Love Does, My Story

Is there such a thing as too much information?

You may be surprised to know that sometimes I struggle with what’s appropriate to share…

I always want to honor the story of our girls, the work God is doing in our lives and the place in your heart that you’ve invited me into.

Over the past four years you’ve carried me through some of the deepest waters, fears and even heartbreaks that you may not have known occurred along the way.  I seek to be transparent in as much as I am able to share, and honest with the depths of my heart as I journey through life.

I’ve gone back and forth with how to share without being totally awkward – because it’s pretty personal.

It’s not that I don’t want you to know, but sometimes I struggle with whether it’s helpful for you to know… but at this point I realize, it’s helpful for me and my girls if you can come along side us and pray this week.

About fifteen years ago I began to really struggle physically with recurring cysts on my ovaries and what we later discovered to be endometriosis.  I had surgery eleven or so years ago and at that time my doctor recommended I decide sooner rather than later if I wanted to have children, because I really needed to consider a hysterectomy.

Now, I know some people have wondered if we have walked a path of infertility which led us to adoption, but I can honestly say that’s not how we ended up here. Whether my uterus worked or not, either way I was convinced I didn’t need to have a baby.  It’s apparent now much of my decision was based in a need for control- but also the simple fact that I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to keep another human alive… especially if they needed to be fed daily.

I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator, so I delayed making the decision for many years.  But here we are, less than 48 hours away from a major surgery.  Tonight I held each one of my baby girls as they cried at different times, trying not to let their fears be known but they just can’t hold it in any more.

If you read one of my recent stories, you may recall that we don’t have a lot of room in this house for my weakness.  It triggers something I can’t fully understand.  But God does. He sees and knows the depths of their pain, the fears in their hearts and the innocence that has been lost.

On most days I am good, I can be strong and hold it all together.  But if I so much as take a vitamin, I’m questioned about the state of my being.  We had one therapist that suggested the girls “give me medicine” so they could see it’s nothing to be scared of.  As she handed them a bottle of advil and I sat bewildered by her recommendation –  I realized I didn’t want a four year old to be comfortable with pills and decided to fire the therapist.

“It’s not me – it’s you.  Bye Felicia.”

I share this because what I know is a routine procedure also has the potential to be a major emotional event in this house of little women.  It’s already starting to bubble up.

As I’ve sought to prepare my own self for the surgery, recovery and hopefully a new normal, I am faced with my own fears.  If I’m totally honest, it’s not a fear of the surgery itself or even the recovery which I hear is pretty brutal –  at a gut level the question I have stirring is, what if something were to happen to me?

And obviously you can’t see my eyes filled with tears as I write this…  but it paralyzes me. It’s a much deeper pain that I can’t prepare everything for such a situation – and I must not believe God can figure it out either.  Both pain me.  My fears and my underlying doubts.

When I rationally think about this I can bounce back up and know, this is no big deal.  People have surgery every.single.day.  I don’t have cancer. I don’t have major risks.  I just have three kids that have already lost one mother and I feel like I have to do everything in my power to make sure they don’t lose another one.

Clearly I’m not rational anymore.

Don’t worry. I won’t leave you hanging here.

As I walked into church this morning, longing for an encounter with God, my heart found peace as we sang a song I didn’t even know I liked… reminding me who is the King of my Heart and how good he is.  In the bridge the band echoes these words:

You’re never gonna let,
You’re never gonna let me down

With tears falling from my eyes I was reminded of his incredible goodness to my girls – his supernatural provision for things we didn’t even know we needed.  (Have you ever read this story about When God Shows Up ?)  And as I sang these words I could truly believe that not only is he not going to let me down, he will never let my girls down.

Tonight, as I lay next to each one in their bed, I reminded them that it’s ok to be scared – and then I try to point them back to Jesus.  Remember when you were brave before? We can be brave together. Sweet girl, you make me brave.

I’m humbled by God’s goodness to meet me in my own fears so that I’m able to speak truth to the hearts of my little ones.  I’m grateful for the ones who have come along side us with offers to help our family, my mother who will be carrying a heavy load these next two weeks and my sweet husband who has his hands full with a lot of ladies.

I’m at peace going into this.  I trust God with all the things.  I’ve given Daniel a list of all our accounts, passwords and what to do if something happens to me.  I’ve even told him who I’ve picked out to help raise the girls…  but I need to go on record saying – if he shows up with some Brazilian paddle board chick, that is not who I picked out.

And if I didn’t already feel like I have zero control over my life, mother nature decided to throw a stinking hurricane into our week – one day post-op.  If you look at the radar, it clearly says “Abby’s house” on the present course.

Jesus take the wheel.

I’m going to bed.  Sweet friends, please pray for my little people.  Please pray for my doctor and my body.  I kinda need all the things to go right… and the hurricane to turn. No big deal.  I’m totally chill.

and I can’t drink wine.

So here’s a song I leave you with… because I need to be reminded.

Much love, from a broken girl.

PS… we’re kinda hoping once these ovaries are gone I’ll stop crying so much.  fingers crossed!

 

 

 

Love Does, Uncategorized

When Life Gives You Poop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Spirit come quickly…

I.am.dying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love to you.

 

Love Does, My Story

The Makings of a Mommy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…that’s what makes me a mommy.

12_06_17_AbbyMandella_Family_GraytonBeach-51

 

 

 

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…