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Dear Daughter, With a begging, believing heart.

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“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:2

Maybe it’s because I don’t have paperwork to do right now, maybe somehow that mountain of black and white typing made me feel closer to you, but today I feel every one of the 7,913 miles between Memphis and Addis. “Father, can you spin thread that far?” I asked Him this morning. Who am I kidding? He’s the Creator of the silkworm, this tiny worm which spins a cocoon of thread a few thousand feet long. Of course He can stitch me to her and her to me. Of course He can.

“Ah Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstanding arm! Nothing is too hard for you!” Jeremiah 32:17

I woke up with puffy eyes. The girls didn’t sleep well, and I didn’t either. But You are my Rest. Forevermore, You are my Rest.

“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).

The praises in the waiting, the songs in the dark, the lyrics written with longing seem the most true.

“In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them” (Psalm 22:4)

Back to the stones, the stones to remember how He delivered them. Here I raise mine Ebenezer. I will remember your faithfulness. I will turn my eyes from my circumstances and look upon my Sustainer.

“Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help” (Psalm 22:9-11)

Sweet daughter, your salvation story doesn’t begin with us, and we aren’t your saviors. How could people desperate for their own salvation save anyone else? And we–your daddy, your sisters, and me–we are daily dependent on the grace of Jesus for our every breath. No, daughter, your salvation began before the beginning of time. From your mother’s womb, He has been your God. Before your cells divided or your tiny fingernails grew, He was your Father.

I remember the first time I stared the word orphan in the face. I was filling out our very first I-171, Petition for Orphan Processing written across the top. My stomach dropped, and I was faced with the reality of the way your story would begin. There are some people in the adoption community who don’t like the word orphan and don’t want it used. Without Jesus, that word is scary, separating, lonely, a scarlet letter of sorts. But with Jesus everything changes. Not for one day of your life have you been without your Father. He has been with you, watching over you, breathing life into you, ushering you an invitation to be his daughter. The same invitation He whispered to me, a fellow orphan, not by birth certificate but by way of birth into this sin-sick world. We all share the same salvation story. I was lost, and He found me. I was dead, and He made me alive. I was an orphan, and He called me His child. Thanks to the fall, orphan might be the name tag we all start off wearing, but Satan didn’t get the last word. His pen doesn’t get to write the last chapter.

We are nearing honeycrisp season, although the weather here in Memphis begs to differ. I’ve been praying (along with your village) for God to pave a way for us to bring you home faster than logic and timelines predict. But this morning a more fervent prayer ran scared from my lips. “God, beat down the bush, hack through the sky-high grasses, so we can run/wrestle/grapple to her, bloody knees and thorn-scraped arms. She is yours. Please also make her ours.”

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death” (Psalm 22:14-15).

“All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” (Psalm 22:29-31).

Since long before you were born to a woman in a country 7000 miles away, I’ve had a verse written in my prayer journal. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

A proclamation of His righteousness to a baby girl yet unborn, that He has done it.

 

*Read our adoption journey from the beginning.

 

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Dear Daughter, The Song We Sing

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image from abideinhimphotography.com

It’s raining and has been for a few days. Our own little version of a rainy season. It’s raining in Addis too. I just looked on my weather app. Rain as far out as the forecast will go. We got new pictures and a video (oh sweet blessings!) last week. You were bundled in a warm, pink outfit. We’ve watched the video approximately 789 times. There you are with our book, the baby board book we made you full of our pictures. In the video, you pat the book over and over with your beautiful little hands. Your Auntie Heather said you were patting us like, “There they are. That’s my family.”

Do you know, sweet daughter? Do you know we are yours? Do you know we’ve always been yours? Do you know before you were ever conceived I’ve been praying for you? And for your birth mom and dad. One of the blessings of a long wait is that I’ve gotten to cover you in prayer before your DNA was helixed, before your cells divided, before you ever took your first breath. What a gift God gave me in that.

Before we mailed the baby book to our agency so they could deliver it, your big sister Georgia had quite the time looking at it. So much so that it had more than a few sticky fingerprints on it. As I grabbed the book to head to FedEx, I almost wiped it clean. But I didn’t. Those sticky fingerprints are our DNA, sweet girl. This is the family God has knit you into. We are a hot mess, a deluge of female hormones (God bless your daddy for putting up with all that estrogen), and as imperfect as they come. Yesterday, your big sis Lydi asked me in the car if I mess up. I almost spit out the water I had just sipped. I then rattled off a half-dozen ways I had messed up just since breakfast that morning. This family, we are living and breathing Amazing Grace, and your story is part of our story. God has used you to unclench my hands, to teach me surrender, to quiet my hurried pace.

It was raining last night, and your daddy picked up Ethiopian food for dinner. We sat around the table, five of the six seats full, and tore off pieces of injera and filled them with spicy meats and Berbere sauce. We played Uno and read I Love You, Stinky Face a dozen times on the floor of the nursery, the room you will soon share. And we watched the runners at the Olympics, cheering on the Ethiopians and Americans. The rain poured down outside, and we snuggled on the couch. Lydi wanted to give me a back massage (yes, always yes). Peach was “brushing” my hair which felt more like getting bludgeoned with a blunt object, but she kept putting her face right up in mine, cocking her head, and saying, “Yeah?” So, how could I stop that cuteness? Soon, you’ll be snuggled right there with us on a stained, slightly lumpy couch that’s been a safe place for a decade of memories.

There are some well-worn books in the nursery–If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, a Dog a Donut, and so on. One yes leads to another yes and another yes and another yes. And I wonder if that’s a little like how this adventure with God works. With every trembling yes I give Him, He heaps grace upon grace. Grace to keep trusting. Grace to keep believing. Grace to keep hoping.

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

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Can I Call Myself Brave?

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IMG_6574I looked up at a cornflower blue sky as fine silt squished between my toes. I clutched a piece of emerald green sea glass in my left hand running my fingers along the edges worn smooth by the current of the river. My husband was up ahead, and I watched him look down at the silt ripples under his feet and look up at the mountains that curved around us. I took a deep breath of spruce scented air and I felt it. Brave. I called myself brave.

It wasn’t because I had made some great decision or given some monumental sacrifice. It wasn’t even because I was far away in a tiny Canadian town. I’ve always saved the word brave for those in the history books, for the ones who moved through the night on an underground railroad, for the ones who donned a uniform knowing they might never return, for the ones who wore yellow stars. And brave isn’t adequate enough to describe those heroes. They are the bravest of the brave. But I wonder–was there a seismic shift in their hearts? Did they wake up one day saying, “It’s all changing today. Today, I’m going to be brave. Today, I’m going to risk my life for truth and light. Today, I might die or I might give up something I love or I might suffer, but I’m still doing it.” Maybe they did.

Or maybe they heard a whisper and said yes with knees trembling. Maybe they saw a hurting person and chose love. Maybe they unfurled white knuckles around the budget spreadsheet or the last bit of food or the well-built reputation and surrendered to the unknown. Maybe brave didn’t happen in one moment. Maybe brave was the culmination of a thousand little yeses, each one like a piece of sea glass in the hand, a bright flash of emerald color. Calling the adoption agency. Looking the homeless man in the eyes. Paying for a stranger’s coffee. Or finding yourself with open hands and an open heart on a remote beach in a tiny Canadian town. Maybe we don’t choose brave as much as brave chooses us. Maybe brave is a fundamental part of our being made in the image of God, but all our fear and insecurities and comfort-seeking ways obscure what was there all along. What if when He fashioned each of us He put brave within us, and every time we surrender to Him a little piece of us shimmers like sea glass in the silt?

On that day and on that beach, I decided to call myself brave because recently I’ve been facing fear head on. I’ve been leaning into it, not running from it. I’ve been calling it to the light, and I’ve been giving my small, quivering yes to God. Brave isn’t fearless, and she isn’t perfect. Brave might not be well-known or ever publicly acknowledged. But Brave wakes up every morning with an open heart and open hands and with trembling knees gives her yes, small as it may be, to a big, big God.

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Friday Favorites

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Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetFriends, it’s the dog days of summer. That’s all I have to say about that. Here are a few favorites to read/listen to while you position yourself under the a/c vent and ask your daughters to fan you with color sheets. (Maybe that’s just me.)

Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf: Oh, I loved every word of this story. Katherine and Jay’s story is one of resilience, hope, and belief in a faithful God. Katherine and Jay don’t sugar-coat the hard days, but they don’t wallow in them either. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was reminded why it’s so important to tell our story. Our story of healing helps others heal too.

The Shoemaker’s Wife  by Adriana Trigiani: Based on the story of her grandparents, this fiction book tells of love, loyalty and perseverance. A sweet, sweet story.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: This was maybe the hardest book I’ve ever read. I can’t even come up with words to describe it, but the Amazon review says this, “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.” It will be required reading for my girls one day. My eyes kept getting wider and wider as I turned each page, my stomach turning, until I remembered the old adage, “Once you know, you can’t go back.” That’s how I feel after this book. As a white person who is mom to a black girl in the year 2016, I cannot bury my head in the sand, pretend everything’s okay with racism in our country, or act like I’m not here for such a time as this. I must show a different way. I must be willing to learn and listen. I must ask the Holy Spirit to show me every prejudice in my heart so that I can bring those to the light and allow God to show me truth and light and love. And then I must put what I’ve heard and learned into action. I must use this one life I get to prove that love works. I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Please read this book.

Grace for President- In our quest to add more books to our home library that feature people of various skin colors, I found this one. It’s such a fun one that teaches kids about the electoral college and how it works while cheering on Grace as she runs for president. (I know with the RNC and DNC going on recently, it would be easy to read something political into this, but this is just a book recommendation of a new book we got that we have enjoyed. I’m still praying through how I’ll vote come November.)

The Happy Hour Podcast with Jamie Ivey– My friend Katye recommended this podcast (over a particularly delicious quiche at Porcellino’s, I might add) and I’ve been loving it! It’s funny and light-hearted, but they also cover important topics and ministries and opportunities. I turn it on when I’m cooking dinner (or preparing another pupu platter) and it’s a fun end to my “work” day.

Enjoy!

 

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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.