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!

 

 

 

Love Does, My Story

The Makings of a Mommy

What makes you a mommy?”   she asked in such an innocent, inqisitive voice.  My heart snapped to attention as I realized the depth of her question.  I gently pointed my finger to her chest and as our eyes met through the mirror I answered, you make me a mommy.

I explain for some, motherhood begins when a baby forms in their tummy, for others like me it begins with a choice… to step into something extraordinary.  Sometimes it starts with baby steps, sometimes it’s a deep dive into unknown waters. For some it’s a dream come true.  For others it is unexpected in many ways.  And yet for some it may be a desire held unmet.

I can’t help but be reflective this week.  The Facebook memories remind me of the day four years ago that made me a mother.  When my girls ask me where babies come from, I laughingly tell them mine came from a white van 🙂  They jumped out full of giggles and joy, calling me Miss Abby before I could even take in their beauty.  They ran around the house exploring every little detail and tried to pull Tini through her doggy gate.  I wonder if they could see the fear in my eyes… or even noticed that I hadn’t taken a breath since the van door opened.

I remember telling Daniel one time, if God wants me to have children then he’ll have to make it happen.  Just to be clear, that wasn’t a statement of faith.  I’m certain I spoke the challenge into being.   ::God sits on his throne. Challenge Accepted::

As I sat Sunday night and reflected on all the ups and downs that these years have held I can’t help but laugh at the adventure…

I have this one child who absolutely knows there is a video monitor in her room… yet she continues to do flips in her bed – a nightly routine that screams, watch me one more time.  Consequences mean nothing to her.  She laughs in the face of pain.  There is nothing she can’t do.  When people meet our gang, they are always quick to point out that little one.  I bet she keeps you busy.  Mark my words, she will run the world one day.

Those twins, they started first grade and might as well have started high-school.  How old do we have to be to have a cellphone?  When can I have a boyfriend? Can I wear lipstick? Despite their love of all things sparkly, they don’t think twice about catching a lizard or chasing a frog.

They’ve started asking deeper questions, about beliefs and baptism and why some people believe in a different god… because obviously there’s only one God and his name is Jesus and his last name is God 🙂

They call me out on my own sin… when my attitude is poor or my words are harsh – or if something slips out that falls short of holy –  they make sure I hear it again in the most awkward of places.  I have my own little accountability group.

They are quick to tell their teachers that all I drink is wine, while daddy just drinks diet coke.  We have no secrets – but many lies –  such as my mommy is having a baby – most definitely not true.  It’s hard to know if we’re right side up or upside down but these girls keep the adventure going every day.

Then we have some hard days in between the glory.  New school year, new faces, new schedules to grasp and friends to meet.  These things can send our happy little home into a pain-filled spiral.  On any given day you will find one of us in tears – most recently I am one.

And as I feel the weight of the pain, the overwhelming question if I have what it takes to raise these girls, I  pause to read someone else’s story.  She says hug them tightly, time moves so fast.  She will be taking her baby girl to college next week and can’t believe that she was an infant just last week.

Her admonition to squeeze every bit of life out of this season doesn’t fall on deaf ears – but how in the world am I supposed to enjoy the days that pierce my heart?  Some days I just want to believe that we will make it to college!  I promise I won’t cry.  Ha! I will cry.

I’m sure I’ll cry, just like I always do – crying either happy tears or tears that question if I did enough. Did I love enough, did we laugh enough, did I hug enough?  What will she remember when she looks back on these years?  What will the next years hold?  Please tell me we all survive.

I read a blog recently about surrender that rocked me to my core.  It was as if I could have written it myself.  It helped me to see these crazy questions in my head aren’t limited to just me.  She reminded me that “surrendered living is much more than ‘doing less’. It’s being more of who God created us to be… and sometimes surrendering to God will require you to do the hardest work you’ve ever done in your life.”

I finally breathe a sigh of relief.  It’s ok for this to be hard. 

On the far edge of 35, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself, some of which are not easy to face.  For instance, I’m not a big fan of grace.  Well, let me explain.  I love grace. But I don’t like to need grace. Nothing has more clearly revealed my need for grace than parenting.  It’s almost as if God thought this would be the perfect recipe to bring me face to face with my humanity.  {Not that I was perfect before or anything.}

I laughed out loud this morning as I considered my deep need for control.  Seriously, you could sell me ANYTHING if the word control is in the name.  Birth control – check. Weight control – check,check. Tummy control – where do I sign up?!?  I love the illusion of control.  This isn’t new.  I just laugh whenever I see how deeply I crave it.

With her comforting words, blogger Jennifer reminds me: On this journey toward surrender, you’ll discover that, at last, it really is all under control: God’s.

As I prepare to teach next week a session on “the fellowship” I have come to see that the thing that keeps me going – even in the face of the hard days – when I have no sense of control, is knowing I am not alone.  The wise words of the ones that have walked ahead of me, looking back and sharing their stories of survival, these mean the world to me.  And the friendships I have with those who walk beside me, cheering each other on in this road of womanhood, these make me believe we can conquer the world. – or at the very least survive it.  The lovelies that walk a few steps behind, a little bit wobbly or maybe even confident of their purpose, these ones remind me of where I’ve been. The men that speak encouragement, hope and love into our lives – you give us strength to carry on.

Here’s to each one of you! Thank you for being a part of this story.

To my little ones, who one day may read the words of your mother, I watched last night as your daddy read your name, the meaning behind each word and the promises we claim over you as he tucked you into bed.  Even as we face days that are less than perfect, I remember the promises he has given.

And to answer your tiny question that started all this stirring… it’s the hope I carry that you too will grow to be everything he created you to be, a woman who loves well, fights for what’s right, stands for her beliefs and engages with courage, beauty and love  –  my deep desire to love you come hell or high water…

…that’s what makes me a mommy.

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My Story

To See is to Love

I wrestled with whether or not we should go… we had been gone all weekend, we would certainly be late.  The greater risk of staying out past bedtime threatened my already fragile sanity.  I wasn’t dressed to impress, the girls were mini-hot-messes themselves and I had every reason in the book why it would be easier to just stay home.

But I’m married to this extrovert and we are raising little social butterflies who would sell their sister out if it meant going to party with friends – especially on a school night. oh my.

“We can go for thirty minutes” I said – knowing it would be at least an hour.  Everyone promised to be on their best behavior, there would be no fights when it was time to leave or crawl in to bed. Promise!

Of course, it was everything they hoped for, kids running, music playing, a fruit table with whipped cream, endless juice boxes, adults relaxed and enjoying each other’s company –  why had I even thought to resist this?  I’ve prayed for community for years and God has literally dropped it right outside my door.

Why do I fight what my heart has longed for?  I know you’ve read it before, and it is a daily battle with this underlying fear I carry… we are too much.    If you really knew…

I quickly relaxed, sank in to a comfy seat and was catching up with real live adults, knowing the fenced in yard could at least contain the little people that were not within eye-range.  Plus, there were lots of parents and an unspoken code that we’ll all work together to keep these tiny people alive.  Just breathe.

But then it went off and quite frankly scared the crap out of me.  Children screamed and we saw the shining burst of fireworks that were not quite expected but sure to be fun.

Except… we carry a different story…

…and fireworks sound a lot like gunshots.

There’s no doubt you could see the fear in my eyes. I even felt the burning sting of tears. Then Daniel came around the corner and said… “the girls are good. it’s ok. they are screaming but they just want to know what that was.”

And as I fought to to bring myself back down, the friend next to me looked me in my tear-filled eyes and said, “I knowI know your story, I know what’s going through your mind right now.”  and all of a sudden, what I so often fear is too much, was gently held, tenderly covered and in ways even celebrated – because look how far we have come.

We didn’t fall apart.  And it would have been ok even if we did.  But the shrills of excitement from my girls who have not been secure enough to see fireworks allowed me to see the redemptive thread that is being woven through our lives.  We have fought for healing, we have held closely, loved deeply and when we were thrown a surprise test … we passed!

I learned a lot that night.  Our girls are resilient and they are healing.  I may get discouraged in the little things, but we’ve come a long way.  There’s a growing realization that what I try to hold together, guard and protect others from seeing in our lives is the very thing that God uses to see and speak into my life.  Words that say, you are seen, you are loved and you are not too much.

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Friends, we all need places that are safe to bring our stories.  We need people that know how to hold our hearts, our pains and deepest fears, our hope, our joys and our deepest desires… we need to be echoes of truth reminding one another, you are not too much.  Not only that, but you are worth it.  You are worth knowing, you are worth loving and you are not alone.

Sometimes we don’t have those places.  Maybe the people aren’t near.  Maybe the story is too painful to be spoken.  Maybe your heart can’t bear to risk…

I find in those moments, Jesus himself draws near… and his tender words say, “I know.  I know your story.  I have seen your pain.  I know the fear you carry that feels like weights holding you down. I gave everything that you would know… you are worth it.  You are deeply loved and you are not alone.”  

I absolutely love to be an echo of God’s voice to someone else.  Just like the friend who spoke to me, I know your story, was just as if Jesus said to me I see you.. you don’t have to hide.  Your yoga pants and messy hair are just fine.

Just this morning as another shared her struggle with fear, the unknown and quite honestly a bit of unbelief… I turned to the story of the father in scripture who longed for his child’s healing and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” {Mark 9:24}  And God gently reminds us, He sees.  He can handle our doubts, lean in, he is the perfecter of faith.  Your tears are ok.  Your doubts are understood.  He is gentle.  He is kind. And he longs for you to see his goodness.

Friends, you love me well.  You have been a safe place to bring my story, my fears, my pain and my joy.   You speak life into doubts.  You share love when I feel so undeserving.  You are my village – and I’m thankful the Lord continues to grow it.  I pray that these words today bring you hope, give you a glimpse of a Father that loves you deeply.  So much so, he will set off fireworks just that you may know.

 

Love Does, My Story, Uncategorized

Overwhelming, Reckless Love

I felt it stirring… it started last week and had been building.  I was sharing pieces of our story in different places, with different people yet the same awestruck reactions… he has literally moved heaven and earth to build what we now know as our family.  It is overwhelming.

As I was sharing and in my own reflection I couldn’t help but realize the most significant thread in the entire story is His Pursuit.

Ours is a story of rescue, redemption, hope and dreams.  It is stunning in each of its pieces, painful in the making, breathtaking in its entirety, humbling to be a part of and inspiring to watch unfold.

Then came Sunday – quiet, cold, a bit dreary and unassuming.  I stepped into my favorite church, led in worship by my favorite leader, holding the hands of my sweet girls and one on my hip… the lights fell and he began to sing a song I had never heard before…

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

**************************************
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Nothing moves my heart like a song that cries the words I have lived.  As the choir joined the song and he reached the bridge I could feel myself holding my breath.  Then in all of creativity he begins singing He loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us…. oh how he loves.

I.am.undone.     Tears streaming down my face, I can no longer sit.    Heaven reached down, gently kissed this girl and I have been overwhelmed ever since.

Those words are the ones I sang over my sweet girls in moments of darkness, in the battle of the night when I couldn’t understand what they were fighting.  I couldn’t fix the pain but I could proclaim, he loves us – oh how he loves us… and that has been a song we cling to – no matter what may come – we can rest in knowing his love.

I live with a constant awareness of God’s goodness in my life.  I long to see his glory. I crave it more than coffee.  My prayer for years has been, show me your glory… and he has.  But there’s something about this week that has touched the deepest place in my heart, put to death lies I have believed and gently spoken the question I’ve asked my entire life –  am I worth it? 

It is easy for me to believe that my girls are worth every single thing God has done.  On our adoption day, as we faced the judge and she asked why do you want to adopt these children, my undeniable response was because they are worth it – they are worth loving – they are worth fighting for – and they are worth protecting. 

I have found that often what drives us comes from our own deep desires.  I came from a wonderful home, raised by incredible parents, in a safe place with the best siblings a girl could ask for.  Yet somehow, in my own brokeness, the enemy had woven a lie that I will never be enough, I don’t have what it takes and I’m not really worth keeping.  I have lived striving to hear I’m worth it.   Am I worth protecting? Am I worth rescuing? Am I worth investing in? Am I worth the risk of love?

I was overwhelmed with grattitude this week as I reflected on the work God has done in my life.  Thanksgiving three years ago I was fresh into motherhood with 3 littles under 3 and faced with the question, would we consider adoption?  I couldn’t breathe.

Two years ago at Thanksgiving my heart’s cry was for our adoption to finalize, for the uncertainty to disappear, for this chapter to end.  Thankfulness was a choice, not a feeling.

Last year at Thanksgiving we were without a home, trying to create stability in a stressful season of building, trying to believe we would see his faithfulness in that step of our journey… longing to be settled.  Thankfulness was hanging by a thread.

This year, I look back and cannot find the words to capture the depths of my thanksgiving. Over the past month I have had dreams that brought to the surface feelings I didn’t even know I carried and as I awoke one day with tears falling out from my closed eyes, I heard the Lord say, you are worth it.  Every grace I have given to you has been worth it –  not because of who you are but because of who I am.  I have pursued you endlessly, poured out lavishly, loved unconditionally, sacrificed unreservedly and equipped you for the part I have given you.  

He’s all about the pursuit. It’s a larger love story.  That’s the gospel friends. He leaves no stone unturned, no mountain unmoved, no enemy unscathed.  He uses grand gestures, gentle whispers, unending mercies and relentless love.

Today I sit, resting in the goodness and recognizing that I am not the same as I once was.  I have much to be thankful for, much to be hopeful for and I choose to trust him for his faithful pursuit of the ones I love.  No story is the same.

Sweet friend, take a moment this week, ask him to show you his love for you.  Sometimes it comes in crazy unexpected ways… like 3 kids that bring you to the feet of Jesus, every.day.  Maybe that’s what it took –  something I could never do on my own, no way I could prove my worth – surrender to the path that led me to see his great love in ways I couldn’t see before.

If you have a minute, or ten, sit down and hear the song of my heart.  It just might move you too.

With a thankful heart and much love to you…  Happy Thanksgiving!

My Story, Uncategorized

The life that chose me

He held me tightly in his arms, it felt like the first time I had exhaled in 10 days and all I could think was, remember when it was just the two of us and life was easy?  Remember when what seemed like mountains now look like molehills in our rear-view?  Remember when I thought I had a grip on life?

I showed the house this morning to someone new.  It has become part of my daily routine:  wake up, get girls dressed and off to school, clean house, work, show house, work, feed family, bathe girls, tuck them in, close my eyes, repeat.  Everyone always asks why we are selling… and I always say… because life turned upside down.

She was kind, curious and surprised when I showed her my office.  Oh, you work?  What do you do?   Yes, I work from home.  I’m the operations director for a christian non-profit.  Of course you are.  You adopt children.  Of course you work for a non-profit.  

All I could do was laugh and think to myself, I didn’t choose this life.  I guess you could say – it chose me.  I wanted to be a lawyer and wear pencil skirts and fancy shoes.  But here I am standing in my back yard with ripped jeans and a 2 year old on my hip, praying she doesn’t tee-tee on me.  I thought I would negotiate mergers and acquisitions… instead I negotiate hostage situations among 3 toddlers and bribe with jelly beans to use the potty.

Sometimes I hide in my office and ask God, what in the world were you thinking?

That cute little office my husband built with love, adorned with crystals and splashed with pink… it’s a holy place.  God meets me there – over and over again.

It’s where I pray, it’s where I sing, it’s where I do business with God and for God.  I feel like I should add something to our real estate listing, “God is near”…. but I don’t wanna freak people out.

This life God chose for me, it is beautiful – I am blessed indeed.  But there are days when the weight of adoption, trauma, pain, the unknown and simply feeding people is so heavy I feel like I will crush beneath it.  I want to do all things well but I end up doing little even good-enough.  I hear the voice that says I will never be enough, I can’t do everything and something has to give.

Do you ever feel like you want to hide?  Oh girl, I do.  In this past week when everything hit the fan all I wanted to do was pack up my little family, go home and hide.  I wanted safety, security, a sense of control and say over my life.  I wanted to shut down this story of a girl and pretend my family was built from a different story that doesn’t carry baggage or fear.

But that isn’t what God sees in me.  He didn’t choose me for this life so I can hide.  Sometimes courage is just showing up in the battle.  The thing I’ve found is that when I show up, God shows up even more – and through that, his glory is made known.

I may have cried a little but I’m not hiding.  In some ways I’m still waiting for God to show up.  In all things I have seen his peace meet me, right where I am.  He reminds me that he has chosen me and my ripped jeans to reveal him today.  He reminds me that he is my portion and my cup; he makes my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.  – Psalm 16:5-6

I might not understand this side of heaven what God sees in me… but I’m trying my best to come through with whatever it is.  I feel pretty special being chosen for this crazy part in life… raising three beautiful, funny little ladies along side of one amazing guy… working with people who are passionate about seeing God transform lives and experiencing it myself.  I can’t complain… I can only hope he keeps showing up.

Here’s a little taste of what’s playing in my office this week:

 

 

 

Love Does, My Story

A Little Look Back

…seek peace and pursue it.   – Psalm 34:14b

20 years ago, in the spring of ’96 there was this guy that asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes.  That isn’t even where this story begins… but it’s where I’ll start today.  20 years since that first yes.

This weekend we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary.  I could not have ever imagined our story unfolding as it has.  never.

Years ago, at least 6 but I think even more, a friend of ours was praying for us when he had a picture of me on a rope swing, and the Lord inviting me to let go of the swing.  Let go, trust, enjoy.  Come in.  The water is cool.   At the time I thought, yeah right.  I’m never letting go.  I don’t do adventure.

As I sit here this morning reflecting on a journey, I can see God’s gentle pursuit and the many signposts along the way that speak deeply of his love for me.

A year or two later we made a major move that we had really not considered – relocating for a job that we never thought we’d get to a place we never expected … it still makes me laugh to think about how we ended up here.  We thought we had hit life’s jackpot, skipped adulthood and pretty much moved into retirement bliss.  We had a real sense that God had given us a season of rest.  Dear Jesus, if I had known what was coming I am certain I would have slept even more.

Around our 10th year of marriage we realized we’re adults now, we need to start doing adult things.  We responded to a nudge from the Lord to step into foster and hopefully make a difference in the lives of children.  We have a deep conviction that to whom much is given, much more will be required (Luke 12:48). 

We walked through a difficult first placement.  One that taught us so much about the realities of the brokenness around us.  I can fully relate to the recent words of Jason Johnson on receiving their first child through foster care:

I’m convinced we didn’t rescue a little girl from her situation as much as a little girl rescued us from ours. She pulled back the veil of the world around us and showed us a broken side of it we had all but isolated ourselves from. She pulled back the veil of our hearts as well and showed us the same.

There was no way we would ever be the same.  In some ways, we lost our own innocence, but it was needed.  We lived comfortably unaware of the battle going on in our own neighborhoods.  Our eyes were opened, our hearts were broken and we were shaken.  We took some time to regroup, pull ourselves back up and see if this is really where God was calling us.

During our break, a long time friend reached out after many years and shared a dream she had that we would be receiving twins. babies. and they will be forever. 

To say I stopped breathing would be an understatement.  I don’t remember breathing for the next week.  I hardly ate.  I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.  My husband, he prayed once… then I asked him if he was still praying and he said, what?  I didn’t know we were supposed to keep praying.  🙂

In that painful season of the transition of our first placement I engulfed myself in the Bethel Music album that had just been released.  The song It is Well was on constant replay as I tried to convince myself it was well with my broken heart.  When we received this word of the twins I really didn’t think my heart could handle another break.

I went to my parent’s house for a week while Daniel was traveling.  I had received other words confirming what I sensed God was inviting me into.  At their church a series of unfortunate events culminated in an unusual Sunday service.  With no worship leader they decided to use the Bethel video worship from the album that I had been soaking in.  The cover song for that album is You Make Me Brave.

Now if there is anything I consider myself lacking it is courage and bravery.  Seriously, lacking.  My pose of self competence is a mask of control that was deeply rooted in fear. This was not a song I could even sing.  Nothing in me felt brave.  But that morning as we sang that song an elder shared a picture he had of a person standing at the edge of the ocean, big waves were rolling in but the Father was calling them to step into the waves, they will not overcome you.

What little air I had been breathing was immediately sucked from the room as tears slowly fell out of my eyes.  This word could.not.be.for.me.  I cannot handle the waves. I hate waves.  Please Jesus, invite me into the calm… I promise I can be fun in the calm.   But calm was what I can handle.  The waves were what he wanted to use to reveal his Glory in my life.  I had to step into a story that left me believing nothing less than You Make Me Brave.

When I finally shared the dream with my dad, he laid back on the couch, almost in an overwhelmed way, and said he had a deep sense that the word shared on Sunday was for me but he couldn’t even look at me.  It was a distinct confirmation for me that I better get ready, the waves are coming.

One week later I received the call about the twins… after Daniel and I picked ourselves off the floor (in two different places) got over the “are you shittin’ me” shock of this call… we said yes.  Our yes was half-obedience, a little bit of curiosity and the rest pure fear of saying no to something God had so clearly spoken.

The rest of the story unfolds throughout the 60 something posts of this storyofagirl blog.  It’s surreal.  It’s stunning.  It’s beautifully painful but undoubtedly raw.  I’ve sought to bring you the real life as it has unfolded in the daily battle of loving children from hard places to  learning what it means to surrender to a plan that wasn’t yours, trust a God that is bigger than big and hope that no matter what may come, he is faithful.

There were many days when I wondered if we would survive.  There were prayers that I could relate to Jesus’ prayer in the garden… if this cup could pass from me – not my will but yours be done.  But there are so many days that have been beyond what I could have dreamed of.  The laughter and love that fills our home from these three precious girls is what kept me in the battle.  The growth we’ve seen in them and in us as they’ve raised us and turned us into parents is what makes it all worth it.  It has taken us a while but in all fairness, they have been children longer than we’ve been parents… it’s hard but we’re doing the best we can.

Your support has been the glue that holds this girl together.  Knowing you are praying, you are vested in our story, you are welcoming little girls with everything you have to offer, unconditionally, without judgement, offering grace when they have screamed their heads off… you people are my people.

Two weeks after the last trial, the final hurdle between us and adoption, another friend sent me a message with a dream she had of our adoption.  This was a much-needed burst of hope on a weary journey.  I haven’t really watched The Lord of the Rings and I most certainly haven’t read the books…. but from what I’ve gathered… I feel like Frodo and you guys have been all those weird looking people that are on his side 🙂  Except you’re all much prettier!

As I sit today and reflect on the past 24 months… the journey of the dream, the rope swing, the waves that I thought would take me under, I listen over and over again to the song You Make Me Brave and my heart sings indeed… He has made me brave and you have been a big part of it.  There are a couple of key things I want to point out from this part of my story.

  1.  Build your fellowship.  Surround yourself and fill your life with people that know and hear God.  I fully believe he speaks and I am forever grateful for those that have shared with me his words and in turn given me the courage to step into the big things he has invited me into.    Call it your tribe, your fellowship, your village, your people… don’t do life without support.
  2. Seek peace and pursue it.  It is tempting for me to seek answers.  Often my prayers are asking God for specifics… or explaining to him how I think he should move… but I am learning that not every answer is specific.  Many times the next step is just into peace.  My wrestle in the past two years has been trying to figure out all the timing, the provision, the pieces of this story when all God was asking was for me to follow his peace and trust his heart.  Sometimes God gives specifics… like a dream, or scripture, or specific word… but sometimes he simply gives peace.  Go with it.
  3. Love big.  Love unreservedly.  Leave no regrets.  In these two years we’ve had a number of children come in and out that were not forever pieces… but we will forever be impacted by their time here.  My hope is that they will remember the love they experienced in our home and that it will forever point them to a Father that loves them big.
  4. Be brave.  Don’t let fear hold you back.  If God is saying do something that seems bigger than what you can do… trust that he is faithful.  Often times he is more concerned with the process than the destination, so find God in the waves.
  5. Share your story.  There is power in vulnerability.  Don’t just share the pretty parts… we need to hear the hard parts too.  I have often found the greatest grace in the most painful places.  These are the places that have strengthened my faith, solidified my trust and refilled my hope.  We all need to hear how God is moving, it encourages me.

Y’all 12 years of marriage, 2 years of parenthood and in 2 days we stand before a judge and give a big yes.  I imagine I will still be singing You Make Me Brave for the next 12 years and beyond.  By then I’ll have twin 16 year olds… dear Lord, I need you more.  As I anticipate celebrating the realization of the dream we’ve been holding, I know our story doesn’t end here.  This is just the beginning….  I hope you keep hanging with me.

12-08-14_MandellaFamily_EdenGardens-7
Throwback to the beginning.  They were so tiny!

*photo credit to LitteMissCreative because she’s the best there is.

 

Love Does, My Story

When Heaven Moves Earth

“yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so”

I hear the sweetest little voice singing these words from under the table.  This is my favorite.  My heart skips a beat at the sound of her voice singing the words I long for her to know in the depths of her being… Yes, Jesus loves you!

Adoption is in the air… the anticipation is almost more than I can bear.  Every little thing tugs at my heart-strings.  It’s not just our story, but yours as well.  The very day we found out that we were cleared for adoption, 4 houses down from us a tiny baby girl was born into her adopted family that had waited and prayed for this child.  I met this tiny one last night and the peace that envelopes her is surreal… I can’t help but wonder, “will you ever understand how heaven moved to get you here?”

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is found in Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” 

I have often said, my dad makes God look good.  When I have thought of this scripture I have known that there is nothing on earth my dad would not do for me… how much more so my heavenly father?

There have been many times in the past 21 months that I have looked at my circumstances and talked back to God saying, “my dad would have done something by now!”  I’m sure there were some feet stomping and tear shedding to go along with my tantrum.

I may not fully see in this lifetime how heaven has moved on my behalf… but I know it has.

When I look back on our story, the past 21 months, and all that God has done to bring to fruition the dream he placed in our heart I want my girls to know one thing, He is a good good father. 

It’s hard some days for me to wrap my head around adoption.  For adoption to be necessary something has broken, a plan or a dream,  something is not what it should be… but in God’s grace, he provides a path of redemption, a saving of the story.

Here we are, literally counting down the days until adoption, practicing new names and beaming with excitement like expectant parents.  I have prayed that God would guard this season, for the first time we get to truly be excited and let the anticipation build up for this one big day… almost like a wedding!

We’re riding down the road in the car, “Raise your hand if you wanna be adopted!”  or shouting out new names like we know who we’re talking to.  Y’all, it’s just too much!

We had never discussed adoption before last week… honestly… the girls haven’t even known that they needed to be adopted, life has just been life for them.  So we took them out to dinner and it went something like this:

“Girls, mommy and daddy want to talk to you about something.”  – me
“What!?!?!?”   – all the little girlie voices
“Well, want to know if it would be okay if we adopted all of you so we can be your mommy and daddy forever?!”  –  obviously me
a twin’s head hangs down and she softly says, “but I wanted a new mommy and daddy…”
……………….    [I am sitting there stunned….]
“I’m just kidding!  I want you to be my mommy and daddy forever and ever and ever!” – said twin

What the hell was that!?!?!  Seriously! That is some high level sarcasm there.  Not what you would expect from a four-year-old!  I almost told her I changed my mind!  But honestly, I can’t blame her… Daniel and I are two of the most sarcastic people you will ever meet.  I can’t say I deserved that… but I can certainly see where I contributed to it. 😉

I told my dad the other day I’m a little worried that once we finalize adoption I’m not going to have anything to write about…. after spending a couple of days around us he assured me there will still be things to write!  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to see our fun side again.

Until then… I will be reading everything I can about What to Expect When You’re Expecting – 3 Toddlers… oh wait, no one in their right mind would put something like that in print.  I’ll keep on potty-training, planning a celebration and seeking to capture this story that God has given us.  Thank you for being there through every step!

I mentioned last week that there were a bunch of legal hoops that needed to be jumped through, and I just have to say, our case-worker was on point… and God has moved in incredible ways.  We have been approved and will be moving into our final stage of adoption, exactly ONE day before our home-study expires.  Yeah, let that sink in.

God is kind-of a show-off.

This morning as I sat, somewhat anxiously, considering where we are and what still needs to happen I came across a new-to-me song that just met the state of my heart…

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

– excerpt from Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin feat. Pat Barrett & Anthony Brown

My heart can’t stop singing this morning of His goodness.