Love Does

A guide to the pain that slaps you in the face – and what not to do

          “That must be a heavy burden to carry…”

His words touched deeply, as if they uncovered a piece of truth I was trying to keep hidden – but he saw it.

I apologized as another tear made its way down my cheek.  Somewhat embarrassed by my own emotion – somewhat surprised I was even here.

When he first entered my emergency room he was taken aback to find me alone.  He asked a few questions which I simply answered about this unknown pain I was experiencing.  It was minor, yet confusing enough that I needed to make sure there wasn’t something major behind it.

“When did you start feeling the pain?”  –   When I woke up yesterday morning, it was piercing.
“What took you so long to come in?”  – I needed to put my girls to bed first  [the water begins building in my eyes]
“What kept you from coming yesterday?” –   [as a single tear escapes my burning eye, I explain]  I have three little girls, adopted, and I’m not sure why… but they fall apart if anything is wrong with me.

I needed to wait.  I needed our weekend to be a perfect rememberance, a celebration of this family built from a dream.  I needed to make space for the good days that would overcome the ones that are hard.  I just couldn’t be the trigger that makes everything fall apart.

I need to protect them from my pain.

They’ve felt so much.  I can only piece together parts of the story that I read in their case or I’ve heard secondhand.  I don’t know if they even understand what they saw in those early days, or what about it makes them glaze over into a trance-like state that seems void of life.

One time, at our dear chiropractor’s office, I attempted to get an adjustment.  One twin screamed uncontrollably as I lay on the table.  When all was done and I knelt down to calm her, she came close and slapped me across the face – something I had never experienced in my whole life.  Yet it came from a 3 year old and ultimately stung my heart more than my cheek.  She had no idea what she had done.

Another time, when my toe met the black-iron bed built for a queen,  I screamed in pain, certain that I would never walk again… her eyes turned to glass and she began hitting me over and over until she was pulled away.

There’s a place she goes that I cannot see –  there are no words spoken – just a fear that overcomes like a blanket.

And I silently vow… I will never be the cause of her pain.

I realize now the cost of that vow.  I will be strong; there’s no room for weakness. 

I’m setting unrealistic expectations and there’s no way I can deliver.

We can’t be a family that avoids the pain.  Hers or mine.

He spoke gently to me as I tried to pull myself back together.  He laid out our next steps to evaluate and medicate to bring relief from the mystery in my abdomen.  I assured him I was ok with the pain, I can handle it… I just need to know if there’s anything important that could be wrong.

“You are important….  you are important and you are in pain.” 

His words diffuse my deeply ingrained protective strategies and allow me to believe I am worth seeing… even though I can’t seem to make eye contact for fear of more tears.

I can’t take those pain meds that make you sleepy.  There’s a tiny person back home that is bound to wake up because she ate her weight in watermelon… I have to be able to help her sleep walk to the potty – time is of the essence.

They draw all the blood, fill me with fluids, give something mild for pain and deliver a “cocktail” that falls far short of my definition.  All my major organs come back clear, I breathe a sigh of relief and promise if the pain returns I’ll come back for further testing.  He didn’t say it in so many words… but I know the truth… camping is killing me.  [i joke]  The truth is more likely that I’ve given myself an ulcer.

I drive home in the darkness of night turned morning, check on the little people tucked in tight and crawl into my own comfy bed next to the guy that holds my world together.  But I can’t stop hearing the doctor’s words…

…That must be a heavy burden to carry…

They’ve replayed in my head over and over today.  It’s almost as if he saw my dark circled eyes, my clenched jaw, my broken pieces and called out the truth… I’ve taken on a burden that wasn’t mine to carry.

I’m gently reminded of the scripture in Matthew 11

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Our burden is real, there’s no doubt.  But it isn’t mine to carry alone.  It was an invitation, in the most unexpected place, to come weary and trade this burden for rest.  It was a gentle reminder that I don’t have to hold it all together.  I can’t undo the pain of a past or avoid the pain of the present but I can trust that the one who was there continues to carry the weight and will be faithful to heal.

Sweet friend, you’ve made it this far in our story.  I wonder what burden you may be carrying yourself.  You’ll know what it is when you feel the sting of tears in your eyes.  Like me, you may scramble and try to keep from falling apart.  Dear one, let them fall.  These tears are signs of something deep within.  And there’s an invitation that says, come to me, your burden is heavy, but I have rest.  You do not have to walk alone.

*
*
*

And just in case the guy in the E.R. offers you a cocktail… don’t fall for it.

Much love,
a broken girl.

My Story

To See is to Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except… we carry a different story…

…and fireworks sound a lot like gunshots.

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

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

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

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

12_06_17_AbbyMandella_Family_GraytonBeach-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Love Does, 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

Not My Child

My heart is breaking as I try not to imagine the unbearable pain so many parents and families are feeling today as they wake up to the nightmare of yesterday’s school shooting.  It’s every parent’s greatest fear, but today it is reality for 17 parents.  I almost can’t breathe.

But this isn’t about me.  Despite the feelings manifesting themselves in my inner being, the trembles that I seek to control and the simple knowing, that was not my child – I cannot help but feel.  So many feelings.  I want to curl up in a ball and hide from this broken world; gather my little chicks and create a safe place where I can protect and control who comes in.

Jesus save us.

As I try to wrap my head around the news – in the same breath I try to avoid the news. I don’t want to feel. I won’t ever understand what drives one to such a crime. But as I sat with Daniel last night and questioned, how does this even happen?  We wondered together, where were his parents?  Then it hit me like a wrecking ball…

Please don’t tell me he was a foster child.

Please, for the love of all things tell me a different story.  Please don’t let this hit so close to home.

But it does.  As I read this morning what barely surfaced last night, this young shooter was adopted, [I can’t confirm] from foster care.  His adoptive father died a few years ago and his adoptive mother passed away in November.  An orphan again.   And just like that, all my tender places are pierced, fears triggered and thoughts… that could have been my child – except for Jesus.

I’m not here to paint a picture or stigmatize children in foster care.  My heart is simply to shine a light on a crisis we face that goes beyond the cries for gun control.

Church, we have a problem and it starts with the family.

Our nation is in crisis and it’s bigger than just a national budget, gun control and gender issues.  Satan has attacked us at the core. He is relentless.  He is taking aim at marriages, families and the most vulnerable of people – our children.

What is the cost? We don’t always see it as clearly, but today we see – one child, through his own pain, intentionally took the lives of 17 more.  We will never be the same.  Something has to change.

I can sit on the outside looking in, hopefully through a lens of grace, and consider that this one child acted out of his own pain and broken story.  I can’t ask the parents of the seventeen others to share that same grace.

I can pray for an overwhelming peace to comfort the hearts of those who mourn, heal the pain of trauma, loss and violation.  I will search for a redemptive thread of grace that one day will surface but today, right now, I will let my tears fall.  I will give one extra squeeze when I say good-bye.  I will say yes to one more piece of candy.  I will commit ever-more-so to fight for the hearts of families, to stand in the gap for children and to be a voice for the ones that are choosing to enter into the hard places of foster care.

We are too much

You see, when I really stop to consider what tender places have been pierced, I have to be brutally honest.  Deep down I question, is our pain too much?  Are we too much? Will what happened in the past dictate our future?  Or can I believe that the incredible grace that built our family is enough to change our story?

Sometimes I look at our girls in their big brown eyes and think, if you only knew… I can’t wait to tell you all he has done for you.  Your story, sweet child, is one for the books.  He has big things in store for you.  You will change the world. 

But sometimes, in the midst of front-yard tantrums and mid-night meltdowns that point back to a season of pain, a loss, an experience or trauma – a lack of development or skills that still need to be refined… I wonder, will we ever be whole?  Will I ever stop trying to protect the world from us?  Will I believe we’re really worth it?  In all our glory 🙂

I must choose to believe our story will be different.  Not because I get it right, not because we’ve built a bubble, simply because I carry a hope that God’s heart is good.  No matter what we walk through, what pain we experience, I can trust his promises are good.  We are fighting for the hearts of our children, we are surrounded by people who love us deeply and walk with us through every battle.

Recently I experienced a mommy meltdown that brought to the surface those deep fears that we are too much or we will cause pain – a dear sweet friend looked me in the eyes and said “that is not your girls.  Your girls are kind and {a little bit crazy} but their hearts are good.  You have good girls.”

Her words brought healing to my mommy heart.  Her words give me courage to see the beauty that grows out of the pain.  I am reminded that I don’t walk this road alone.  Friends, we need each other.  There’s a battle for our families… and there’s a lot at stake.  Today, we mourn with those who mourn but don’t let this loss be in vain.  Rise up. Something has to change.   What’s your part?

12_06_17_AbbyMandella_Family_GraytonBeach-16
photo credit:: littlemisscreative
My Story

What Dreams May Come

girls at bay

These are the things dreams are made of.  Dreams I never knew I had.  I have only begun to discover the deeper desires of love, protection and purpose turning into dreams of this life filled with giggles and pink.  I’m in over my head, no doubt.  This picture captures our current dream in many ways.

Friends that have known me forever are trying to grasp where this all came from.  Who am I?  What happened to the girl that said she wasn’t having children?  honey, I feel ya!  My head is spinning too.  There are days that I still wonder what happened.

I can trace it back to three things…

Have you ever seen the movie Despicable Me?  I remember watching this with Daniel some 4 or 5 years ago.  When the three little girls walk into Miss Hattie’s House for Girls (orphanage), approach her desk and the little one asks “Did anyone come to adopt us today?”    Yep, that moment caught my heart.  Sure, it’s an animated movie but deep down I heard the cry of the orphan that longs to belong.  God clearly used this to begin stirring my heart.  I was reminded of the call of believers to look after orphans and widows.

The second thing?  I have a dear friend –  I can’t call her my best friend because she didn’t come to my wedding – but she is dear none-the-less.   {That’s an inside joke}  She experienced incredible pain in her life and as she has shared parts of her own story with me I found myself asking, why wasn’t she protected?  What would life look like if she had known that she was worth protecting?  She had a loving mother and father, don’t get me wrong, but life was hard and pain was real.  Her story stirred in me an intense desire to protect the innocence of children who are so often victims of circumstances that they cannot control.  To swoop in and rescue, to speak words of truth that you are loved, you are worth protecting and you are safe.  Why is that so significant? I didn’t know either until I discovered the significance of knowing it myself.

In 2011 I began a journey into my heart.  A battle.  A process of uncovering the depths of my heart and a growing awareness of God’s incredible love for me.  It’s called the Battle for Your Heart and it has been a 4 year process of uncovering the lies I’ve believed and replacing it with the truth of who God says I am.  In that process I’ve seen the framework of 4 Spiritual Realities:

  1. There is a Larger Story
  2. You have a part to play that is yours and yours alone.  If you don’t find a way, no one will.
  3. Evil is hunting you
  4. There is a Fellowship that desires to protect & propel you into your part

As I have discovered my own deep desires of being loved, protected and safe I can see more clearly why I am motivated to do the same for others.  These have been the cries of my own heart, but I am fortunate to come from a family that provided these in so many ways.  I see how God has crafted my life, my marriage, my family to be a piece of his redeeming love for the children he brings into our lives.

In the four years of battling for my own heart I have seen how to fight for the hearts of others – to bring freedom.  As fear has been unraveled in my life so has my carefully constructed protection of control.  And as control was released I began to see how God was inviting me in to so much more than I could imagine.  My part in his larger love story.  A story that has pursued my heart and pursued the hearts of three little girls that he longs to see know the depths of his love for them.

I am in awe, every day, as I consider the story God has written for me and the way he has moved to position us for this moment.  I can’t help but hope for the happy ending because I can’t imagine it being anything less.  I am fully aware that we are embarking on a path filled with resistance.  But I also know that I have a fellowship, a community that loves me well, supports us and propels us into this story.  You make me brave.

So now we dream.  We dream of the territory God is calling us into.  We dream of the days that we aren’t battling the uncertainty of not knowing where they belong.  We dream in a forever kind of way.

As we wait, as we pray, we remember God’s promise and in his promise there is provision.  He will not leave or forsake us.  We will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  And what dreams may come, he will be faithful – not just to us, but to these girls.  Whether the dream fulfilled looks as we hope or not, he is faithful. Dream with me friend.

Love Does, My Story

In a Forever Kind of Way

The way of surrender ultimately involves hard choices of letting go of what we think we want so we can choose what we truly want, thus following the deep desires the Father has placed within us.   – Women’s Team Equipping Module 1, Reality 2

The way of surrender.  What does that really mean in my life, right now?  I always viewed surrender as giving up, like in a battle.  Recently God has revealed to me that surrender looks like laying down my thoughts for his, my ways for his ways, my desires for his desires.  It isn’t giving up, it’s choosing to let go and trust his goodness.  You have had the chance to watch my journey into surrender.  When I started sharing my story I had no idea I was on this path, I thought I was on a crazy train and needed people to just pray we didn’t crash.  As I look back over the last 7 months I realize that God has been carefully working a plan and all along the way I have moved into the position of surrender.

I shared early on about the dream that a friend had that paved the way for us to say yes to these three precious girls.  In so many ways that dream went against everything I ever planned for my life.  I had to believe that if God went through all that work to get a message to me I should probably give him a chance.  One piece of that dream that I didn’t share, one word that had such huge significance, I left it out because of fear.    Forever.   When she shared her dream she clearly said, forever.  You will be getting twins. Babies. For you to keep.  Forever.

Why am I sharing this now?  Because I’m finally ready.  I have to be honest, the idea of forever was beyond overwhelming.  It is much of what took my breath away that day.  It is the main reason I couldn’t speak for days.  It was pretty much everything I said I would avoid.  Forever.  Commitment.

As Daniel and I have prayed for direction the past few months we have finally taken the step to submit our application for adoption.  This does not mean that the girls are even adoptable.  This means that if our case were to come to the point of adoption, we want to be ready.  Seven months later, almost to the day, I finally surrendered to the idea of forever and we mailed off our application.

I can’t share where things are with the girls but I can always share where we are.  As I was praying yesterday after I had an incredibly frustrating morning getting the girls ready, I cried out to God, “are we doing the right thing?”  Is this really from you?  Or are we going to be those people that accidentally adopted three kids without knowing what we were doing?  In that time I had a clear moment of realizing all the reasons I had for saying no to forever were driven by selfishness, fear and control.   All the reasons I had for saying yes to forever were driven by love, eternal purposes and desires that truly reflect God’s heart.  If I am one day judged for this decision, I would much rather defend desires that reflect God’s heart than try to defend my own selfish heart.  This sealed my deal.  I am all in.  I will not question again if this is right.

As I spent time in my Battle Prep I should not have been surprised by its focus on the way of surrender.  I reflected again on the story of Mary and the angel that came with the word that she would be the mother to the Son of God.  She is the perfect model of surrender.  Her response: “May your word to me be fulfilled.”   That was not my response.  My response was more like, “You have to be kidding me.  God, do you have the right girl?”   It has taken seven pain and joy filled months for me to move from, God, you’re crazy… to God, I see your heart and I surrender.  I wish I was faster, but there were baby steps along the way.

Move out today in humility and courage, knowing that as you respond to God’s desires for your life you too will bring life to many, even to those you may never meet until heaven.   –  Women’s Team Equipping Module 1, Reality 2  (Battle for the Heart)

I share these things because I can’t help but believe that God is stirring your hearts as well.  I don’t think he just picked me for surrender… there are things in all of our lives that seem much bigger than what we had planned and God is calling us to more.  I know it seems scary.  It is incredibly risky.  But I have to believe it is worth it.  You may never fully see the people you will touch as you surrender to God’s call on your life.  Please, don’t hold back.  For your sake.  For my sake. For the sake of those around you. Trust his faithfulness.

I still question if I have what it takes to be the mother these girls need, to survive each day, week, month, years.  I have asked God to show me how he sees me so I can walk more confidently in this place.  As Daniel and I were driving to pick up the girls from school I shared with him the confirmation I had earlier in the day.  He felt led to share with me that he had been praying as well and just really had a sense that I was built for this.  He believes that God has built me for this.  I truly heard the voice of God through him saying, I have created you for this.  Daniel didn’t know what I had prayed that afternoon.  All he knew was to respond to what God had showed him… and it spoke straight to my questioning heart.  Tears filled my eyes as I felt the love of my husband and the love of a heavenly father that spoke through him.

All this to say… we’re all in folks.  We desperately covet your prayers as we continue on this journey of surrender.  We also know that there is the possibility that our move to adoption may not happen.  I have to live with the honesty of our desire and the risk of it not being realized.  I have to trust that God didn’t stir this in my heart just to bring pain.  This was never my plan, I have to believe it is his.  I have to share with you my story, in hopes that it gives you courage, just as Mary did to me.  When God invites us into His Larger Story, it might cost you all that you are, but it is worth it.

Love Does, My Story

Courage, Beauty & Love

Just a quick warning…there might be some brutal honesty…and it’s not always pretty.

I am a dates girl.  I remember random dates and events and much of my memory is organized in chronological order.  So it’s no surprise as I was going to bed Friday night that I was reminded of the Friday before Valentine’s four years ago.  Daniel was wrapping up his year of training and we were in the beginnings of a job search for him.  We traveled to the air-force base for an interview and planned a weekend get-away to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  He spent about 3 hours in the interview that afternoon and came out absolutely pitiful.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen as a wife.  He was very discouraged, disheartened and certain that there was no likelihood of getting that position.  In the car ride he said, “one thing’s for sure, if I were to get that job, there would be no doubt that God did it.”

As I was thinking about that weekend my mind also wondered to where the girls would have been at that time.  Based on their birth date, I am guessing that their mother would have just found out she was pregnant at that time.  Somewhere around 6-8 weeks.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, … Jeremiah 1:5

It took my breath away.  Seriously, I was taken aback when I considered that about the time that these girls’ lives were formed God was already orchestrating this story that we are living.  He was moving in our lives to prepare us to be a place of safety, love and peace for these precious girls before they even came into the world.

This was comforting to me on the end of a challenging week.  The girls have been great, we continue to grow into this role as a party of five, but we experienced some challenges on the legal side of our journey.  Everything in my self was shaken with uncertainty and the unknown of how things will play out.  It feels as though we have been standing in line waiting to get on a roller coaster… and we have just taken our seats.  As we took our place I began to see a glimpse of the ride before me, it looks scary and emotional and I’m not sure I have what it takes to get to the end.    (by the way… I don’t like roller coasters, real or metaphorical.)  This reflection of God’s work in our lives reminds me that he is in control, his heart is good and I can rest in knowing these things.

So, to finish up our story from years ago… a month later Daniel got the call offering him the job.  We were beyond surprised. Shocked. Stupified.  Half-way wondering if they called the right guy.  I remember talking with Daniel and saying, I wonder what God is up to here.  It just seemed beyond our imagination… and now I can see that it was – way beyond.

Last week as I was momentarily gripped with the fear of what is before us, I was sharing with my mother as tears streamed down my cheeks, almost unable to speak.  “I haven’t wanted to let myself want them.”   And I realized as much as I have been willing to love fully, there has been a part that is self-protecting, I don’t want to want to keep them because that could leave me desperately hurting.  I have to be guarded.  No doubt we will be sad if these girls leave, but if we allow ourselves to hope that they stay, then their leaving is even more painful.  I can’t imagine the pain of that kind of disappointment.

Surely it is safer not to want.

Kindly, God has had me in the story of Hannah this week.  If you are familiar with this story, Hannah was barren but desperately wanted a child with everything in her being.  I can’t say I could relate to that.  I haven’t walked the path of barrenness.  I haven’t dreamed of carrying a child in my womb.  I used to read this story and think girl, just enjoy your husband. But what I realized in this story is that Hannah owned her desire.  She cried out to God, poured out her soul and in her grief was able to give her desire to the one who could ultimately grant it.  Consider her beauty.

I’m not in that place yet.  If I’m honest, I still operate with a sense of self-protection that has to remind myself these girls could leave.  Things could get dramatic; It might hurt; I have no control.  I don’t believe I’m holding back love but I guess you could say I’m holding back hope.  I have tremendous hope for these girls and the work of God in their lives.  I have less hope that I will be the one that watches them grow…. only because it is scary to hope that way.

As I prayed asking God what it looked like to respond as Hannah did, I had a faint sense that I need to pray for my girls’ mother.  Have I prayed for her lately?  Have I considered that God’s kindness could lead her to repentance?  Have a I considered what is really at stake here?  What if the beautiful ending to their story is one of redemption of their mother, who comes to know God and gets her children back.  What if my part is to point her to Jesus.  What if that means I have loss?  Is it worth it?

What if I’m not God’s best for these girls?

These are the questions of my heart right now.  It’s an uncomfortable place.  I wrestle with flesh and spirit on a daily basis.  I pray for peace in my heart and theirs.  I have to choose to engage with courage, beauty and love trusting that God knows my heart.  I want to live in such a way that I trust God with the deepest desires. I long for his beauty to shine through me as it did with Hannah.  No matter the outcome, I hope my heart lives knowing that he is good.  His praise will ever be on my lips.  Please pray with us.