Love Does

With Every Breath that I am Able…

She walked up with a smile on her face as our paths crossed for the first time.  We each knew of the other, though we never met in real life.  It had to be surprising to see the swelling of tears in my eyes… but her gentle words comforted my reeling heart…  she hugged me and said, Good moms cry sometimes ~ you’re a good mom.

There is no way she could have known what my last hour had just held. Two tiny girls who mean the world to me fell apart in a pain that I will never fully comprehend.  It’s birthday week and their little hearts carry heavy burdens.  And often times this heart of mine bears the brunt of their breaking.

I have no words to comfort the depth of pain that questions how we all ended up in this place.  There’s no denying I wasn’t the mommy who brought them into this world… yet for some reason I’m the one who now leads them through these storms.  With each year their wonderings go deeper and the answers are hard to swallow.  They remember bits and pieces but it’s not enough to quench the ache they feel.  The hardest thing I’ve ever faced is holding my precious children and saying, It’s not supposed to be this way…

Oh don’t get me wrong, there is beauty and laughter and oh so much joy in our life… but some days the past rears its head like a jack-in-the-box whose handle has been turned one time too many… and we all fall down.

It’s what we do then that matters most.

I’ve heard it said, the place of deepest pain is the place of the greatest potential for transformation…  one might even hope healing.

As I hold these tiny hearts, wrapped in long legs and brown eyes, I fully own that I cannot fix what grieves them.  I will not paint a picture that glosses over their pain.  I can pull together every piece of my shattered heart and know that I have exactly what they need in this moment… to be present and know… it’s not about me.  I will sit and hold near, my arms have room for both the joy and the pain… and I remind them, it’s ok to be sad… I will never understand how hard this is for you… but when you are sad I want you to know I want to be sad with you.  You don’t have to take care of me… it’s not your fault. Please my sweet girl, let me be sad with you.  And when it feels so hard that you can’t even breathe….

Run to Jesus.

Jesus be near.

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It was the third day this week we’ve had to sit in a bath and wash our day away before dinner is even on the stove.  I’ve sat down countless times to try to write… but the truth is, this year has much more that I don’t want to remember than I do.  I’ve re-read my last blog, day, after day, after day for the last week.  There’s nothing like your own words to remind you of his goodness.

After it all settled down and my little loves bounced back, I walked out the front door to catch my breath.  It is there that I let my guard down… tucked in closely on another’s empty porch…the floodgate opens and my tears feel endless.

I grapple in my own heart with fully believing You are good, but dear Lord you do not feel kind…

I’m humbled by my own brokeness… the belief that his love should equal no pain.  The truth is his love endured the greatest pain, all for the sake of the glory on the other side.  He never promised surrender would be easy…

But maybe – just maybe – I can believe the work he is doing in and through us is worth more than the pain free days I long for.  Maybe, on the other side they will see clearly his faithfulness every step of the way. His pursuit. His redemption thread of grace upon grace.

I barely see through my fuzzy eyed contacts, ruined by the salt of tears.  But I watch my three little ladies fast asleep and believe tomorrow holds new mercies.  I have seen his kindness in the gentle hug of a new friend who spoke words that pierced my tender heart… as if God himself wanted to remind me, I am not alone.

Though I may not always have the words…

With every breath that I am able –  I will sing of the goodness of God.

Love Does, My Story, Uncategorized

In Pursuit of Glory… It’s not about me

…and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.         Ex 33:23

Moses is one of the most fascinating people in the Bible, from where I sit.

Think about it… the enemy so feared his birth –  a whole generation of males was murdered.  Yet he was protected.

He would later be called out of the desert to lead his people who were captives into one of the greatest stories ever told – of hope, rescue and restoration.

In the midst of it all, as he faced the doubts of who God says he is, he pursued a heavenly father with such confidence that he would settle for nothing less than standing in his very presence.  And he did.

Following a cloud by day and a fire by night, he declared, “I will not move from here unless your presence goes with me…” (Ex 33:15)

I can’t help but parallel my own story with his… I mean, let’s consider the similarities here.

Born to a people enslaved by a nation, death marked his birth, vengeance overcame him, he ran away and hid, a bush burst into flames and he heard the voice of God…

Ok – maybe I’m nothing like him.

Except… he questioned God.

“Who am I?”

This has been the echo of my voice for the past five years.  Who am I, that you called me into these deep waters?  Who am I, that you place tiny hearts in my hands?  Who am I, that your words flow out from me?  Who do you say I am?

And this is where Moses and Abby meet.  In the place of deepest doubt and undeserved grace rests a promise, I will be with you – every step of the way.

The past four months have been a collision course of sorts.  I have watched our family stumble into scenes that trigger pain of past lives, point to loss of innocence that I desperately wish I could preserve and stir questions of why us? why these precious girls? why God?   – where is your goodness?

As we navigate the day-to-day life that brings to the surface unexplainable fears, responses and behaviors, we fiercely pursue comfort, peace and healing.  In January we began to face the reality that our school was not a place that could provide the emotional safety that is vital to the journey we are on.  We prayerfully considered all options and made the decision to make a major move, not knowing how we would even afford it.

But God did.  We took the first step and he parted the waters before us.  His provision left me speechless and in awe of a God who sees me.

Our hope was that this significant move would provide a new level of safety for the hearts of our girls and bring a bit of relief to the emotional pressure that was a constant simmer in our home.  After a smooth transition I had hoped it would decrease our demanding need for therapy.  Lord knows, we can’t afford both.

Last week I was overwhelmed with the reality as our dear therapist painted a clear picture of the path ahead.  I’m sure she could see the fear in my eyes as I unpacked the reality that I have nothing left to give…  there is really nothing else to squeeze and make this happen.

I shared through tears the sense of hopelessness to my mom on the other end of the phone.  The grapple with the truth I believe of a good God versus the reality of what I see as a long, treacherous, and quite honestly, expensive path.  I considered what he could be asking me to do differently?  Maybe just two children in private school instead of three? After all, one seems a bit more stable than the others.  Should we sell the home we love and live life differently?  Is there a path we haven’t considered that could be good enough to get us by?

Slipping into the sleep of night, my prayers sounded a lot like my friend Moses – God, don’t forget, these are your children. You aren’t surprised by our needs. You have been abundantly faithful – show me your glory.  There’s nothing else I can do.  It’s really up to you.

I asked a question in a small group of fellow foster and adoptive parents.  What options do we have for the long road ahead? Someone please give me a glimpse of hope…

It came in a short text from a sweet friend that said,

Tell me more.

“Could you share briefly what your girls need and why?”  Well of course I can my dear, how many words do you need 🙂

And as I let the words go I never imagined what God was stirring in the heavenlies.  I couldn’t see the wind.  But it was blowing.

The next day in the middle of a heart-connecting encounter a simple message arrives in my inbox from a name I didn’t know- you don’t want to miss this.

We would like to cover the next few months of therapy and let us know if the need continues, which it sounds like it will.” and because God doesn’t just stop with provision, he goes on to show off a bit more… “And we would also like to cover six months of tuition as well.”

Chills flooded my being as I read the message over and again.  This is too much.  More than I could ask or even imagine.

Isn’t that just like God?

Exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or imagine.

I was slayed. Humbled. Overwhelmed by the goodness of others, advocating for us, revealing a Glory of a faithful father.

I stepped out of our meeting and onto a worn path, winding along a rugged fence, leading to a flowering meadow.  The rocks slipped beneath my shoes each step of the way.  I tried to soak it all in.  Taking deep breaths, small steps, looking at the spring flowers and hearing the sound of the river passing by.  The earth reveals His Glory.

What is it you want to say to me God?  You have my full attention. 

Like the spring wind, I sensed his quiet words say –

I see you.  You are my child and I love you.  I am so pleased with you. 

I stayed in this place on the path that leads to nowhere… knowing this would be a transformational shift in my life.  For the first time I could see, this was about me.  This is about a God that will move heaven and earth because of his love for me.  I have stepped into a part that he has for me to play, at times with fear and trepidation, not knowing how we will make it to the promise of resurrection, life and glory – but willing none-the-less.

My friend and I often refer to the journey as our “never-the-less” – like Jesus in the Garden, asking for this cup to pass by,  Nevertheless, your will be done.

Motherhood was not a cup I expected to drink from.  Fighting for the hearts of children my body didn’t bear, whose hearts bear wounds from a past they didn’t choose… at times feels like a cross I cannot carry.  In the darkest days I still find myself crying, who am I that you choose me?

This day the Lord answered so clearly that my heart connected with what my head had known, I am chosen for a purpose, I am not alone… and in the steps of obedience a favor follows.  Embrace it.  Live it. Breathe it. Share it.

It is humbling in a way that I cannot express.  It touches fear and doubt that I didn’t know existed.  I’ve been challenged to see that diminishing the favor robs the blessing.  Staying quiet stills the Glory.

It’s not about me.

But then it is.

It’s not because of anything I have done but because of who He is.  His love for me is overwhelming and his goodness knows no end.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord.  Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth…                   (Ex 34:5-6)

It’s all about his Glory.

I teach in Reality 1 at the Battle for the Heart on this concept of glory which we are called to reveal.  It seems abstract, but it is simply his goodness to us and through us, his compassion, grace, loving-kindness and truth.

I dare you be so bold, as Moses was, to pray Show me your glory!

In my life I have found when I step into this boldness, it is often I find myself placed between a rock and a hard place…   “and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.”  (Ex 33:22)

Don’t be surprised when he shows up.    He longs to show up.

If I’m honest, it’s quite humbling to tell our story.  This is my issue, not yours.  I’m growing in owning that there is a story to tell, a glory to reveal and a part that was chosen for me to play.  I grapple with goodness, truly I do.  I love to see it poured out on you… it’s a bit harder to accept for me.  Deep down, I know how undeserving I am.  I see the hard places of my heart, the doubts, fears, anger and sometimes even longing for the cup to pass me by.

But then, I would miss out on the Glory.

…I’ve come too far to quit now.

With much love, from a humbled girl.

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Love Does, My Story

A Letter to My Girlies

In a serendipitous way, two paths crossed and I met a beautiful new friend just over a month ago.  A mutual friend passed our names to one another.  We exchanged a brief phonecall where she cast vision into a project and I excitedly said “we’re all in”.

She is a photographer by day but a storyteller is stirring in her heart.  As we talked she said, I want to tell stories with more than just pictures, I want them to be living stories that inspire.   – you and me both friend.

We sat one Monday afternoon and she storyboarded a project to capture a glimpse of our life.  With tears in both of our eyes I shared the story of God building this family.  We talked about songs that were meaningful – as if I could limit it to just one – and somewhere along the way she asked if I would consider writing a letter to my girls?

I know, I thought the same thing…. am I dying?

There’s no way I can write a letter… where would I even begin and how could it possibly end?  I humbly apologized on the day of our shoot – I really just couldn’t do it.  But here are a few more songs we should consider.

As she began to build out the project, the pieces were coming together perfectly despite how awkward I am on a camera.  Lord save me.

Then a few days later she sent a text… something was missing…  Would you please try to write a letter to your girls?  Just tell them their story…

It turns out, if you aren’t dying and you just sit down… the words are already there deep within.  So here’s what was scratched out one night…

My sweet girls, let me tell you a story.

It’s your story… and mine, a perfectly written, beautifully broken, story of reckless love.

It started with a dream from a brave girl, who told me you would be coming.  I prayed and prayed and asked God how could this be?  I never wanted to be a mommy in a million years, but somehow I knew this dream would come true.

I was so scared, certain he had the wrong girl, but he gently breathed on what little bit of courage I had and said he would hold my hand every step of the way.

Then on that fateful day when the phone rang, with trembling voices, your daddy and I gave our best yes yet.

You had to have seen the fear in my eyes when I first saw your faces.  Your beauty was overwhelming.

Soon your laughter became the soundtrack of our life, your pain the backdrop of our story, and His love the hope of our future.

You uncovered a fight in me I never knew I had, a fierceness only a mother can carry and stirred a dream I never knew I wanted.

Many may think we rescued you, but the truth is, you rescued us.  You pulled us out of a smaller story into a greater purpose –  that reflects the Father’s heart towards his children.

A father who will move heaven and earth, soften the hardest of hearts and leave the 99 to make sure that one knows the depths of his love.

When I look in your big brown eyes, I see his love shining through.  When I catch a glimpse of our family, I know his mercies are new every morning.

I’m not pretending this was always our story.  This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.  But somewhere a faint yes turned into a family and here we are soaking in moments that take my breath away.

I know one day we will unpack the heavy things you have carried, the loss and the pain you don’t even yet comprehend… and when you question where God was, I pray our story always points you back to his unending love.

Sweet girl, you are worth every fear I overcame, every hard day we’ve faced, every pain that has pierced my heart along the way.

You reveal God’s goodness to me.  You make me brave.

I pray as our story unfolds you are drawn to the one who pursued you from the start – who wove a crimson thread of redemption and will never leave you.  I dream for you to become everything he created you to be, a woman who loves well, fights for what is right, stands for her beliefs and walks in courage, beauty and love.  My deepest desire is to love you, come hell or high water… that you may always know… you were worth it.

Love is.

I held my girls closely as I showed them the finished project and they watched the “happy tears” that filled my eyes.  They heard the words my heart carries for them as if they didn’t already know their own story.  It was perfect.

It’s only been a week but I keep going back and watching every detail that was captured almost as if I don’t get to see them every day.

And when we’ve navigated hard days and dark nights, it’s my own words I hear in my head reminding me that every pain is worth it.  I don’t know if it inspires anyone else, but I know it keeps me in the fight.

I’m sure there’s so much more I will want to say one day, but for now, the only thing left stirring is beautifully portrayed in the words of our current replay:

I hear you whisper underneath your breath.
I hear your whisper, you have nothing left…

I will send out an army to find you, even in the darkest night it’s true, I will rescue you.
I will never stop marching to reach you, even in the hardest fight it’s true, I will rescue you.

“Rescue” – by Lauren Daigle

It’s the fierceness birthed in me… even in the darkest night, sweet girl, I will fight for you.

I wish I could share the finished product… but for privacy reasons we have to keep it on the down low.  :: but if you know my mom, I promise she will show you 😉   ::

But I’ll leave you with this gem, let the words sink deep in your soul, consider a father who sends them just for you.   You’re worth it.

Love Does, My Story, Uncategorized

Overwhelming, Reckless Love

I felt it stirring… it started last week and had been building.  I was sharing pieces of our story in different places, with different people yet the same awestruck reactions… he has literally moved heaven and earth to build what we now know as our family.  It is overwhelming.

As I was sharing and in my own reflection I couldn’t help but realize the most significant thread in the entire story is His Pursuit.

Ours is a story of rescue, redemption, hope and dreams.  It is stunning in each of its pieces, painful in the making, breathtaking in its entirety, humbling to be a part of and inspiring to watch unfold.

Then came Sunday – quiet, cold, a bit dreary and unassuming.  I stepped into my favorite church, led in worship by my favorite leader, holding the hands of my sweet girls and one on my hip… the lights fell and he began to sing a song I had never heard before…

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

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There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Nothing moves my heart like a song that cries the words I have lived.  As the choir joined the song and he reached the bridge I could feel myself holding my breath.  Then in all of creativity he begins singing He loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us…. oh how he loves.

I.am.undone.     Tears streaming down my face, I can no longer sit.    Heaven reached down, gently kissed this girl and I have been overwhelmed ever since.

Those words are the ones I sang over my sweet girls in moments of darkness, in the battle of the night when I couldn’t understand what they were fighting.  I couldn’t fix the pain but I could proclaim, he loves us – oh how he loves us… and that has been a song we cling to – no matter what may come – we can rest in knowing his love.

I live with a constant awareness of God’s goodness in my life.  I long to see his glory. I crave it more than coffee.  My prayer for years has been, show me your glory… and he has.  But there’s something about this week that has touched the deepest place in my heart, put to death lies I have believed and gently spoken the question I’ve asked my entire life –  am I worth it? 

It is easy for me to believe that my girls are worth every single thing God has done.  On our adoption day, as we faced the judge and she asked why do you want to adopt these children, my undeniable response was because they are worth it – they are worth loving – they are worth fighting for – and they are worth protecting. 

I have found that often what drives us comes from our own deep desires.  I came from a wonderful home, raised by incredible parents, in a safe place with the best siblings a girl could ask for.  Yet somehow, in my own brokeness, the enemy had woven a lie that I will never be enough, I don’t have what it takes and I’m not really worth keeping.  I have lived striving to hear I’m worth it.   Am I worth protecting? Am I worth rescuing? Am I worth investing in? Am I worth the risk of love?

I was overwhelmed with grattitude this week as I reflected on the work God has done in my life.  Thanksgiving three years ago I was fresh into motherhood with 3 littles under 3 and faced with the question, would we consider adoption?  I couldn’t breathe.

Two years ago at Thanksgiving my heart’s cry was for our adoption to finalize, for the uncertainty to disappear, for this chapter to end.  Thankfulness was a choice, not a feeling.

Last year at Thanksgiving we were without a home, trying to create stability in a stressful season of building, trying to believe we would see his faithfulness in that step of our journey… longing to be settled.  Thankfulness was hanging by a thread.

This year, I look back and cannot find the words to capture the depths of my thanksgiving. Over the past month I have had dreams that brought to the surface feelings I didn’t even know I carried and as I awoke one day with tears falling out from my closed eyes, I heard the Lord say, you are worth it.  Every grace I have given to you has been worth it –  not because of who you are but because of who I am.  I have pursued you endlessly, poured out lavishly, loved unconditionally, sacrificed unreservedly and equipped you for the part I have given you.  

He’s all about the pursuit. It’s a larger love story.  That’s the gospel friends. He leaves no stone unturned, no mountain unmoved, no enemy unscathed.  He uses grand gestures, gentle whispers, unending mercies and relentless love.

Today I sit, resting in the goodness and recognizing that I am not the same as I once was.  I have much to be thankful for, much to be hopeful for and I choose to trust him for his faithful pursuit of the ones I love.  No story is the same.

Sweet friend, take a moment this week, ask him to show you his love for you.  Sometimes it comes in crazy unexpected ways… like 3 kids that bring you to the feet of Jesus, every.day.  Maybe that’s what it took –  something I could never do on my own, no way I could prove my worth – surrender to the path that led me to see his great love in ways I couldn’t see before.

If you have a minute, or ten, sit down and hear the song of my heart.  It just might move you too.

With a thankful heart and much love to you…  Happy Thanksgiving!