our demanding need for therapy.  Lord knows, we can’t afford both.

Last week I was overwhelmed with the reality as our dear therapist painted a clear picture of the path ahead.  I’m sure she could see the fear in my eyes as I unpacked the reality that I have nothing left to give…  there is really nothing else to squeeze and make this happen.

I shared through tears the sense of hopelessness to my mom on the other end of the phone.  The grapple with the truth I believe of a good God versus the reality of what I see as a long, treacherous, and quite honestly, expensive path.  I considered what he could be asking me to do differently?  Maybe just two children in private school instead of three? After all, one seems a bit more stable than the others.  Should we sell the home we love and live life differently?  Is there a path we haven’t considered that could be good enough to get us by?

Slipping into the sleep of night, my prayers sounded a lot like my friend Moses – God, don’t forget, these are your children. You aren’t surprised by our needs. You have been abundantly faithful – show me your glory.  There’s nothing else I can do.  It’s really up to you.

I asked a question in a small group of fellow foster and adoptive parents.  What options do we have for the long road ahead? Someone please give me a glimpse of hope…

It came in a short text from a sweet friend that said,

Tell me more.

“Could you share briefly what your girls need and why?”  Well of course I can my dear, how many words do you need 🙂

And as I let the words go I never imagined what God was stirring in the heavenlies.  I couldn’t see the wind.  But it was blowing.

The next day in the middle of a heart-connecting encounter a simple message arrives in my inbox from a name I didn’t know- you don’t want to miss this.

We would like to cover the next few months of therapy and let us know if the need continues, which it sounds like it will.” and because God doesn’t just stop with provision, he goes on to show off a bit more… “And we would also like to cover six months of tuition as well.”

Chills flooded my being as I read the message over and again.  This is too much.  More than I could ask or even imagine.

Isn’t that just like God?

Exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or imagine.

I was slayed. Humbled. Overwhelmed by the goodness of others, advocating for us, revealing a Glory of a faithful father.

I stepped out of our meeting and onto a worn path, winding along a rugged fence, leading to a flowering meadow.  The rocks slipped beneath my shoes each step of the way.  I tried to soak it all in.  Taking deep breaths, small steps, looking at the spring flowers and hearing the sound of the river passing by.  The earth reveals His Glory.

What is it you want to say to me God?  You have my full attention. 

Like the spring wind, I sensed his quiet words say –

I see you.  You are my child and I love you.  I am so pleased with you. 

I stayed in this place on the path that leads to nowhere… knowing this would be a transformational shift in my life.  For the first time I could see, this was about me.  This is about a God that will move heaven and earth because of his love for me.  I have stepped into a part that he has for me to play, at times with fear and trepidation, not knowing how we will make it to the promise of resurrection, life and glory – but willing none-the-less.

My friend and I often refer to the journey as our “never-the-less” – like Jesus in the Garden, asking for this cup to pass by,  Nevertheless, your will be done.

Motherhood was not a cup I expected to drink from.  Fighting for the hearts of children my body didn’t bear, whose hearts bear wounds from a past they didn’t choose… at times feels like a cross I cannot carry.  In the darkest days I still find myself crying, who am I that you choose me?

This day the Lord answered so clearly that my heart connected with what my head had known, I am chosen for a purpose, I am not alone… and in the steps of obedience a favor follows.  Embrace it.  Live it. Breathe it. Share it.

It is humbling in a way that I cannot express.  It touches fear and doubt that I didn’t know existed.  I’ve been challenged to see that diminishing the favor robs the blessing.  Staying quiet stills the Glory.

It’s not about me.

But then it is.

It’s not because of anything I have done but because of who He is.  His love for me is overwhelming and his goodness knows no end.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord.  Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth…                   (Ex 34:5-6)

It’s all about his Glory.

I teach in Reality 1 at the Battle for the Heart on this concept of glory which we are called to reveal.  It seems abstract, but it is simply his goodness to us and through us, his compassion, grace, loving-kindness and truth.

I dare you be so bold, as Moses was, to pray Show me your glory!

In my life I have found when I step into this boldness, it is often I find myself placed between a rock and a hard place…   “and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.”  (Ex 33:22)

Don’t be surprised when he shows up.    He longs to show up.

If I’m honest, it’s quite humbling to tell our story.  This is my issue, not yours.  I’m growing in owning that there is a story to tell, a glory to reveal and a part that was chosen for me to play.  I grapple with goodness, truly I do.  I love to see it poured out on you… it’s a bit harder to accept for me.  Deep down, I know how undeserving I am.  I see the hard places of my heart, the doubts, fears, anger and sometimes even longing for the cup to pass me by.

But then, I would miss out on the Glory.

…I’ve come too far to quit now.

With much love, from a humbled girl.

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Love Does, My Story

When Hope Doesn’t Float and the Tears Must Fall

It’s the sort of thing that wakes you up with tears in your eyes before they are even open.  It has nothing to do with the tiny human’s knees pressed tightly into my back.  She knows to come to daddy’s side, that’s the way of certainty to mommy.  Daddy doesn’t even know he let her in, but she cuddles closely to me.  My pillow must be cozier.

That’s not what woke me.  It’s the words and the story that has been percolating in my heart for weeks like a kettle on a stove, just before the whistle blows.  The words have swirled but I haven’t been able to make sense of them…. Until now.  At 3:45 am tears fall out of my unopened eyes, I realize the gentle pursuit of the Father who builds beautiful things from broken pieces.  The original artist.

As I sat in the waiting room of our therapist’s office a familiar song played, but the words felt so different in this season of life as she beautifully voiced,

This is what it means to be held – How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive…

The verses name the unfairness of life, even as believers, leaving us to question his goodness.

In a season that surrounds me with pain, I shared this song with a few dear ones whom I know are navigating the darkest of nights, questioning where God is in the midst of it all.  In my own small story, I have felt an unearthing of deep places that were heavily fortified with protective strategies that beg you to believe…  I am worth loving, I am worth choosing, I am worth protecting, I am worth keeping… the core of my deepest longing that every action of my life one way or another points back to –  am I worth it?

I work hard to never put you in a position to have to say it directly, give no reason I could doubt my value in your life.  I will come through no matter what… I will love with everything within me… I will give all I have not just because I love you, but because I long to know you love me too….

It’s unsustainable… I am human as are you.  Life is hard and complex and filled with pain…  and one day I found myself in an unending flood of tears that reflect my deepest fear

… I am worth losing…

The old familiar voices: I didn’t love well.   I wasn’t understanding.  I was too honest.  I will never be enough…

And when my brokenness meets your brokenness the rough edges no longer fit – and I am left to believe, I am a loss worth taking.

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The words fell out of my mouth and took every bit of air with them… I had not understood the pain I was avoiding for so long.  It had been poked and prodded but anytime I got close, the fortified walls came up like the work of an engineer.

But something finally cracked this wall and like a dam… I broke…

I gave myself space to sit in the messiness of it all.  I owned the fears, I felt the pain, I repented of my unbelief and like a hurting child I sat in the presence of my kind heavenly father and asked,  what do you want to say to me right now? What do you want me to know is true??

Like a wave of peace, I heard the still small voice, You are worth EVERYTHING to me.  And he gently reminded me of specific times and places where he was echoing this truth through my life.  Through the ones who pursue me when I don’t want to be pursued. The ones who see me when I want to disappear.  The ones who hold me when everything I hoped has failed.  And the ones who sit with me in the pain of disappointment that I can’t make sense of….brokenmug

I long to be that echo of his voice too.  The jar of clay that reveals glory in the brokenness.

As I sat across the makeshift dining table with my salad that was fresh a mere three hours ago, inside I couldn’t help but wonder why I even have a place at this table.  There are obvious reasons that cause me to doubt if I should be here, but I realize one thing that connects us all is the transforming work of God to make beautiful things from dust.  That’s all we really are at this table, five broken people surrendering to a way of humility and trusting God for the part he has given us to play.

I’ve spent the greater part of my life avoiding pain at all costs, but I find myself in a place of facing what feels like the most tender places of my life.  As he shares bits of his story, I realize even my deepest pain cannot begin to compare to the road he has traveled.  Without even realizing it, I shift to deflective humor to ease the weight I feel – knowing I have nothing that compares.

He goes on to share how he is grappling with God… it’s evident to me this is a good thing, despite his reservation to even name it. What does it look like to live in authentic community and walk through hard things?  So much damage has been done by good people, who want to love well but in the face of pain cannot help but see through their lens of hope.

It’s human nature to believe each challenge is to be solved, we will reach the other side.  Our gospel story of rescue and redemption filters our view with a persistent hope – amid of which we have done a great disservice to one another in our places of deepest pain.

His words pierced through me so intensely I could feel my heart beating in my fingertips.  He was a real life, tangible picture of the pain I had caused.  For the first time I could clearly see the burden of my hope.  I began to crumble inside.  It was as if God painted a portrait and placed it right in front of me. My perspective had shifted, and I knew I would never be the same.

Hope is a beautiful thing.  I never want to live my life without it.  It truly is a gift.

However, when you enter into the sacred place of pain that forces you to face loss, grief, violation and broken dreams – there is a time that hope fails.

To be fully human is to own the pain, name the pain, feel the pain… and sometimes just accept that this pains you.

Don’t discount the pain. Don’t deny the pain; and as a friend, spouse, sister, mother – don’t discredit the pain with your quick draw of hope.

Hope that says this will all work out.  Hope that paints a better ending than the pit in which we sit.  Hope that speaks to your need for relief…

… in the dark place of the night, when the tears fall… lean in closely my friend… it’s ok to release the hope and allow yourself to feel the pain.

release

After all, even Jesus had to let things die.

And he wept.

This is what it is to be loved
and to know that the promise was
when everything fell, we’d be held.

It’s hard for me to reconcile pain and I often find myself grappling with how to justify or wrap it all up in a pretty bow.  I am growing to see that this speaks more to my discomfort of pain and less to the truth of redemption.  Sometimes the only bright side is heaven, and that’s ok.  We were made for so much more – our very hearts ache for it…

As my heart unravels and I feel my own brokenness and failures, I am reminded of that night, holding my long-legged baby as her tears streamed down her face and thank God that when everything fell, she could be held.

She said hurtful things – as is a pattern in our journey.  When she is in pain, she needs everyone around her to feel it too.  She goes for blood.  It’s an exhausting ride and a heartbreaking reality in which we live.  In the dark car ride of silence following her pain-filled words, I quietly reached my hand to the backseat to find hers.  I heard a muffle of sobs and just squeezed her hand a bit tighter.  When we reached home, she ran straight upstairs and hid in her cocoon of a swing.  I peaked my head in and saw her sobbing face, I just want to be alone!  I gently responded, If you want me to leave you alone, I will… but if you want me to hold you, I can do that too. 

She untangled herself from the swing, climbed into my arms and I held this seven year old baby girl as she cried alligator tears of pain, regret, disappointment and loss…   she can’t possibly reconcile the emotions that stir in her heart – and I can’t begin to undo it.

But I can sit and hold her forever. It was the most tender of moments as my heart longed to bring relief to what swirls in her.  I never held this child as a baby – she wasn’t mine to hold.  This holy moment was as healing for me as it was for her.  A glimpse of the heart of a father, who gives us people that will sit and hold the pain we carry, not bringing a solution not even promising hope… just being present.

dsc_3189b&w

My dear friend, I do not know what places you have journeyed, what pain envelopes you today.  I repent for the way I may have viewed your pain through my lens of hope… not fully seeing the depth of your pierced heart.  I am so sorry.

I cannot help but ask, is there room in the pit for me?

I will not fix it and I will try not to relieve it… I just long for you to know you are not alone in the middle of it.

If I may be an echo of a still small voice, please hear me say,  You are worth EVERYTHING.

And when you’re ready, maybe we can find hope.

 

*Lyrics from the song “Held” by Natalie Grant
Love Does, My Story

A Letter to My Girlies

In a serendipitous way, two paths crossed and I met a beautiful new friend just over a month ago.  A mutual friend passed our names to one another.  We exchanged a brief phonecall where she cast vision into a project and I excitedly said “we’re all in”.

She is a photographer by day but a storyteller is stirring in her heart.  As we talked she said, I want to tell stories with more than just pictures, I want them to be living stories that inspire.   – you and me both friend.

We sat one Monday afternoon and she storyboarded a project to capture a glimpse of our life.  With tears in both of our eyes I shared the story of God building this family.  We talked about songs that were meaningful – as if I could limit it to just one – and somewhere along the way she asked if I would consider writing a letter to my girls?

I know, I thought the same thing…. am I dying?

There’s no way I can write a letter… where would I even begin and how could it possibly end?  I humbly apologized on the day of our shoot – I really just couldn’t do it.  But here are a few more songs we should consider.

As she began to build out the project, the pieces were coming together perfectly despite how awkward I am on a camera.  Lord save me.

Then a few days later she sent a text… something was missing…  Would you please try to write a letter to your girls?  Just tell them their story…

It turns out, if you aren’t dying and you just sit down… the words are already there deep within.  So here’s what was scratched out one night…

My sweet girls, let me tell you a story.

It’s your story… and mine, a perfectly written, beautifully broken, story of reckless love.

It started with a dream from a brave girl, who told me you would be coming.  I prayed and prayed and asked God how could this be?  I never wanted to be a mommy in a million years, but somehow I knew this dream would come true.

I was so scared, certain he had the wrong girl, but he gently breathed on what little bit of courage I had and said he would hold my hand every step of the way.

Then on that fateful day when the phone rang, with trembling voices, your daddy and I gave our best yes yet.

You had to have seen the fear in my eyes when I first saw your faces.  Your beauty was overwhelming.

Soon your laughter became the soundtrack of our life, your pain the backdrop of our story, and His love the hope of our future.

You uncovered a fight in me I never knew I had, a fierceness only a mother can carry and stirred a dream I never knew I wanted.

Many may think we rescued you, but the truth is, you rescued us.  You pulled us out of a smaller story into a greater purpose –  that reflects the Father’s heart towards his children.

A father who will move heaven and earth, soften the hardest of hearts and leave the 99 to make sure that one knows the depths of his love.

When I look in your big brown eyes, I see his love shining through.  When I catch a glimpse of our family, I know his mercies are new every morning.

I’m not pretending this was always our story.  This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.  But somewhere a faint yes turned into a family and here we are soaking in moments that take my breath away.

I know one day we will unpack the heavy things you have carried, the loss and the pain you don’t even yet comprehend… and when you question where God was, I pray our story always points you back to his unending love.

Sweet girl, you are worth every fear I overcame, every hard day we’ve faced, every pain that has pierced my heart along the way.

You reveal God’s goodness to me.  You make me brave.

I pray as our story unfolds you are drawn to the one who pursued you from the start – who wove a crimson thread of redemption and will never leave you.  I dream for you to become everything he created you to be, a woman who loves well, fights for what is right, stands for her beliefs and walks in courage, beauty and love.  My deepest desire is to love you, come hell or high water… that you may always know… you were worth it.

Love is.

I held my girls closely as I showed them the finished project and they watched the “happy tears” that filled my eyes.  They heard the words my heart carries for them as if they didn’t already know their own story.  It was perfect.

It’s only been a week but I keep going back and watching every detail that was captured almost as if I don’t get to see them every day.

And when we’ve navigated hard days and dark nights, it’s my own words I hear in my head reminding me that every pain is worth it.  I don’t know if it inspires anyone else, but I know it keeps me in the fight.

I’m sure there’s so much more I will want to say one day, but for now, the only thing left stirring is beautifully portrayed in the words of our current replay:

I hear you whisper underneath your breath.
I hear your whisper, you have nothing left…

I will send out an army to find you, even in the darkest night it’s true, I will rescue you.
I will never stop marching to reach you, even in the hardest fight it’s true, I will rescue you.

“Rescue” – by Lauren Daigle

It’s the fierceness birthed in me… even in the darkest night, sweet girl, I will fight for you.

I wish I could share the finished product… but for privacy reasons we have to keep it on the down low.  :: but if you know my mom, I promise she will show you 😉   ::

But I’ll leave you with this gem, let the words sink deep in your soul, consider a father who sends them just for you.   You’re worth it.

Love Does, My Story

Is there such a thing as too much information?

You may be surprised to know that sometimes I struggle with what’s appropriate to share…

I always want to honor the story of our girls, the work God is doing in our lives and the place in your heart that you’ve invited me into.

Over the past four years you’ve carried me through some of the deepest waters, fears and even heartbreaks that you may not have known occurred along the way.  I seek to be transparent in as much as I am able to share, and honest with the depths of my heart as I journey through life.

I’ve gone back and forth with how to share without being totally awkward – because it’s pretty personal.

It’s not that I don’t want you to know, but sometimes I struggle with whether it’s helpful for you to know… but at this point I realize, it’s helpful for me and my girls if you can come along side us and pray this week.

About fifteen years ago I began to really struggle physically with recurring cysts on my ovaries and what we later discovered to be endometriosis.  I had surgery eleven or so years ago and at that time my doctor recommended I decide sooner rather than later if I wanted to have children, because I really needed to consider a hysterectomy.

Now, I know some people have wondered if we have walked a path of infertility which led us to adoption, but I can honestly say that’s not how we ended up here. Whether my uterus worked or not, either way I was convinced I didn’t need to have a baby.  It’s apparent now much of my decision was based in a need for control- but also the simple fact that I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to keep another human alive… especially if they needed to be fed daily.

I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator, so I delayed making the decision for many years.  But here we are, less than 48 hours away from a major surgery.  Tonight I held each one of my baby girls as they cried at different times, trying not to let their fears be known but they just can’t hold it in any more.

If you read one of my recent stories, you may recall that we don’t have a lot of room in this house for my weakness.  It triggers something I can’t fully understand.  But God does. He sees and knows the depths of their pain, the fears in their hearts and the innocence that has been lost.

On most days I am good, I can be strong and hold it all together.  But if I so much as take a vitamin, I’m questioned about the state of my being.  We had one therapist that suggested the girls “give me medicine” so they could see it’s nothing to be scared of.  As she handed them a bottle of advil and I sat bewildered by her recommendation –  I realized I didn’t want a four year old to be comfortable with pills and decided to fire the therapist.

“It’s not me – it’s you.  Bye Felicia.”

I share this because what I know is a routine procedure also has the potential to be a major emotional event in this house of little women.  It’s already starting to bubble up.

As I’ve sought to prepare my own self for the surgery, recovery and hopefully a new normal, I am faced with my own fears.  If I’m totally honest, it’s not a fear of the surgery itself or even the recovery which I hear is pretty brutal –  at a gut level the question I have stirring is, what if something were to happen to me?

And obviously you can’t see my eyes filled with tears as I write this…  but it paralyzes me. It’s a much deeper pain that I can’t prepare everything for such a situation – and I must not believe God can figure it out either.  Both pain me.  My fears and my underlying doubts.

When I rationally think about this I can bounce back up and know, this is no big deal.  People have surgery every.single.day.  I don’t have cancer. I don’t have major risks.  I just have three kids that have already lost one mother and I feel like I have to do everything in my power to make sure they don’t lose another one.

Clearly I’m not rational anymore.

Don’t worry. I won’t leave you hanging here.

As I walked into church this morning, longing for an encounter with God, my heart found peace as we sang a song I didn’t even know I liked… reminding me who is the King of my Heart and how good he is.  In the bridge the band echoes these words:

You’re never gonna let,
You’re never gonna let me down

With tears falling from my eyes I was reminded of his incredible goodness to my girls – his supernatural provision for things we didn’t even know we needed.  (Have you ever read this story about When God Shows Up ?)  And as I sang these words I could truly believe that not only is he not going to let me down, he will never let my girls down.

Tonight, as I lay next to each one in their bed, I reminded them that it’s ok to be scared – and then I try to point them back to Jesus.  Remember when you were brave before? We can be brave together. Sweet girl, you make me brave.

I’m humbled by God’s goodness to meet me in my own fears so that I’m able to speak truth to the hearts of my little ones.  I’m grateful for the ones who have come along side us with offers to help our family, my mother who will be carrying a heavy load these next two weeks and my sweet husband who has his hands full with a lot of ladies.

I’m at peace going into this.  I trust God with all the things.  I’ve given Daniel a list of all our accounts, passwords and what to do if something happens to me.  I’ve even told him who I’ve picked out to help raise the girls…  but I need to go on record saying – if he shows up with some Brazilian paddle board chick, that is not who I picked out.

And if I didn’t already feel like I have zero control over my life, mother nature decided to throw a stinking hurricane into our week – one day post-op.  If you look at the radar, it clearly says “Abby’s house” on the present course.

Jesus take the wheel.

I’m going to bed.  Sweet friends, please pray for my little people.  Please pray for my doctor and my body.  I kinda need all the things to go right… and the hurricane to turn. No big deal.  I’m totally chill.

and I can’t drink wine.

So here’s a song I leave you with… because I need to be reminded.

Much love, from a broken girl.

PS… we’re kinda hoping once these ovaries are gone I’ll stop crying so much.  fingers crossed!