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.

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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!

 

 

 

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!