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Dear Summer

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IMG_6016Summer, you’re almost over, and you looked nothing like I thought you would. I imagined lazy mornings and naps in the afternoon. (Apparently, I was very tired come May. Apparently, I was also very delusional–lazy morning AND naps. Yeah, I’m not sure where I got such grandiose ideas.) Those things didn’t happen. Instead the summer sprinted along like one big run-on sentence. When I try to see the whole, it still looks like a big blur–like someone accidentally put her finger over the lens when she snapped the shutter. But when I slow it down and look frame by frame, I see life. I see laughter. I see adventure. I see beauty. Singing Amazing Grace to our Peach during the middle of the night at a hospital in Mobile, Alabama. My sweaty pacing around the kitchen island while my hands shook as I first heard about our baby girl. Pajama trips to Sonic. Water fights in the backyard and Lottie sneaking up on me. Sushi couch dates every Friday night while rewatching old episodes of West Wing. An acute case of pimento cheese cravings. (I blame the adoption.) Smiling at my big girl across the table at Swanky’s while realizing she’s becoming a young lady and that I truly enjoy her company–not just because she’s my daughter but because she’s a fun, intelligent, engaging person. Eating an oreo cake that is the stuff of dreams with girlfriends and eating pounds and pounds of sun-sweet peaches. Road trips and too many FedEx trips to count. Watching miracles happen and the honor of walking with friends through intense grief. Frame by frame, I play the movie of this summer back, and I smile. There were so many tears packed into these couple of months–the joy-filled kind and the gut-wrenching kind. But I can see the beauty in it all. Summer, you looked nothing like I expected. And you remind me (once again) to let go of my expectations and surrender to the adventure. I’m finding this life is richer, fuller, lovelier when I have open hands and an open heart. That’s a lot for a recovering control-freak to process, but God’s been at work on my heart.

A few weeks ago I finished the sweetest of fiction books, and I emailed myself this quote from it, “This was a girl who sought in every way she could to make the world beautiful, to give comfort when it was least expected and joy where it was most needed.” Isn’t that just the most lovely thing to be said of a person? I am surrounded by people just like that, and my tribe has been especially strong this summer. I know that we could focus all our time and attention on what’s wrong with this world, and certainly I believe it’s our calling to stand up for injustice and do something about it. But in all that standing, we must remember that beauty and pain can exist together. We can spend all our time ranting and raving or we can choose to make the world beautiful. To give comfort when least expected and joy where most needed. Summer, you’ve taught me much.

 

*The book quoted is The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriani Trigiani.

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{Dear Daughter} About little things

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FashionABLE blanket

Image from livefashionable.com// Certainly not my home. If it was, there would be three more pillows on the chair to cover the jelly/orange juice/fig bar stains. That’s my solution right now–blankets + pillows–lots of them.😉

To my precious E,

Late one night a few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to you. It was late here, early morning where you are. I told you how I love sunrises and a new day. I also told you I was dreaming about your room, an Ethiopian blanket I wanted to wrap you in, a piece of artwork chosen for the room you will share with your big sister Georgia.

Yesterday, I got an email that my favorite company FashionABLE was having a warehouse sale–a limited number of items up to 70% off for four hours only. I love a sale, E. It’s the reason I no longer go into Target on a regular basis. Because the red tags on the end cap items get me every single time. But I just had to look at this sale. Maybe they would have the blanket I imagined you snuggled in for sale. I pulled up the link and scrolled down until I saw a flash of yellow. There it was–the blanket–the only blanket and the only color included in the sale. They call it lemon, but I call it sunshine. It reminds me of the first light of day, when yellow streaks spike the cotton-candy clouds.

Later yesterday afternoon, I was going through my email and remembered a message our family coordinator sent last week. I had glanced at it during our weekend trip but hadn’t really thought much about it. In the email, our coordinator shared the name of the orphanage where you are now and the orphanage you had originally gone to. I’m a big name person, so I looked up what the names mean. Sweet girl, the one you were first taken to means “dawn.” The first light of morning. The beginning. The rise.

I remembered a necklace in the FashionABLE sale–a tiny gold circle with a sunrise. I hurried to get it before the sale ended. (And informed your daddy later that night I had found my birthday gift a couple months early!) I’ll wear it all the time as a stone (boulder!) to remember God is faithful in the big things, and He’s faithful in the little things.

I think God lavishes gifts on us like this every single day. It’s just whether I have the eyes to see God’s Hand at work. I know for certain I get this gift every morning with the sunrise. Last night I looked up what time the sun would rise this morning, and I set my alarm for ten minutes prior. This morning, I walked outside and watched the sun come up and prayed this verse . . .

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:6, ESV

Sweet girl, I haven’t even held you yet, and still you’ve already taught me so much. It is in our journey to you, a journey that has been hard and painful, that God has shown me the wonder of His Word. I learned to cling to His Word during our losses, but I have learned the new mercies of His Word during our journey to you.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV

I know your journey to us has also been a hard and painful one, but His steadfast love has never left you–not for one moment. We will walk through the days and months and years of healing to come knowing the Lord is our portion and our hope is in Him. 

I’m believing that it won’t be long before I’m wrapping you in that sunshine blanket and taking you outside to watch with me the sun break open the sky and telling you story after story of God’s faithfulness to our family. And I hope one day to place a thin chain with a tiny gold circle bearing the imprint of a sunrise around your neck and remind you that from the very beginning God was writing your story. Because your story is His Story. And His Story is Love.

 

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{Dear Daughters} On being the first to crack

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Years ago not long after moving to Memphis, we met a new couple in our small group. They asked us over for dinner and that night while she was finishing up the meal she pulled the strangest contraption from her drawer. I had never seen anything like it, so I asked her what it was. She told me it was an avocado slicer. While she raved about this little invention, I jokingly gave her a hard time about how truly “difficult” it was to cut an avocado with just a knife. We laughed together and moved on to dinner with our men. But I would never look at an avocado again without thinking of her.

It would only be a short while later that we would both enter the darkest season of our lives to date. I remember vividly sitting on my guest bed (back when we actually had a guest bed) and talking to her on the phone. In between tears and some needed silence, we cracked. We said the hard, vulnerable words about what we were facing. Our situations were very different, but our pain was shared. We walked through those days together and many, many more. She now lives several states away, but we text daily and talk on the phone several times a week–usually with loud kids in the background. And every year Jess and I save our pennies and get on a plane (where I usually end up needing the little white baggie and poor Jess has to order ginger ale for me), so we can fly to the sunshine state and the three of us can sit around the same table and talk about nothing and everything and then some more.

What started with an avocado slicer became one of the greatest gifts of my adult life. But someone had to crack. Someone had to say the hard, vulnerable words. Someone had to listen. And someone had to return vulnerability with her own hard, vulnerable words. This is how true friendship goes.

It’s scary–a bit like walking into that junior high dance where boys are on one wall and girls on the other and you just want to go home and put on your pjs and watch Full House. But walk over to that wall of girls. Look for the one who makes eye contact with you but looks equally scared. Remember that the ones who look like they have it all together are broken too. We all are. Don’t even pretend like you have it all together. That just delays real friendship. Go ahead and let your guard down. Sometimes it will be a bust. You will have a nice conversation, but it might not be a forever friendship type thing. That’s ok. Keep putting yourself out there. Keep being willing to crack. Because eventually you’ll find your avocado slicers. And you’ll have found that rare and treasured gift of true friendship.

 

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Stones and Boulders and Scary Prayers

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 Stones before battle. I’ve never noticed the order before, but there’s something there, don’t you think? He does the miracle, makes the impossible possible, parts the Jordan. But we don’t just sit and chill. We battle. We fight–but not in our strength, in His! We battle on our knees and with splayed Bibles, with tears and joy.

And what did Joshua tell God’s children, his warriors, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

If we never had a Jordan to cross, never had the impossible before us, never faced adversity, would we get to see the fullness of God’s mighty hand? I know it was never God’s plan for us to experience pain, but doesn’t our Jordan give us a chance to see God dry up the mighty river?

This is me telling you there are plenty of times that I’m like, “Really, I think I’ll just sit here on the side of this river today, God. I’m just exhausted. I want to see you do the impossible. But I know there’s a battle on the other side, and I’m bone-tired.”
And this is why we need the stones. We need the stones to be our push, our steady foundation, our cornerstone.

That prayer you’ve been afraid to pray–let’s pray it today. The one that scares you. The Only God prayer–that’s the one for today.

A friend emailed me right after we got E’s referral and told me she was praying E was “home before the honeycrisps.” I smiled so big when I read her prayer. One–because she knows my love for honeycrisps. And two–because she had the courage to pray such a specific prayer. When I first read it, I thought, “There’s no way. No way it could go that quickly.” And then another friend told me she was praying for six months. Six months to have E home. And, again, I loved the specific prayer she was praying, but it’s impossible. But over the past few days I’ve been praying their prayers–the prayers I was too afraid to pray.

And the deal is–God is sovereign and His timing is perfect. No matter when and how He chooses to move, I know He is faithful. I know He is good. I know these things because I have my stones. I can see His faithfulness time and time again, through dark days and joy-filled days. But I love what Joshua said to the people before they crossed the Jordan, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you . . . .” Praying scary prayers gives me a chance to see the Living God. Praying scary prayers gets me on my knees for battle.

If you were to look back in my writing from the past couple years, you would notice there are very few posts about our adoption. Certainly not because I wasn’t thinking about it, but because I was so weary and so discouraged. I was barely hanging on, and, really, I was only hanging on because there were others lifting my arms. The whole stones thing has become a running commentary for Heather and me. I just went back to look at my text thread with her, and for the first time I realized these texts took place hours before we found out about our daughter. These texts started at 7:48 AM. We got the call about E at 3:45 that afternoon. Only God.



So, if you should happen to see boulders in a yard in Memphis and a yard in Ocala, just know . . . Only God. Let’s pray the scary prayer today. Let’s be ready to battle on our knees. The Living God is among us.

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What Makes Me Mad

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IMG_6025I’m a little fired up right now, so you’re just going to need to excuse my run on sentences and lack of punctuation. I’m mad. I’m angry. I am so ridiculously furious right now that I am vacillating  between tears and rage. We know the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. We all know it because we have all LIVED it. He has taken something from us. He has killed someone we love. He has destroyed something beautiful. You all know my passion for waiting mommas–you know it’s the thing that keeps me up at night, it’s the cry of my heart, it’s the stirring in my belly. And it just infuriates me that the devil is using babies as his darts. He knows a momma’s (and daddy’s) deep love for her child, and he is using that to wage war against God’s children. He knows the potential of each child to tell a piece of God’s great love story. He knows how fearfully and wonderfully we are made, how we are created in the image of God Almighty. He knows, and he has his darts pointed. And I’m sick of it. I spent the better part of yesterday morning and this morning pacing my kitchen floor begging God to give the enemy a fierce blow, begging God to have mercy on these women I love so dearly and these babies who speak to the glory of God.

And I just want to say … keep fighting. Please, please, please keep fighting that ugly enemy. Surround yourself with God’s Word, our Sword. His Word can slay the enemy. It can slay him. Pray the armor of God morning, noon, and night. Call on Him, not like the polite request of a person asking for a meal at a restaurant, but as a child who knows the unconditional love of the Abba Father.

And if you cannot fight, if you are so beaten down that you cannot even open your Bible or utter a single word, please, I beg you, reach out to someone who believes in the power of God’s Word. If you don’t have someone, please reach out to me. We will fight for you. We will drag your mat to the feet of Jesus. We will hoist you on the roof and beat a hole through the ceiling to get you to Him. We will pray the armor of God over you and we will use the Sword of God’s Word to fight back the devil from you. We will cover you. We will surround you. We will love you. You are not forgotten. You are not forsaken. You are not left. We will fight for you, and so much better–HE will fight for you. You can rest, and we will carry you to Jesus.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication, to that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:16-18

Blessed be God because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me! Psalm 66:20

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Rejoice not over my, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. Micah 7:8

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. 2 Chronicles 20:12 

And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.'” 2 Chronicles 20:15

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. Psalm 5:1-2

But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and He hears my voice. Psalm 55:16

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My Thoughts on Pure Barre

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IMG_5972My legs currently feel like jello. I posted a pic of Allison and me after our Pure Barre Platform class, and there were some questions. My long-winded self wasn’t sure I could fit it all in on IG, so here I am sharing my thoughts on barre class.

I’ve been taking Pure Barre (PB) since I finished the St. Jude half in December. Back in October, my left knee starting bothering me, but I was determined to run St. Jude, so I just pushed through and told myself I would rest it after the race. Once the race was over, I wanted to find some type of exercise that would allow my knee to rest. My friend Katie teaches PB, and she gave me a free class to try it out. Let me just say that if you struggle with perfectionism like me taking a class like this is a great exercise. Because I was lost as a goose trying to figure out what all these new words meant (tuck–hold–tiny curl) and trying to figure out why I seemed to be moving so little but my body hurt so much. Having run a full and a half-marathon, I walked into the class thinking I was fairly in shape, but I walked out thinking something altogether different.

That was seven months ago, and I still love PB. It kicks my butt every. single. time. And I leave the PB Platform classes soaking wet.

Q&A

Can you do barre with little to no workout experience?

Totally! The first class is extra hard because you don’t know what any of the terms mean, but you learn fast and by the second class you are more mentally prepared. I’m seven months in, and every class still pushes me in a huge way. For a lot of the exercises, you are using your own body as resistance, so it’s always going to be hard.

Is it expensive?

Yes, in my opinion, it’s really expensive. We made some changes and cuts to our budget (goodbye cable, smaller clothing budget, etc.) to get the bottom line where it needed to be. But I will say that the financial cost means I never miss a class, and I give it my all every class. Matt and I talked the end of last year and decided we were willing to invest in our health with each of us finding something that challenges us physically. The instructor-led class gives me the accountability I need to keep pushing myself. I also appreciate being corrected when I don’t have proper form, so that I will get the maximum impact and prevent injury. I have a hard time “taking care of myself” but PB has been huge in helping me have a little time every week to do that. There are Pure Barre DVDs available too that you can order and do similar exercises at home. That would be a very cost-efficient solution for someone who wanted to do it but not make the financial investment.

Can you tell a difference?

Yes, I feel stronger. There is something very rewarding about pushing yourself much further than you think you can go and realizing you are capable of more than you thought. Also, pregnancy and babies and motherhood are hard on a woman’s self-esteem. I still have lumps and bumps and all that comes with motherhood and aging, but I feel strong and fit, and I can do a dance party while holding both my younger girls. That makes me happy.

 

That’s a little about my experience with Pure Barre. I’m happy to answer any questions!

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Dear Daughter 

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Dear daughter,
It’s nighttime here. Early morning Tuesday where you are. The sun just rose in Addis. I love a sunrise–the cotton candy colors streaking the sky when everything feels possible. I just looked up the temperature where you are, and I’m wishing we could have your temperatures right about now. But the air conditioner just kicked on, and I’ve got your quilt right next to me. 

Yesterday, we made you a baby board book with pictures of us. I wonder if you’ll study every detail of our pictures like we’ve studied every detail of yours. I can see your chubby little fingers wrapped around the corners of your book, and it won’t be long, sweet girl, before those people in those pictures get to see you and hold you and hug you and love you forever. 

I started dreaming about your nursery today. I was weary of filling out black and white papers for days on end, and I needed some color in my eyes. I found a blanket made in Ethiopia, and I dreamed of us snuggling underneath it. A favorite piece of art for the wall. Speaking of walls, on the wall where your crib will go (after we move some shelves and furniture and paint!) I’ve taped up a few verses, and I’ll keep adding more until you are home. These are verses I’ve prayed for you for years, before you ever took your first breath. 

Sweet daughter of mine, I know there will be hard days ahead. Days of harsh transition. Family tree assignments that stir up tears. Seasons where you wonder  why your story started with pain. I don’t have the answers, and I can’t take away the pain, but I will hold your hand and walk through every scary, hard, painful day with you. And I will take you to the lap of your Redeemer, your Sustainer, your Creator. He will hold you and carry you and show you how the Author of Life can write a story. And He might start with the beauty of a sunrise. 

I love you, sweet E, more than you will ever know. I can’t wait to see what the sunrise looks like where you are. I’m going to go to sleep now, but I’ll be dreaming of the day when all my girls are asleep under the same roof. To the moon, E.