Love Does, Uncategorized

When Life Gives You Poop

It has taken me more than a week to write these words… sometimes your heart needs time to process before it can share.  In my previous life I would never have imagined writing something about poop… but alas… here we are.

I’m listening to a book The Whole-Brain Child to better understand the interworkings of my children’s brains and the impacts of trauma.  In one chapter it shares about a whole-brain strategy called “Name it to tame it – telling stories to calm big emotions”.  One of the best ways to heal from a painful, disappointing or scary moment is to help retell the story of the experience.

My friends, it’s time for you to know what happened…

It was the second day of fall, a blistery 96 degrees on a Sunday afternoon.  My soul was longing for cool weather but instead was sweating out of every pore of my body.  We were at a dear friend’s birthday party and the girls were swimming to their heart’s desire when the unexpected happened.

I have this one little fish that for reasons unbeknownst to me, tends to swallow lots of water as she plays – despite my constant request to spit it out. She has no cares about the germs, bacteria or living creatures that may share the body of water from which she drinks.  She laughs in the face of fear – I cannot scare her into not drinking the water.

Let me set the scene for a moment, I have no intentions of swimming this day. I am dressed in a linen off-the-shoulder sundress and dripping in miserable sweat hoping that I will cool off enough before we go out for a family dinner and fondue to celebrate Daniel’s birthday.  Sipping on a cool glass of Pinot, I see the wiggle dance of my youngest fish as she announces she needs to go potty really bad!  I jump into action, open the heavy bathroom door and close it behind her.  It’s a matter of moments when I hear on the other side of the door “Mommy, I need you.”

The smell hits me in the face before my brain can catch up with my eyes.  It’s a dark bathroom, with no windows, ventilation or even access to air.  On the center of the floor is what I finally identified as a pile of pool water induced excrement.  I can’t comprehend in the moment of sweat dripping, eyes burning, gag inducing hysteria how this pile ended up on this floor, until her sheepish little eyes look up at me and say, “I’m sorry mommy.”

::  remain calm. you are the adult here. do not breathe. do not shame. do not lose your $#*%   ::

I see that as she attempted to pull down her swimsuit bottom, the proverbial “bottom fell out” and there was literally poop everywhere.  I momentarily contemplated whether it was appropriate to burn this place down.  Instead, I calmly stick my head out the door and invite Daniel to come assist me in parenting hell.  We’re in this together buddy!

As he steps into the sauna of shishkabobs I quickly brief him on the situation which has hit him in the face.  I am gagging, but he is strong.  I attempt to remove the fully loaded swimsuit bottom from my tiny human, which then acts like a rubber band and flings said poop all over my bare legs, the potty and more on the floor.

Holy Spirit come quickly…

I.am.dying.

I have to put her on the toilet, because despite the evidence all over the bathroom, she wasn’t finished.  I believe everything she had eaten in the last two weeks had waited for this moment in time.  I wipe myself off enough to retrieve clorox wipes from the closet, return to the chamber of torture and begin trying to scrub a pebbled floor with a handy wipe.  I clean the toilet and all the things that have been desecrated.  Wipe my own body with clorox wipes, pray to Jesus and thank God for the husband he gave me.

That cute heart trimmed, two piece swimsuit was abandoned.  There’s no way in hell we are trying to recover its dignity.

Sweet Daniel goes to the car and grabs the tiny bottle of thieves hand sanitizer and we bathe ourselves in it.  There are not enough essential oils in the world to aid in this recovery process.

However, we dress the tiny princess in her normal clothes and we exit the gates of hell hoping no one else needs to enter for a good 20 minutes or so.  We rejoin the party just as he is blowing out his candles and my sweet little fish is handed none less than a chocolate cupcake….  y’all I couldn’t even handle the look of that things.  I will never ever see chocolate cupcakes the same.

The twins were utterly devastated as we left and they found out we were not having our fun family dinner and fondue outing as previously planned.  They were spared the bathroom experience and couldn’t understand why mommy and daddy looked like we just returned from the makings of a horror movie.

Sweet girls, there are just some things we cannot speak of.  Trust me when I say we cannot go to dinner tonight.

Straight home. Hot showers. All the oils. More wine, please.

This morning, on my facebook feed a memory pops up from four years ago.  I’m quickly reminded of the dazed and confused feeling I felt as I faced this new season with my first baby.  She moved in with us October 2, 2014 –  and here we are – 4 years later.  I never could have imagined all our adventure would hold.  I had no idea how to raise children, much less a baby.  Despite my explosive poop stories, God has been oh so faithful.

We all know how the story goes, I’m living the life I never dreamed of.  I can laugh at the shock I experienced four years ago as I became a mother to three little girls, all of whom we call our first child.  It’s like we’re raising each other, they just had a head start – and we’re the adults because we have jobs and a background check.

I’m not entirely sure how to wrap up a poop story.  I apologize to anyone who feels violated by my sharing.  Trust me, you have the good side of the experience.  I promise to one day write something that has a bit more heart and a few less explatives.  I’ve been a bit busy lately keeping tiny people alive.  As they have begun urgently praying for a baby… I’ve been forced to make a new rule:   no more humans or things that poop.  I draw the line.  I hope God is listening 😉

There is a lot going on in this mommy heart of mine.  We could use some prayers for the coming weeks.  If I find another minute, I’ll share more.

May your coffee be strong, your wine be smooth and the oils be healing.

Much love to you.

 

Uncategorized

When Mother’s Day Breaks You

I must admit, I have no idea where this post may lead.  No matter where we go, please know, I’m ok.

I feel like I should lay some groundwork to paint a clearer picture of my foray into motherhood.  I didn’t grow up playing with lots of babies and dreaming of being a mommy.  Instead, I grew up quite confident that I was created to be an aunt.  You might say God’s calling into motherhood was quite a shock to my aunting system.  This could be the reason behind my repeating record that says, “this can’t be my life.”

A few other important details to my story:

  • When I was really young my family liked camping.  While I don’t remember any of our camping trips, I have heard of a time when someone forgot to snap the side of the pop-up and they didn’t know it until they heard me crying on the ground… outside of the camper.. having rolled (or likely been pushed) out of the end.  I’ll let you imagine how fond I am of camping.
  • As a teen I spent ungodly amounts of time in the tanning bed.  A sin I shall carry to my death and that I earnestly pray is not the actual cause of the inevitable.
  • And lastly, as an adult I truly struggle with being fun.  Despite my greatest efforts and pinterest boarding, Daniel is the one that brings fun to this family.

Enter the week of Mother’s Day… where my husband has planned a camping trip for our family and I am doing my best to believe we will be building cherished memories.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even have fun in the making.

T-minus four days, I go into the dermatogist to have a pesky little cancer removed from my abdomen.  I’ve gone through something similar before on my forehead, so I knew the drill.  What I didn’t expect was that they had a lot more material to work with in my abdomen.  I began to wonder if the doctor could go ahead and pull out my uterus from the gaping hole otherwise used to remove a pound of flesh.  As the assistants quickly cauterized my wounds and sewed two layers of stitches into my love handle I began to repent once again for the sins of my youth.

My sweet girls cried real tears when they saw my two inch battle wound and told everyone they saw for the next few days about mommy’s sick freckle and stitches.  It has worked a bit in my favor since the girls were sensitive to my wound and didn’t want to cause me undue stress.  They do have hearts 🙂

So here we enter mother’s day weekend, fully packed and loaded for adventure.  A camper [which may also double as a pressure cooker of parenting], three littles, two dogs and a mom that feels like she has literally been stabbed.  Y’all… what could possibly go wrong?

camper

It had been bubbling below the surface for days – this tension I carry feeling as though I am living someone else’s dream.  I should be enjoying every minute of this life because there is certainly someone else who would give anything for it.  Whether you’ve experienced the loss of a child or your mother, carry an unmet desire of motherhood or your own painful childhood and those living through a difficult journey of parenting –  your pain is not lost on me.

To be honest… Mother’s Day… it breaks me.

It puts me face to face with my own frailties and overwhelmingly sensitive to the pain around me.  I fully know what I count as joy comes at a loss from another.  I can’t think of any other day of the year I would rather skip.  I write these words fully acknowledging I am coming as a mom whose arms are full, adores my own mother and is blessed to have strong, beautiful mommy friends and sisters … but the complexity of my feelings run so deep.

As I look back over this last week it seems like a blur of emotions – where mine came crashing into the shore of expectations and should be(s) that I can’t unravel.

You would think after four years I would be used to this Mother’s Day thing – not finding myself surprised that this really is my life.  I can’t tell you how many times  I’ve stopped and thought, I never imagined my life would look like this.   Sometimes these words were echoed with joy and at other times they were whispered through tears.

We were exhausted by a full day in the sun, swimming and watching – counting heads all the day long.  They drifted in to sleep quickly, a tad bit earlier than usual.  With sunkissed cheeks and blood shot eyes, they fell hard.  It was a successful day and would all be down-hill from here.

Until… she wakes up.  It doesn’t matter which “she” because we are in a camper, remember?  That means that the first she wakes another she and all the tiny emotional people are floundering around in sleeping bags, hot and cold and uncontrolled.  [Jesus, this would be the perfect time for your return from heaven.]

There is literally no escape.  I can’t make anyone happy.  One is crying because she wants a campfire.  The other one is crying because she wants to go home – right now.  Ok, sure – that hasn’t crossed my mind a million times.  Abandon camp!  Burn it down.  This is not worth it anymore.

I have one child that goes into full drama-queen when she is exhausted… which I can’t relate to at all.  We were finally able to divide and conquer, soothe and sing back to a place of rest long enough for me to take a much needed shower.  Then Daniel met me at our end of the camper and tried to speak but I literally lost my heart.

In a sea of tears I crumbled to the camper floor and cried how much I hate Mother’s Day.  Every thought that had been bubbling in my head for the past few days came rolling out of my mouth as I confessed how much I have failed.  Any person on this earth could do a better job than me.  Why in the world did God think this was a good idea?  There is a one in three chance that I am going to mess up – every single day.  The odds do not ever feel in my favor.  This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done and at my deepest, darkest place – I don’t think I can get it right.  And little lives are at stake here.  why me?

In the middle of my crying, with his arms around me, as I am a puddle on the floor – I look up and whisper/scream – and I’m stuck in a camper!  :::  this my friends is what could possibly go wrong :::    mommy meltdown – camping edition.

We both broke into laughter at the irony of it all.  Daniel pointed out that the child that stretches me the most with her irrational overdramatic exhaustion is simply because she is so much like me.  which I completely deny… until he points out all my irrationally overdramatic display of motherhood whose tears are still wet on the floor.  I refuse to own that I am dramatic – as I clearly feel the stab wound move from my abdomen to my back.  We cannot be friends if you call me out. No sir. Your job is to hold me and tell me I’m right.

He tucks me into bed and I fall into sleep.  I got a solid two hours before that baby girl’s whimpers lifted me out.  I end up sitting in a chair holding her in such a way that her burning skin is not waking her sleepy self.  I think of all those mothers who hold their children as they fight for their life, or the daddy who breathes for his son when he can’t breathe for himself, the parents who lost their baby without any known reason and would give anything to hold them one more night.

In the midst of all my doubts and fears of failure, I begin to see that this moment is what I am here for.  I may not get everything right, but I will sure die trying.  When it all falls apart and my brokenness is poked by her brokenness and we each do things we wish we had done differently… we can stop and try again.  Because grace runs deep and he is deeper still.  I couldn’t have imagined this life of mine and honestly, I wouldn’t have ever asked for it.  But it’s at the point of my breaking that I am able to see how he carries me.

Sweet friends, I know that mother’s day is not all roses for all of you.  I bring my story to you as my way of saying, I see you.  I feel you.  In some ways, I am with you.  This day is so hard for me… and it got even harder.  After all were fed, bathed and tucked in bed I crawl into my own and thank God tomorrow is a new day.

I want to say to you, you made it.  We did it.  And tomorrow, we get to show up again – like a mother does.

camping shore

 

 

Love Does, Uncategorized

Your Heart was Worth the Pain

“Just point me back to Jesus…”

These simple words I spoke in response to a friend’s question, how could he support me in the moment?  Knowing there was nothing that could be done to change my circumstances, I cannot deny that having people who remind me of the goodness of God changes how I engage.

There are times we will face struggles that seem beyond hope and we simply need to shift our focus.  Not because it changes the struggle, but it changes what we see.

When I see a field, You see a harvest
When I see the winter, You see the spring
When I see the orphan, You see Your child
My God how great You are…

When I’m in a battle, You see a victory
When I see the storm, You see a promise
I see the stars, but You know their names
My God how great You are…

I stand amazed that You stand unchanged
I give my life for the glory of Your name…

 lyrics from “My God How Great”
written by Nate Kelly, Destiny Worship Music
hear the full song on iTunes
used with permission –   sort-of 😉

These words pierced my heart Sunday morning, reminding me that circumstances don’t shape my hope – His promises frame my journey.  I can rest knowing there’s no mountain too high, no rival too great, no ocean too deep that he can’t reach me… or you.

I stand amazed… he stands unchanged.  The stories long ago of a sea split in two, a son that squandered everything yet was met by grace, a people who entered the land promised generations before, a tomb found empty – fulfilling every promise of hope to come … this is the same God today as the one in the book.  He has not changed.

My sin was great, Your love was greater

I have reflected on this holy week and the journey from the donkey to the cross.  It is more than my Sunday school, child-like perspective can take in.  I have to be intentional to not just read through the story, but allow myself to wonder what was that like?  One day He is hailed as king and people literally fall to their knees.  The next thing you know he is sweating drops of blood… knowing what tomorrow brings.

What was worth it?

His friends failed him. His father turned his back on him. People mocked him.  The thorns pierced him.  The cross nearly broke him.

What could he see beyond the grave?

He sees you…      12_06_17_AbbyMandella_Family_GraytonBeach-4

He sees me too.
As tears fall from my eyes I have to remind myself, I am what he sees on the other side of the darkness.  I see my falleness, he sees my redemption.  I see my fears, he sees courage.  I see my frailties but he sees beauty.  Where I see my weakness, the struggles, the disappointment –  he sees strength, love and the glory he created in me.

In Max Lucado’s book, And the Angels Were Silent: The Final Week of Jesus he writes:

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he dies. And the way Jesus marched to his death leaves no doubt: he had come to earth for this moment.

From the fall to the manger, from the tabernacle to the trial he always knew his purpose.

Grace to Grace

In a previous life, I was a worship leader.  I know what goes into a Sunday morning set or a weekday service – building a team and shepherding hearts.  I’ve always said, I can’t lead where I’m not willing to go myself.  Even though I didn’t have all the skills or talent, you can bet I had heart.  My heart was first to honor him, but second to point others to Jesus. His wonder.  His glory.  His goodness and his love.

It has been at least 5 years since I’ve touched those keys, close to 15 since I’ve led a service.  Life looks drastically different these days.  I now have the privilege of leading 3 tiny hearts to the feet of Jesus.  {More often than not, they send me straight there too}

My heart still leads but it’s not from a stage.  I set the atmosphere in my home even as we sing of his reckless love while tucking into bed, or how great our God is as we eat cereal or by shepherding little hearts to share kindness, love and laughter.  I have built a new set list.

This week I’ve been soaking in the weight of the cross, the pain in the journey and the promise of redemption.  I realize, often we do not know what the other side looks like.  We see the darkness that feels like death and are left to wonder what is worth it?  what could possibly be on the other side?  I honestly don’t know. I can’t help but believe that walking into the pain – no matter how deep –  embracing suffering and even facing death – that there is glory on the other side.   He certainly saw something worth it.

“When I see that cross, I see freedom
When I see that grave, I’ll see Jesus
And from death to life, I will sing Your praise…”

So I leave you with this song dear ones.  Take a moment to consider the cross this week and ask him, what made it worth it?  As my heart fumbles to find courage to enter the pain, and as you face your own journey, I pray these words indeed point us back to Jesus.

PS…I highly recommend checking out our dear friend Nate’s song “My God How Great” (quoted above) on iTunes by Destiny Worship Music.  We are total fangirls…

 

 

 

 

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!

Uncategorized

The story of our girls

It’s been three years since that morning… it felt like the world was spinning around me and I was standing still.  I wasn’t holding my breath but I wasn’t breathing either.  The thought of what God might be asking of me was heavier than I could hold.  I think you have the wrong girl, God. 

I sent my sister a text, first thing that morning.  By first thing I mean…. probably around 8:30 because I didn’t have kids and first thing looked different than it does now 😉

I need you to pray.  If you sense anything from the Lord, send it my way. 

She didn’t ask questions, she didn’t even hesitate.  I tried to start my day, going through the motions, sitting down at my desk and staring blankly at my screen.  She messaged me back…

I immediately heard, “I, the Lord have called you in righteousness and will go with you and will hold your hand.”   (referencing verses in Isaiah 41:10 and 13) ….  I had a sense of moving forward with something and God saying He will be with you – every step of the way.

I have found it’s important to surround yourself with people that hear God.  It’s also important to be someone who seeks God for yourself and others.

Just the day before I had a friend on the other side of the world send me a message.  She had a dream. This is rather out of the blue… not a whole lot of detail really except that it was very clear you would soon be getting twins. Baby twins. And these were for you to keep.  Forever.

I was undone. Scared to death. Hoping God wasn’t serious.

I don’t remember breathing for the next 10 days.  Every day as I prayed he seemed to be more clearly confirming that this was coming.  Church services, songs, scriptures, everything seemed to be pointing to the dream.

Stand in the place God has given you, make the shift, prepare yourself for what He’s going to do. 

I had to make a shift from questioning if this was God, to saying, Ok God what do I do from here?

I began to prepare as best as I could for something I couldn’t comprehend. I will never forget my dad lying back on the couch…speechless at first… then trying to help me navigate preparing for this kind of unknown.  Ok, let’s buy two cribs.  We have to start somewhere.  It was kind-of like me putting out a fleece…  baby steps.

Why do I share all this now?  What’s so special about today?

I woke up this morning reminded of the beginning of this story… the dream…the words, the confirmation… the shift that changed my life forever.  I sent Daniel a text, It’s been three years… can you believe it?   Some days we still can’t believe it.  We are literally living a dream come true.

My life is not a story about me.  And your life’s not a story about you.  My life is a story about who God is and what he does in a human heart.”    –  Shauna Niequist

I can’t help but tell my story.  Some of you are facing the hardest thing you’ve ever faced –  God may be calling you to take a leap of faith that doesn’t seem fitting.  Let me tell you, if it seemed fitting it wouldn’t require faith.  One thing I’ve learned over the highs and lows of the past three years is that our story is God’s opportunity to shine.  In the broken places, the crushing days, the breathtaking moments and everything in between –  his goodness shines through.

This is my story, this is my song… praising my savior all the day long…

It took two hard years for that dream to be fully fulfilled, to see forever.  It took me at least six months after the girls moved in to accept that God really meant adoption.  Dear Jesus, I still think you have the wrong girl… but ok… we’re still alive… so thanks for that! 

But on the days that I wondered if God was really in this, I chose to cling to the words he gave those first 10 days… the dream, the scripture, the teachings and the pictures… in his gentle kindness he made me brave.

Friend, whatever you are facing – the mountains or the waves – it is worth embracing.  I promise you I was so afraid this day three years ago, but I could never have imagined, dreamed or considered how beautiful obedience would be.  I couldn’t see three years down the road that I’d have twins losing their first teeth, a baby girl starting her preschool, kindergarten with the bestest buddies and God’s incredible faithfulness every step of the way.

It is absolutely worth it. 

As the story goes, 13 days after the dream I received a call I will never forget.  Abby, this is Jennifer…. I don’t know if you’re willing to consider this… but we have twin 2 yr old girls that need to be placed immediately…

[Take a deep breath.  Pray.  Walk into the waves.]   “I need two hours.  Give me two hours to go buy car-seats and a few things.”

“Ok, great!  Once you all get settled, we’ll talk about their 8 month old baby sister.”

Well. I didn’t see that one coming.

Grace upon Grace.  

12-08-14_MandellaFamily_EdenGardens

Uncategorized

When dreams don’t come true

Thirteen years ago this week I walked down a candlelit aisle to marry this guy I know 😉  but before the church doors opened, as my dad held my arm in his, he quietly said, “my truck is out front… we can leave if you want to.”

Let me tell you, if that little girl had any idea what thirteen years would hold I probably would have taken him up on that offer!  But I am so glad I didn’t.

You see, our story has unfolded in a way I never could have imagined – not in my wildest dreams.  I had an idea what our life would look like and this is most definitely, 100% not it.  It’s better.

wedding

When we celebrated our tenth anniversary we were just stepping into our fostering journey, realizing this is much harder than we could have imagined.  Our lives had been carefully sheltered and unaware of the pain all around us.  It was as if a blindfold had been removed and my heart was broken.

The pain was more than I could bear, but for some reason – God just called us deeper still.

Over the next few months we fell into a God-sized story that I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t lived it myself.  Even now I sometimes shy away from telling it because it just doesn’t seem real.  But here we are – three years later – and it’s as real as it gets.

I remember in our first year with the girls, waking up to their screams in the night, begging them to calm down and go back to sleep, feeling the desparation of sleep deprivation and hopelessness of trying to fix something that could only be healed.  There was no quick fix… but instead a long path of consistent love that could indeed heal the pain of the dark.

I have a distinct memory of standing in my sunroom in the middle of the night with a screaming child and thinking, this was not my choice!  I am paying the price for someone else’s choices… and this is not fair. 

I had very carefully walked through life with intentionality.  I learned from the mistakes of others so I woudn’t have to feel the pain of my own.  I don’t take risks.  I rarely make bad choices.  I might not get everything right, but I sure as heck don’t get things wrong.

Here I was, in the throes of motherhood, three children under three who were also bearing the weight of choices they did not make, carrying the scars of pain I could not understand and uncovering a fight in me I didn’t know I had.

Walking out the front door one morning an angry 3 yr old screamed at me, “you’re a bastard!”  {Shut the front door!} did I just hear what I think I heard?  What did you say?!? She then repeated her shot at me.  As I picked my chin up off the floor and knelt down to her eye level I hesitantly asked, where did you hear that word?  My heart literally crumbled into a million pieces when she shyly looked at me and said that’s what my daddy said to me. 

I cried that day. a lot of tears.  I looked that tiny, spirited face in the eyes and spoke words that I can only pray reached her heart –  you are precious, you are loved and you are worth loving.  I distinctly remember this morning lighting a fire in my soul that I would not stop fighting for these three girls.  So help me God.

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Lean in closely friends... some of you are walking through the hardest thing you have ever faced, you are weary, you may even feel hopeless.  For some of you this path is not a choice you made but one you must walk due to the choices of others.  Please know, I can relate and in some ways I even feel it with you.  Your pain touches my pain… or my deepest fears… that someone else’s choices will cost me.

But take heart, there is one who walked this way before us – who chose the most unimaginable pain to cover the cost of our choices.  This gives me perspective.  On the hard days I cling to it – the way of suffering is not easy but it is worth it.  Not for my sake but theirs.  I can only pray as we walk this glorious path that his goodness will shine greater through our lives.

Today we celebrate one year of our “family”.  It felt like a long hard road to get there but I learned more in those 22 months about hope, perseverance and long-suffering than I had in my previous 32 years of life.  (don’t start adding that up 😉

We celebrate the good days, the laughter and the joy that has engulfed our life.  We celebrate you, our loved ones that have carried us through hard days, prayed for us and held our arms when we couldn’t keep going. We celebrate the healing we see in the lives of our girls and how far we have come together… it truly is a taste of his goodness.

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photo credit to @littlemisscreative

We hold tightly to his promises and look forward with anticipation of what is to come.  I try not to think too much about the teenage years… because quite honestly, I stop breathing.  We have hope that this story is going to be epic…

But for today we just pause and say thank-you for being a part and riding along with this storyofagirl… or four… and a boy.  We love you big.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:13-14

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To you, First Mommy, on this Mother’s Day

It’s here again, first mommy – that day that creeps up and tears my heart in two.  One part is so thankful for the blessing of being called mommy and the other half knows the pain you carry.  One can’t exist without the other. Both have to be acknowledged and felt.

You have been on my mind all day today, first mommy, as I struggle to find the words to adequately express my heart towards you.  We’re forever connected, you and I.  I carefully carry pieces of your heart with me every day and I don’t take that lightly.

You keep me humble.  When I’m tempted to resent even the most inconvenient aspects of motherhood, I remember, you would give anything to have this day back.  It’s not just you, it’s all women who have experienced loss, heartache, or longed for motherhood….  it reminds me not to take for granted the little things.  One day it could be me wishing for one more moment, one more tear, one more sick day to hold them near.  I am the lucky one.

I will never forget holding your hands and promising I will do everything I can to protect them.  I’ve spent three years trying to live up to my promise.  You’ve told me not to lie to them – you want them to know you are so sorry for what has happened – you never wanted it to be this way….

And when our little girl asks me whose tummy she came from, I remind her of you – her first mommy.  It’s easy to tell her that you loved her so much because I know it’s true.  They can’t understand right now the sacrifice you made or how the story played out… but one day they will know that you chose life, you chose love in the hardest way… letting go of your dream.

They are breathtakingly beautiful and growing so fast.  That baby girl wears her sisters’ clothes now and runs our house.  She is fearless and already rides her bike without training wheels.  The twins think they are teenagers…  that’s how we convince them to eat their dinner  (we tell them it’s teenager food).  They want to grow up so fast, be cheerleaders and gymnasts.  They all three think they are mermaids and could live in the water.  It’s a beautiful life.

You’re never far from my mind; I see glimpses of you each and every day.  I remember moments of seeing you with them, the love in your eyes and wondering if I could ever live up to the love of you, first mommy.  Then one day I realized it’s not a matter of living up but a matter of loving with.  They can never have too much love.

I can’t imagine what this day is like for you, first mommy… or the days that mark their births.  My eyes fill with tears knowing parts of your story and the cost you’ve carried.  And as that baby girl asks me, “are those happy tears mommy?” I want you to know, I own that my joy comes behind your pain.  I wish our story wasn’t complicated this way.

But for what it’s worth, you give me courage to face each day – even when it’s hard to get out the door.  I work hard to teach them right from wrong, choices and consequences, love and respect.  I want them to grow up to be someone you’d be proud of.  We want to give them every chance for success.  And even though sometimes we all end up in a mess of tears, I can hold them in my arms and remind us, we’re doing the best we can.

As strangers sitting next to us at lunch admired their beauty, celebrated their personalities and asked the questions I so often hear… are they identical?  how do you tell them apart?  can you imagine when they are all teenagers?…  I just take a deep breath, answer what I can and thank God you were there first.

It doesn’t sting the way some think it would… these question… it actually makes me laugh – because let’s be honest – Daniel still can’t tell them apart.  I think it makes the world feel better to know we get it wrong sometimes too.  And when one of the twins tells a stranger that she has “two mommies” I quickly try to explain what she means.

I guess I want to say, thank you, first mommy… for the good things.  I know it wasn’t easy and days like today are hard.  I have no words that can bring closure to the chasm in your heart.

When I tuck their exhausted little bodies into bed, say prayers over them and kiss their sweet sun-kissed faces… I don’t take for granted that I’m holding pieces of your heart.  As another Mother’s Day comes to an end, my heart longs for you to know, I think of you, I honor you and I am thankful to get to share the name mommy with you.

love, mommy2