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Hello from the other side…

We’re still here… and better than ever.  I know it has been a while and I’ve been meaning to say something but life is full and my waking hours are limited but mostly filled with feeding little faces and trying to keep up with a certain sneaky 3-yr-old.

Some of you have been a part of our story from the beginning, some of you joined along the way, and some of you have no idea what you’ve just gotten into….  but I stand here on what feels like the other side amazed by God’s faithfulness and grateful for each one of you that have walked with us.  I am truly humbled by your love.

It has been three years since we were first licensed and started receiving calls for placement.  Three years since I first felt all these conflicting emotions, wondering if I had what it takes to be a mom to children in need, wondering what it’s like to walk with a bio family through the hardest things they have faced, nervous that we were getting into a system that we heard was broken but couldn’t imagine and giving up what felt like all control and privacy we thought we had.  Opening up our life, our home, and our whole family to an unknown world – but I think we will all stand here and say it was worth it –  hands down.

Every tear.  Every laughter. Every step. Every child.

My friend Shauna Niequist wrote me something the other day.  By friend I mean – she doesn’t really know me, and by – wrote me something – I mean, there’s a devotional she wrote that I happen to read…. but who’s worried about details like that?  I totally follow/stalk her on facebook so we’re legit.   Anyways, the other day her admonition went something like this:

If you want your community to be marked by radical honesty, by risky, terrifying, ultimately redemptive truth-telling, you must start telling your truth first.                from Savor

Something in this stirred my heart.  The thing that got me started on this storyofagirl was a desire to be real – even when we’re attacked by a stomach virus or blown away by God’s incredible provision… heart-broken by missed expectations or over-the-moon to give our girls new names.  Every bit of our story has been a desire to share openly and honestly what God is doing in our lives and I thank each of you for being a part of it.  It’s a pretty crazy ride.  And I have this sneaky suspicion that our story isn’t over yet.

However, over or not, I do feel like we have a break in the chapters.  Praise the Lord!  We are in what feels like a respite.  For three years we lived in the depths of the unknown, clinging to the hope and an almost unbearable wave of waiting… and waiting…and waiting some more. But we have jumped into 2017 fully knowing that God’s promises are true and celebrating being settled into our new home that just so happens to fit this family.

Recently at a family fun event, we made a new friend who recognized us even though we had not ever met… it was a sweet moment where she shared that she had heard our story and had always wanted to meet us.  This always blows my mind to hear of people that we don’t even know that prayed with us, followed our ups and downs and celebrated the good days.  This friend, though, she could see things from the other side, she had actually had her children in foster care and overcome incredible challenges to successfully reunify and is thriving!  She was so thrilled to meet us but I was blown away to hear how God had saved her from addiction and brought redemption to her story.  Well done friend, I celebrate you!

It’s hard to capture the past 3 years in a post …. but as I have been reflecting lately on this period of calm there are a few things that I want to share that I have learned along the way:

  1. God’s promises are true… every time.  It might not always look like you thought it would, it might not come as fast as you would have liked it, but he is forever faithful.
  2. Hope is not what I thought it was.  Hope is not believing in an outcome but rather believing that no matter the outcome, God is enough.  Even if things don’t turn out like I want I can cling to the hope that even in the pain, God will be there.
  3. Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage is moving forward despite the fear.  Courage looks a lot like saying yes even when every bit of your rational self says, this can’t be good.  Courage is not giving up when things look hopeless.  And sometimes courage is simply getting out of bed one more day.
  4. You need people –  call it your village, your tribe, your small group, your circle, your fellowship – whatever you call it, build it.  We are not meant to live life in isolation.  I would not have survived the past 3 years had I not had people speaking truth, carrying hope, claiming promises and pouring me some wine.  People make life so much richer.  Build your fellowship and invest in them.  You need each other.
  5. I’ve heard about terrible two’s but let me tell you, two has nothing on three.  truth.  I’ll write a book after we make it through number three being three.  Lord help us all.
  6. Vulnerability is risky but worth it.  Being honest about where you are, your fears, your feelings and wondering if you even have what it takes might be scary, but I have found that it invites others in and allows authentic relationships. You might even find that you aren’t alone in your thoughts and feelings.   We’re all trying to figure this out together.
  7. God can do a lot with a little.  A mustard seed of faith, the last drop of oil, a few fish and loaves of bread or even a soft-spoken “yes”.  Obedience is better than sacrifice, you obey and God moves.

And lastly, (for now), I want to encourage you to capture your story.  One thing I’m so thankful for is the ability to go back through all these crazy posts and see the hand of God in our lives.  To know that I have captured these pieces and will one day be able to share it with our girls gives me hope that they will themselves see God’s hand of redemption.  And as I tell them about their first mommy and her love for them, knowing one day they will want to know the story behind our story, I can trust that God’s pursuit has not ended here. His love will meet them there, even in the painful things.

When they open their mouth and an Alabama accent falls out I can certainly laugh knowing that came from me – along with their love of shopping.   But when they laugh so deeply they can’t breathe, fight so hard I can hardly stand, sing so passionately that you can’t help but be moved – I give credit to the one that loved them even before me – and I’m ok with that… because this is what makes our story beautiful, every piece of it.   A crazy, beautiful, broken and redeemed story.

I want to leave you with this from the Psalms,

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.    Psalm 27:13-14

I have seen it – that goodness. I have experienced his faithfulness. I am resting and trusting that he didn’t bring us this far for nothing. And for now, I savor these things as I look forward to the rest of the story.

Much love!
abs

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photo credit to @littlemisscreative

 

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It was a Holy Night

So this is Christmas…

How can this be?  The days are long but years are short.  I’ve heard of this… but surely I’m too young for this to be true.

I just spent my second night rubbing the legs and arms of a 5 yr old who aches with growing pains and I can’t help but feel that this year, 2016, has been wrought with growing pains of my own.

My favorite Christmas song runs through my head, A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices- for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…

I am painfully aware of the weariness of this world.  Some are weary from battle, some are weary from loss, broken-hearted, grief-stricken and some are weary of simply waiting.  This season continues to bring me back to the thrill of hope – that something new and glorious is coming.  Maybe it is a promise fulfilled, a need met, a season of rest or the adventure of a lifetime. Or maybe it is unassuming, like a baby that carries the hope of the world.

I remember last year, dreaming of adoption and a certainty, learning to cling to hope and trust in his promises.  This year we celebrated the dream-come-true, the turning of the page and the overflow of his goodness. These have been unquestionably the highlights of my life. But in almost the same breath, we have experienced the pain of brokenness, the seeming hopelessness of trauma, the heartbreak of loss and again a place of waiting.  I’m beginning to think God might be after something…

I recently read an incredible book, Present over Perfect, that really helped me see some things I believed, subconsciously, that were wreaking havoc in my life.  By simply identifying these things, bringing light to the darkness, I began to experience a lot of freedom and grace.

At a young age I was pretty committed to not having children. While on the surface I could see this was driven by control issues, when I take a deeper look, through a lens of honesty, I somehow believed that having children would change my worth. Or should I say, it would change how I could prove my worth.   Having a little tiny human that I can’t control just might impact the things that I was carefully trying to control… and in the end, you would see I’m just a mess.

Well…I am a hot mess.  I had a recent doctor’s appointment and it went something like this:

nurse: how is your stress level?           me:  HIGH
nurse:  how is your alcohol intake?    me: higher
nurse:  how often do you exercise?     me: ummmmm…  low
me:    can you fix me?

Obviously, this isn’t a good path.  I had to honestly consider what I should do differently.  So, of course, I call my sister – “how in the world did you raise 3 kids, homeschool, work and live to tell about it?”   Well, let’s be honest, it was touch and go there for a moment.

As I began to really take a deeper look I began to see two key things: 1.  Something in me is driven to prove I can handle everything.  Clearly, if God brought this into my life it is because I should be able to handle it.  2.  I don’t want to disappoint anyone that is depending on me – especially God.  Because, if I can’t come through then it will be painfully obvious how broken I am –  like a vase that can’t hold water –  kinda worthless, except for sentimental value.

That seems harsh, huh?  You’re tellin’ me!  I was a bit surprised myself when I got to that place.  But surprised or not, it is what was truly driving me, in addition to the good things that God actually put in me.  But man, it was exhausting… and it is costly.

There’s something mysterious about lies like these – once you see them for what they are they lose a bit of their sting.  Once I reached the place of realizing I run myself in circles to prove I’m worth something, I was able to pull back a bit and rest.  You see, the other part of my favorite Christmas song (that is pointed out in the above-mentioned book) says Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

soul-felt-its-worth

Thousands of years ago, on that holy night, he appeared and he proved my worth.  Friends, it has nothing to do with what I can accomplish but everything to do with what he sacrificed. It doesn’t matter how big I fail or how high I climb, it only matters that he chose suffering, crucifixion and death – that I might live knowing I am chosen, favored and worth everything to him.

Y’all… when I stop and really let that soak in… when I remember that he appeared that I may know my worth…  this weary soul rejoices.  And then I take a deep breath.  It isn’t all up to me. The world doesn’t crumble when I fall. There is grace and I can live in it, I can offer it, I can sprinkle it around like glitter!

When I was tucking the girls into bed one night I sang Silent Night to them after prayers.  In the darkness of the night, I could see the surprise on their faces, “did you just make that up mommy?!?!”  No dear, that’s a Christmas song about Jesus’ birth.  “It was so pretty!”

I can’t help but think there’s something in our heart that is drawn to the hope of that silent night, like it holds our missing piece…. or peace.

This year, man, it has had its up and downs, really high highs and even some hard lows.  Growing pains of sorts… figuring out what it looks like to live out our story.  Trying to work out our housing and finding ourselves in a season of homelessness that at times feels hopeless.  Each and every hard place has brought me back to the question if I will believe he is faithful and his heart towards me is good. As I consider the story of a baby in a manger, a savior and king, I am reminded to rest –  he is a master story maker.

As we enter the last few days before Christmas, I invite you to take a moment and consider the depths of his love, the proof of your worth, the love of a king that stepped into a weary world that we may experience hope.  You, my friend, are worth it.

From this broken girl to you, I say, have a very Merry Christmas!  And since I didn’t find time to squeeze out another family photo session, this is as close as I will come to a Christmas card.  Much love to you all!

 

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photo credit to LittleMissCreative

 

 

 

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The waves and wind

still know His name…

My heart sings this song and reminds the rest of me that it is well. 

So let go my soul and trust in Him – the waves and wind still know His name.

There is much stirring in my heart.  Unsettledness.  Uncertainty.  Hopelessness yet in the very next breath, hope.  That’s the glory of our story, there’s always hope in His goodness, His faithfulness and His promise.

The past month has looked a lot like a pressure cooker… the heat has been turned up and I am just about done.  As a recovering control freak  I have a lot to learn about surrender but God is graciously giving me room to grow.

We survived moving and we are now getting settled into our temporary living place, which is much smaller than our home was.  This has been our own adventure in what I call “tiny house living”.  Now, I realize it is all a matter of perspective… and since I am the one writing we’re gonna go with my perspective.  Don’t get me wrong, this is the perfect spot for a one-week vacation, with a beautiful beach and a bed for every head.  But living, breathing, working and sleeping all in this little nest has been a bit more challenging than I imagined.

It has been hard for me to write because quite honestly, I haven’t had anything nice to say.  I have longed to write something inspiring in support of National Adoption Month (November) but in the middle of my chaos I have questioned if I can even muster up an ounce of inspiration.  I have felt more like a boiling frog trying to convince others that the water’s nice.  The truth is, the water is so stinkin’ hot!  I’ve wanted to jump out of this pot many-a-day in the past few weeks.  Parenting is hard. period. This is not my shining moment.

As I sat on my balcony last week, desperate for the voice of God, crying out in somewhat of a hopeless place and asking, Dear Lord – where are you!?!  – my heart found its voice again.

I have a love/ hate relationship with water. I love to see it in all its splendor, but I hate to get in it.  That day on the balcony reminded me of God’s invitation 2 years ago to step into the waves and trust His purposes.  The song in my heart reminded me that He is in control, especially when I am not.

I am in a small group (that I never get to go to anymore) but never-the-less the lesson that week was on worship and surrender.  It led me to a story from the prophet Ezekiel and a vision he had in chapter 47.  In the vision the temple has water flowing out from under the threshold… the man took him out and measured the water… first it was ankle deep, then further it was knee deep, then waist deep, then it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in…  (emphasis mine)

The study points out that the river symbolizes the presence of God.  As we give up control to God, we will begin to experience His presence.  Some of us are content to be ankle deep, some like knee deep and some will even venture out to waist deep, but God – he’s inviting us into the river.  In the river is where we surrender control and go where He goes.

As I re-read this scripture in the Message I was struck by the wording, wherever the river flows, life will flourish;  where the river flows, life abounds.  I struggle, every day, with surrender. This surrender to a season of what feels like homelessness has wrecked me. I have no control. But God’s promise is that in surrender, in the river, life will flourish. Where the river flows, life abounds.  Where I have been wrestling the current at waist-deep, I can find rest in deeper water.  If I would just stop fighting.

As I was praying I sensed the Lord say, today the tides are turning.   As a die-hard Auburn fan, you can be sure I didn’t make that one up.  I wrote that one down as I prayed for our country.  I marked the date, so I can come back and remember this moment where I recognize the growing need for my own surrender, to ride the river and remember the day that the tides turned.

I have believed this year for God’s abundance.  He has blown my mind with His goodness.  That day I saw his promise of provision come through in ways greater than I had expected.  I shared with Daniel and he just laughed… let out a deep breath and said, I can’t help but trust him for all that’s before us.  When he moves like this in areas we didn’t even know we needed, how can we not expect him to come through in everything else?

There is still a lot going on.  We still are trusting for his provision of our new house that finally has walls.  🙂   Our nation is at a turning point and it’s time for believers to offer hope, speak love and invite peace, not stir the pot of hate and division.  When I am tempted to be overwhelmed by these things and the simple day-to-day life of a mom / wife / employee / friend… I step outside, take a look at the water and remember… the waves and wind still know his name.    It is well with my soul. 

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The house that built me

I am the definition of a hot mess.  Consider yourself warned.

I am surrounded by boxes and chaos.  Everything in me longs for safety, stability, settledness – but with each box I pack, I am moving closer to the unknown.  Homelessness in a way.

I’ve convinced myself to call this a sabbatical – or a vacation.  If I can make myself believe that this is something good then maybe it won’t feel so bad.  After all, who would complain about living in a condo on the beach for a couple of months?   (slowly raising my hand…)

I recently shared how God came through in the last second in a crazy way and our house sold in about 3 days… right on time to close before our new house is ready.  He is so faithful.  But our new house… well… it’s not going to be ready.  So now this girl is getting to surrender once again to a plan I didn’t have and see just what God might have up his sleeve for this new season.

As I’ve walked through the disappointment of my expectations, I have struggled this week with facing the reality that we are leaving this sweet home that I have loved.  This house has been a picture of God’s provision in my life, his grace that held me when days were hard, his warmth that embraced me as tears have fallen from my eyes.  This is where I discovered my heart and found God just might have something bigger for me than I could have dreamed.

This is the house where I took my first steps into motherhood then fell into bed in complete exhaustion from days that seemed to last forever and nights that were too short.  I remember the van pulling into the driveway that delivered two tiny girls that overflowed with giggles and mouse-like voices that I couldn’t believe were real…. and six short weeks later brought a baby girl who looked almost as scared as me when she arrived.  I’ve learned how to make adult decisions here… how to stay in the battle and fight for what’s right… believing at my very core that it’s gonna be worth it.

I feel like we grew up here… Daniel and I… we came here as two selfish people, on the brink of 30 and enjoying an easy life.  God gently opened our eyes to the world around us and called us into more… more purpose… more risk… more sacrifice… more love than I could have imagined.

Now here we are, packing up each memory, taking down the pictures, saying goodbye to some of our favorite people, Sunday night yard parties and a biker gang that explodes with cuteness and sass.  It feels like we’re leaving part of our heart here.  And once again as I step away from what is comfortable, safe and known – into new territory – I am faced with believing this is gonna be worth it.  This is what I asked for, after all… more space, more rooms, more bathrooms… a new chapter in this story.  So why is it hard?

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.  I have issues.  When I was a little girl and our family moved from the only house I had known, into a much larger, nicer home – after a couple of nights I told my parents I wanted to move back to our old home.  Three years ago Daniel and I bought that old home….  20 years later and I still couldn’t let it go.

When I got married one of the hardest things for me was leaving the safety of my parent’s home… so after a couple of years I convinced Daniel we should move back 😉   My parents still own that home and Lord help me when they ever sell it.   So you might say this is the first home I’m actually walking away from… knowing I can’t really come back.

Clearly, I have issues.  I like to think of it as a deep sense of loyalty and commitment 🙂

But you know what… I prayed for this…

When we first began the process of preparing to sell this home I started praying for the family that would move in.  I wanted it to be a place for a new family to grow, experience love, awaken dreams and welcome life.  I want it to be an instrumental part of someone else’s story.  I want them to know this house is blessed, it is covered and love lived here.

When I showed the home to the couple that will soon call it their own, I saw the same twinkle in her eye that I felt in mine the first time I walked in.  The wanderlust of what it could be… the feeling that this could be my home.  And in the midst of the offers, the timeline, the pressure… I kept coming back to this sweet couple and feeling like they were us just 6 years ago.  I could imagine life unfolding for them in this home… first steps of motherhood and fatherhood, surprises and lots of love.  It just felt right.

So here I am… surrounded by boxes, slowly making progress and trying not to cry, believing that everything that made this house special is going with us.  Because it’s not about the house, it’s about the people in it –  right?

After all… this next house… I call it the house that love built. And friends, guess what!?  There will be room for you too.  (If you want a peek at this crazy life.)

I would love for you to pray with us over these next few weeks as we transition.  One of my highest priorities is keeping the girls’ lives stable…. but it seems a little hard on this side of things.  My incredible husband is making this move as smooth as possible for me and my crazy self.  Pray for grace.

And speaking of grace…. I have a long list of thank-you notes that everything in me wants to write… so please don’t give up on me.  Your gifts and love have been an incredible blessing to our family – I just haven’t been able to get something to you yet.

Until we meet again …   Hugs, kisses, and rainbow wishes!

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The Last Second

My parents gave us 24 child-free hours… and I’m about to use this last one to tell a story.  Life has been hectic and I’m not sure when I’ll have time to sit again, so here we go.

I hope as you’ve had a chance to pop into this story of a girl over the past two years you’ve seen a thread of hope God has graciously weaved through our life.  This has been the most intense season of growth I believe I have ever experienced.  My heart in sharing our story is that it gives you a glimpse into his goodness… and glory.

As we have been in the process of adoption we realized that our cozy little home needed more space.  I’m not saying we couldn’t make it work… but this momma likes peace and quiet… and the size of our home was not conducive to that.  In February I really pressed into the home search and found that everything we touched would close just before we could make something happen.  Then we found something that seemed a bit too good to be true.  It was hard to consider that God might be opening up this door.  As I spent about 5 days trying to make a decision it uncovered some deep questions that I have carried for years.

Throughout our story it has been easy for me to see why God would do good things for my girls… and I just got to be a part of it.  It is much harder for me to believe God desires to do big things for me.  But if I work hard and get things right, then he will come through.  And I tend, in my own fear, to work really hard so things aren’t all dependent upon God.  Because if God doesn’t come through, what does that mean about me?

In February we pretty much jumped off a cliff and started a building project that was bigger than I could dream.  I sensed the Lord inviting me to ask him for more and believe his goodness towards me.  Not because of anything I have done; simply because of everything he has done.

In April I attempted to put our house up for sale by owner and no joke, within days of that God brought two more kids into our home.  All I could do was laugh at the thought of trying to sell a home with 5 kids under 5.  I was simply crazy.

Throughout the summer I continued to softly market and randomly show the house, thinking I was doing my part so God could bring his provision.  Around June he gave me the word “abundance” and I began to pray differently.  I began to believe that his heart is abundant when I was simply asking for provision.  Through this shift in my prayers and a consistent cry to “show me your glory” he just plain showed off in July.  If you remember my post about When God Shows Up , you can see how my faith got a little bolstered.  Even in all that glory I still struggled to believe that God would do that for me.

Around late August we found out that our new home was expected to be ready much earlier than projected.  I was on my way out of town for work and couldn’t even process this information.  While normally that would be a pleasant surprise, it was not in my case.  Our home had not sold and we are required to sell before we could finalize our new one.  Bottom line, we were at risk of losing our new home.

As I drove home alone that Sunday I had four hours of heart-wrenching prayer.  There was a battle going on in my heart for what I believed.  As I began to cry out to God and ask why he hasn’t provided in what seemed to be a simple way I was able to follow my fears and began to ask myself, If God doesn’t come through, what am I afraid of?  One thing I realized is that I am really afraid of being disappointed in God.  So often I hold back because I need to protect him from my disappointment.  I don’t want to step out in big faith – it’s too risky.  As I reflected more in this thought I was able to see that my fear is that if God doesn’t come through, and I am disappointed in him, the lies I am tempted to believe are that I’m just not worth it, I didn’t work hard enough, I was foolish to believe he would in the first place.

Earlier this month I walked into the kitchen and told Daniel, I think we might lose the house.  I explained to him all the reasons why – specific to timing, loans, the closing process and such.  It was a hard pill to swallow but we began processing what it would look like to surrender what felt like our dream.  We talked honestly about the good and bad, what if God was protecting us?  What if God was punishing us?  What did we not get right?  Then What is God saying to us right now?

I think honestly, what I struggled with the most in the disappointment was, did I really hear God?  Did I miss something? How did we end up here?  I’ve had to realize as God is taking us to the next level, there are places of uncertainty, where he is calling us to strengthen our faith.

As we prayed and sought the Lord we just had a sense of peace in the surrender.  The scripture, Be still and know that I am God was a consistent message and we just chose to pause and trust God with the outcome.  It felt as though he was inviting us in to a place of greater trust, like we had not yet walked in, to meet us in a way we had not yet seen.

Every day as I awoke that week I had a song in my heart, It’s your breath in my lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise…”  In the midst of what felt hopeless I could find hope in the very breath in my lungs.  I sang it over and over.  “All the earth will shout your praise, our hearts will cry these bones will sing… Great are you Lord.”   I had the choice to believe that no matter what happens, house or no house, he is faithful, his heart is good and I can rest.

The week before as I was asking God what he was up to, I just sensed him saying “my provision is not dependent on what you get out of this house. Just trust me.”

The next week I received a call from a very persistent Realtor that had been trying to convince me I needed his help.  He came and met with me the week before and loved the house.  I had tried to put him off, but he kept coming back.  One day he sent me a text and asked “are you ready to let me sell your house?”  At this point I had almost resigned myself to loss.  Daniel and I discussed surrendering the other house and just staying where we are, it was less risky.  So I told the guy, I think we might just stay here.  He asked me what was going on and basically why am I so crazy… and I basically told him of the impending time crunch and that I needed to sell my house in the next two weeks.

Challenge Accepted.

He put our house live on the Multiple Listing Service on Monday afternoon.  The pictures were pretty… the description was simple… the response was immediate.  Within an hour we had people setting up appointments, one asking to come that night.  Everything in me started to freak out.  I have three kids at home, my husband is working 12-14 hour days, I work full-time and people are coming out of the woodwork.  I make the Monday night showing happen, only to wake up in the middle of night to a child with a stomach bug, followed by another child and then the third.  I called my mom and said “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want me to sell my house.  This is unbelievable.”

Within the first 24 hours we had six showing scheduled.  I probably did 18 loads of laundry on our sick day.  As soon as the girls showed signs of recovery we loaded up and got out of the way for a showing.  By 48 hours we had an offer on the table and on day 3 of showings a second offer upped the ante. By golly, God was moving.  I always thought a bidding war would be fun.  I was wrong.  There was so much pressure and I wanted everybody to be happy.  We spent a lot of time in prayer through the evening for God to give us discernment.  At 9:40 we signed our final offer and went to bed exhausted but in awe of God’s favor.

That persistent Realtor paid off.  It was as if God sent help in my time of need and moved a mountain that I didn’t see flinching.  An answer to many prayers and hope was restored.  We began to dream again.  What if God really is making a way of provision for this new house?  I just imagine him smiling, like he knew what he was doing all along.  😉

Waking up Friday morning felt like turning a new page, entering the next chapter.  We might call this chapter, when crazy gets crazier.  Now we have the adventure of actually moving!

We packed up the girls and headed to Nana & Papa’s house for the weeknd. The girls stayed there and we went off to cheer on our Auburn Tigers as they faced LSU.  Just in case you live in a hole that was a pretty wild game, right down to the very last second.  Considering that we’ve seen how Auburn does with one second, I’m starting to believe God might be an Auburn fan too. 🙂

I’ve often joked that I’m God’s favorite.  As I have wrestled this year through my doubts and surrendered them to the Lord, he’s gone above and beyond to prove to me it’s true.  The good news is that his favorite isn’t exclusive, there’s hope for you too!  Being his favorite doesn’t mean we get everything we want, it means we can surrender to everything he wants… because it is good.  I had to come to the point of honestly saying, God, I surrender this home to you.  If we lose it and stay in our current home, I will thank you for your provision of a home that I have loved.  You are good and I trust your purposes.  I had some painfully honest moments of disappointment, unmet expectations, questions of what I was believing and choosing to trust what God says is true.  It wasn’t always pretty and I’m not sure we’re going to even be able to wrap it all up in a bow.  We still have a few more weeks for everything to play out…. but I’m beginning to understand this trust thing.  It’s really not about me.

 

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How to save a life

I have been reflecting a bit this week on where we started and how unbelievably overwhelmed I was by life.  We have some sweet friends that have just stepped into new territory as foster / adoptive parents.  As I read about their willingness to say yes to two new children for an undetermined amount of time, it catapulted me back to our beginning.

As I sit on this side of our story, knowing I’m not at the end – but some chapters have closed, I was able to understand more clearly some of what was going on in me during that season that felt like a lifetime.  I thought it might be helpful to share some of it because it can be applied not only in situations like ours, but really in almost any relationship.  We all encounter seasons of life that are bigger than us.  The saying that God will not give you more than you can handle is pretty much bullshit.  {sorry}  I have spent two years living out of that lie.

What God does say can be found in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Sorry for my strong thoughts up there… but you have to understand, I spent a long time believing  what felt like would take me under was something I should be able to handle… and the truth is, I couldn’t. But his grace was sufficient and his power was perfect in my weakest days.

What did that look like, practically, for us?  Well, when we said yes to Baby Girl I knew I was unprepared but I didn’t have a clue what to do.  My mom wanted to throw a “baby shower” but I didn’t want anyone to feel like they needed to help us.  (I’ll get to my issues later.)   Someone told my mom not to listen to me, and they went and registered us at Target for many practical things we would need to welcome a baby into our home. And people blessed us.  I had no idea I would need a diaper genie. But I can tell you after the first week of crap I was sooo glad someone saw that coming and bought me one.  Grace was someone taking the time to see my needs before I even knew them myself.

Another way I experienced grace was through the people that have loved us unconditionally, speaking truth and offering hope.  When I had days that I questioned if we would all survive, I can guarantee you that my mom and my sister were faithfully talking me down and lifting me up.  They reminded me of truth, they spoke words that gave courage and they held my arms up when it felt like I couldn’t even stand.  You friends, you spoke truth to me as well.  I absolutely love to read your words that encourage us and tell us of your prayers.  And when you tell me how our story has impacted you, that breathes life into me.  It helps me connect with God’s larger story and reminds me that this is not just about me and my small battles.  God’s grace is so sufficient.

Part of walking with someone through seasons like ours is that you need to be a safe place, a place where honesty can happen. The key to being a safe place is found in vulnerability.  Vulnerability breeds safety.  When someone unloads the gut-honest truth about how they feel they don’t need to be met with a cliche that everything happens for a reason… they need to be met with a connection that says, you are not alone – how can I walk with you?

For so long I didn’t know how to receive help.  People offered but I couldn’t handle it.  I felt like we are the ones who said yes and we were the ones who took on the responsibility and the pain.  While that is largely true, that does not mean that people can’t help us carry the load.  I just (in the past six months) learned that my primary love language is acts of service.  I had no clue!  Then I realized how loved I feel when my husband sees that I need help.  It took a huge fight for us to get there… but I was finally able to see that when he says this simple phrase, how can I help you?  I feel seen, loved and not alone.  As I began to understand that, I was also able to see how I had been pushing away the very thing my heart desired and people around me were offering.  Sometimes I will still say I don’t need it, but just you offering fills my cup!

Looking back, I realize that I spent a lot of energy trying to protect the world from my kids.  I have often said we are a walking circus.  Our circus is crazy, full of drama, lots of giggles and little obedience.  I have no freaking control over our circus.  And because of that, I avoided a lot of things.  I’ll never forget one night when a friend looked at me and said “I can handle that you have kids. I can even help you.”  I lived in a lie that believed I couldn’t let my circus show, I had to keep it wrapped up in a bow – which was impossible – so life had to be put on hold.  Then there are some friends that found our circus to be fun, or at the very least, amusing… and they pushed through my walls.  I cannot tell you how forever thankful I am for a dear one that used to just take over bath-time… and she made it fun!  I sat in amazement that she could handle the chaos with such ease and she never looked as stressed as I always felt.  She taught me through example how to relax and love my girls differently.  I needed her.

The other big thing I would say is don’t feed fear.  Trust me, every one of us is aware of the reality of our situation.  Many of us have spent time counting the cost even before we said yes.  So telling us how dangerous or scary it is isn’t helpful.  We (personally) made a conscious decision that we do not want to make decisions based on fear.  We want to live with an awareness of our situation but not in fear of it.  We consistently assess whether we need to make any adjustments, address any concerns or make major moves for the safety of our girls.  It can be even harder for our families who support us but see the scariness of it all.  In those places speak truth, give life and pray for God’s grace.  Everyone needs it.

When it comes to supporting, here’s what I suggest:

1. Help assess the practical needs and think of ways to meet them.   Coordinate meals, or childcare, or just another human being to help with bath and bedtimes.
2. Be a safe place.  Not everything we say is going to be pretty, love us anyway.
3. Speak Truth. Remind us of God’s faithfulness, his promises and his word.
4. Give hope. Point us back to Jesus, everyday.
5. Don’t feed fear.
6. Pray. Never stop praying
7.  Help us laugh… funny times bring healing.  Help us see the fun in the hard places.
8.  If appropriate… bring wine.  God bless all you parents that have survived without it.

You all know life can be hard, but we were not designed to do it in isolation.  It so much more fun to do these things together.  #lovedoes

 

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:

 

 

 

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Things parents of toddlers say…

If you don’t have a toddler, really, you should go borrow one for a little while.  I have a few you can pick from if you need one or three.

I never in my wildest dreams imagined all the things that would come out of my mouth.   Here’s glimpse into what my days sound like…

First of all, if you remember that rap song in the 90’s by DMX “Up in Here”… this is the soundtrack of my life right now:

Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind up in here, up in here
Y’all gon’ make me go all out up in here, up in here
Y’all gon’ make me act a fool up in here, up in here
Y’all gon’ make me lose my cool up in here, up in here

And as that swirls in the back of my mind, these are the things I have actually said in the past week:

  • No, it is not time to wake up… you have at least 5 more hours before the sun even wakes up!
  • You have to wear bottoms, highschool does not mean you don’t wear bottoms. That is a shirt, go put on some shorts, or pants or a skirt.  I will not keep having this fight!
  • PS… you are not in highschool.
  • No, turning 5 does not mean you get your own cell phone
  • There is not enough time to watch a movie between our driveway and the church (across the street)
  • Please do not eat things you found in your car seat
  • People do not drink from dog bowls… that is just for the dog
  • I know you want to be in the olympics, really, I do… but flipping your sister out of her chair is not part of the training.
  • We do not drink water from a puddle… in the street
  • Nana will not come save you from this!  This is called a consequence.
  • Do you see my wooden spoon?!?!
  • I will give you something to cry about.    (So this one, I kind-of expected to come out at some point in this life.)
  • Two people cannot use the same toilet at the same time!
  • Please get your sister’s toothbrush out of your mouth.
  • Is this pie in your hair?
  • Chewing is what you do with your teeth, swallow is when it goes down your throat.  We chew gum. We do not swallow gum.
  • I know you are the mommy, but I’m the real mommy, and when she needs to poop it is not your job to clean her up.  It’s mine… because, this is obviously what I dreamed of.
  • Yes, I realize that is how you count, but one day fiveteen is not going to work for you.
  • Your teddy bear does not need baby-powder for her diaper change.
  • Please do not suck the jelly out of your pb&j sandwich
  • For the Love!
  • It is a good thing you are so cute
  • I am so sorry a crab named Alan pinched you.
  • No, you may not have real coffee… I would not stand a chance if you started that.
  • Sugar cubes are not an acceptable breakfast
  • We do not dance with poles. Ever. Period.
  • Going to jail is not cool… that’s not our goal… haven’t we discussed this before?
  • Please, please, please do not ask someone if they are “an old lady”. Mommy cannot handle that.  We do not say old lady.  You can say, nice lady.

Y’all…..  I don’t even have words left to say…

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All that glitters is not gold

It’s kinda hard to follow that last story.  I’ve been wondering for two weeks what to write next.

Remember in the story where Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after experiencing God’s glory?  When he came down his face was so red he had to wear a veil.  I imagine it slipping every now and then and someone has to remind him, “excuse me sir, your glory is showing.”

That’s pretty much how I felt for the next week after God showed off.  I felt like every where I went my glory was showing.  Then as time went on, we went camping, I started sweating and life got hard.  Our normal shifted from being in daycare before vacation to using a nanny after vacation… so I’ve been with kids 24/7/3 weeks straight… that I swear feels like it has been 270 days!

Last week I had a sobering moment when I attended our area Foster and Adoptive Parent meeting.  There was a therapist there teaching on the effects children experience from trauma.  If I’m honest, it wasn’t really new information, but the truth is this was the first time I had paid attention to it on this side of adoption and it was overwhelming!  There are things our girls have experienced that I cannot erase, but with lots of unconditional love, holding and never giving up, there’s much hope that they can experience levels of healing.  But one thing she said, and I know she didn’t mean it to be discouraging, but what I kept hearing was, “they will never live up to what they could have been.”

That is still a lot to swallow, and honestly, I can’t accept it.  I know we have challenges, and there are challenges I don’t even yet know of… but I have to believe there is more hope than that for us.  I think back over the past two years, this Friday is two years since they first walked through my door.  I can’t even count how many times I have seen God’s hand on their lives.  There is purpose in their story, there is purpose in their pain and their is redemption of what the enemy meant to destroy.

I understand the science behind the effects of trauma, really, I do.  She told the story of a child walking in a park, and one day on the same path he had always walked he sees a snake and from that point forward, he will always be looking for a snake.  Every stick will be snake until he sees it isn’t.

My biggest earthly fear is snakes. Hands-down.  Twice this summer as I have stepped out of my office my foot has almost landed on a snake.  There is an ungodly dance and accompanying scream that occurs in these instances.  One time I almost got a 9mm and attempted shooting before I realized I was more likely to kill my dog than the snake.  This is my own small trauma.  And for weeks as I have stepped out of my office I have questioned every stick, every branch, every movement that crosses my path.  And I remember thinking to myself, If your biggest fear is snakes, every stick becomes a snake.

When she shared this example on that evening I felt my heart sink as I realized the depth of what my girls will have to overcome.  We have seen tremendous progress and I am amazed by God’s goodness.  At the same time I could relate to what they call being “hyper-vigilant”… mine isn’t just about snakes though.  There are days where I am exhausted just from trying to prevent melt-downs, protect bedtime routines, manage excitement and maintain emotional stability for me and all those around me.  For the first time in months I took a deep breath….

Despite what science says, despite what trauma they have experienced, I have a good good Father that loves me deeply, loves these girls lavishly and is on this journey with us.  It isn’t all up to me.  I cannot even begin to know what lies ahead, but he does, and I can rest.  He gave me this scripture two weeks ago:

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”      Matthew 6:34

Even as the facts were swirling around in my mind that night,  I had to remind myself not to be caught in the worry of what will be, but enjoy this moment right now.

I went home that night, snuggled on the couch with Daniel and the girls to watch Peppa Pig.  Gabriella smiled really big and said, “look mom, it’s our whole family! how do we all fit here together?”  Well, that’s just what families do, we squeeze in to make everyone fit.  Then she gently replied, “do you see this mom? this is my happy tear.” 

Y’all. I almost cried. It is not often that I stop and snuggle on the couch, but it is those moments that bring about their healing.  These are the things that show them they matter, they are loved and safe.  This is what brings them happy tears and erases the ones cried in fear.

Please pray for us. Some days are still hard as we get used to new routines and in a week start a new school.  We need lots of grace!  We need teachers that can understand where we are coming from and not give up on the hard days.  This mom needs grace to see what is important and trust the truth of who God is for us.  I’m thankful for the many ways he has shown his glory, it serves as a continual reminder that we are not alone.  Thank you all for the ways you have loved us lavishly, celebrated our adoption and given us more than we could have ever asked for.  We are truly blessed.  And I know without a doubt, these girls know they are loved, not just by us… but by each one of you.  This friends, this brings healing.   #lovedoes

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Uncategorized

When God shows up

Few things in life leave me speechless. We could probably count on one hand how many times that has happened.

You know, as a childless couple we lived a pretty comfortable life.  Things were turned upside down when God brought us three little girls.  Part of my struggle in knowing if we should adopt or not was questioning how we will ever be able to afford raising 3 kids and everything that entails.

We are in the process of building a house that we believe will better accommodate our new family.  In the meantime, we need to sell our current little love nest.  The timing of the two needs to be nearly perfect… and I long for control.  Yet, God has invited me into a new level of trust.

During a day of prayer a few weeks ago I sensed the Lord giving me the word “abundance” and I began to practice believing for his abundance in our lives and not just his provision.  My last two blogs were pictures of his work in my heart as I am seeking to see his goodness.  I spent three days praying show me your glory.  I have been praying over a specific need for a few weeks, asking God for his abundance and to reveal himself in a way that I would never doubt was him.

I was hoping to see his provision before we needed to make a significant payment but I sensed he was asking me to step out in faith and trust that his provision would come.  I wrote my post on Wednesday and then took a big step.

Later that day we picked up the girls and went to our Chiropractor.  These people, man… they love us more than we deserve.  I had just shared with them by phone that morning that we had finalized adoption and when we walked into that office you would have thought we were movie stars.  We were met with such excitement and celebration, hugs and kisses… joy enveloped us.  It feels like home there.  They’ve known us almost 3 years, we started going immediately after a car accident.  They have seen us grow from just the 2 of us to a party of 5 in what felt like the blink of an eye.  They have loved our girls like no other.  So much patience, such kindness and undeserved love.

Even with all their goodness, I tend to stress out at the chiropractor’s office.  If it weren’t for our family that place would be the picture of peaceful.  But my family, we’re like a freakin’ tornado… I feel certain there’s a warning that goes out when they see us pull into the parking lot.  “Brace yourselves!”    When it’s our turn to see the doctor, we go in this small changing room that I am pretty sure sounds like someone is being murdered as we try to dress three little people and keep them contained until we’re called.

We step in and with as much excitement as three little girls can have they share the news that “we’ve been adopted! and my new name is…!”  We go through all the checks and balances, every little one is serviced and we’re moving on out.  I get them all buckled into the car when daddy tells me I need to go back in and talk to the doctor.

Somewhat confused I walk back into our exam room where I am met by our doctor friend and it goes something like this

We really love you guys and are so excited for you and the girls.  We have a patient that saw you in the office a while back and asked me about you.  So I told them your story, how you went from zero to three kids and … (it’s all really a blur)… but this guy just couldn’t believe that someone would do what you’ve done.  He has been waiting for your adoption to finalize over the past year and he wanted me to tell you that he is setting up college savings accounts and would like to fund them for each of your girls……………………..

Shut the front door!

Let me pause here while you pick your jaw off the floor.      Wipe those tears friends.

God just showed up.

My head was spinning.  I could not speak.  All I could do was say, what do you mean?  Who are you talking about?  Why would someone do something like this?

They don’t want us to know who they are.  They just want to play a part in this story.  They have been waiting to make sure that we got to keep the girls, but it has been on their heart for months.  And I don’t even know their names.               But God does.

Y’all, I am humbled.  I am blown away by God’s goodness.  I prayed for 3 days that God would show me his glory, and he just showed off.  All I could think while Dr. P. was talking to me was, you have got to be kidding me.  This cannot be real.  God just blew my mind.

I cried all the way home.  Have you ever tried to explain to 2 and 4 yr olds there is such a thing as happy tears?  I seriously cannot find words to express what I have felt the past 2 days as I have reflected on God’s faithfulness.

Earlier that morning my sister shared from Psalm 27, so I spent some time in this passage.  As I reached the end of the chapter I resonated with the psalmist when he said

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)

I was given courage that morning as I faced what felt big, then chose to step out in faith that I would see the goodness of the Lord.  It’s almost as if he was just waiting for me to believe.

I know this is long… and some of you are ready to kill me for leaving you hanging Wednesday night.  It has taken me a little time to sort out the reality of this gift and I wanted to share in a way that is honoring, appropriate and gives God the glory.  I can’t comprehend what God is up to, or what stirred this couple to bless us in the way that they have.

I try not to get caught up in the prosperity gospel, or name-it-and-claim-it goodness.  I hope you hear my heart when I say that I have simply asked God to be all that he says he wants to be for me.  My faith has been challenged almost daily for the past two years.  I have reached new depths of what it means to truly trust that no matter what comes, his heart is good.  I have had to believe that he will not lead me where his hand will not provide and in the depths of my being face the question I have carried nearly all my life, am I really worth it? 

I have spent weeks waiting for the wind, bracing for the quake, watching for the fire, but as I lay my head down to rest I hear his gentle whisper say, I see you.

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