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Tearing and Weaving. How we grow.

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There is a spider outside the window. She is probably three inches across with a beautiful yellow and black design. Of course, we named her Charlotte. Every morning we stumble (I stumble, the younger girls bounce) into the kitchen to start the day. Sippy cup of milk for Peach, OJ for Lottie, coffee for me. And we make our way over to the window to check on our spider. This morning I watched her go around and around tearing up her old web and weaving a new one. She does this often. We’ve watched her make several iterations now because we’ve been watching her for weeks. It is mesmerizing.

This morning as I watched her tear down her old work and start again, I felt solidarity. It feels a lot like sanctification. The daily taking away of what doesn’t work or edify or bring beauty. The examination of my heart and uncovering ugly places that need to be reworked. The consideration of this particular season and my particular disciples, dismantling formulas and weaving growth and grace for this new day.

Our spider does this often and never knowing she has an audience. She spins and weaves and creates masterpiece after masterpiece, so that she can capture food and protect herself certainly, but also because she made to create. She doesn’t lament the demolition, and she doesn’t begrudge the construction. But with each gossamer thread she spells out glory.

I watched her spin and thought back over my last couple weeks, the plans that had to be ditched, the messes that had to be cleaned (so. much. throw. up.), the sour attitudes (mine the sourest), all the un-glorious of it. A lot of ugly came to the surface, and I had to hand to God some things that needed to be torn down. And now I have to be patient in the rebuilding.

It isn’t ever fun to feel like God’s forgotten you, but I’m guessing we’ve all felt that from time to time or maybe for a very long season. I think it’s okay to honestly tell Him how we feel. He might not change any of our circumstances, but that honest confession might be the gateway to weaving something new. And through it all–the surrendered undoing and the merciful creation–He’ll show us His glory in woven splendor.

 

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Dear Daughter, what do you do in the middle of the story? 

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It’s late and my phone battery is almost gone, but I keep staring at your picture. Baby girl, we got word early this week that because of things outside our control it may be next October to December before we get to come to you. I sobbed. So much that I decided to forgo the standard wad of toilet paper and just grabbed the yellow duck towel that was on the kitchen floor thanks to your big sisters playing in the water out back. I could fit my whole face in there at one time, but only after did I realize there were bits of grass on the towel too. Maybe it was the crying or maybe it was rubbing grass all over my face, but I woke up Tuesday with swollen eyes and a weary heart. 

What does a person do with the middle of her story? When the newness of the adventure has tarnished but the sweet union of the end is still far off? When you’re white-knuckling promises with bloody knees? What does a person do then? 

We got word Monday about a probable delay with travel to Ethiopia. Today I took Peach to the doctor to find out she has pneumonia. Again. Second time in three months. I had to call my niece and tell her we wouldn’t be at her birthday party. She was crying. I was crying. My Lydi was in the backseat crying. The poor pharmacist at Walgreen’s probably thinks I’m a mess. 

I am a mess. These past eight years of our journey to each of our girls, to your sisters and you, have revealed that in great display. I so desperately want the happy ending, the beautiful resolve. But He wants the glory. He wants my praise in despair. He wants my trust in hopeless days. He wants my rest in the wait. 

Sweet girl, I don’t understand why the long, long wait. But I know He is never late. Emily Freeman said in her book Simply Tuesday when she was talking about Abraham and Sarah and their 25-year wait, “Our part is not making the promise come true. Our part is to count the stars.” To count and remember the One who flung jewels into a velvet sky and sprinkled sand along the shore. To remember the One who made the Promise. 

I just snuck out of bed and looked out the window to a full moon and a smattering of stars peeking through cloudy striations. And I heard a gentle whisper, “Look to your crashing-wave circumstances and you’ll fear and doubt and drown. Lose yourself in comparison, and you’ll want to throw yourself a sugar-laden pity party. But look to your Promise Maker. Keep your eyes locked on Me, and no matter what the storm your Anchor holds. No matter what may come, you, my daughter, can press on.” 
There’s a card hanging on your wall written in Hebrew by the hand of my friend Emily. It says Jehovah Shammah. The Lord is there. This great star-flinger is holding you, and He’s holding me–all at the same time. Because of that, we press on. 

All my love,

Momma 

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Friday Favorites

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Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetHi! It’s been a while since I did a FF. Let’s just say very few “routine” things happened from June through August. Oh, summer, you were a wild one. But here we are in September. My velvet pumpkins are on the mantel. I baked pumpkin bread last weekend, and football has started back. (RTR.) Now, if only the forecast could get the hint.

A few favorites for the beginning of fall…

Tortellini soup- This recipe comes from my friend Amber’s mom. I remembered her making it for a pumpkin carving party years ago, so I texted her for the recipe last weekend. I substituted one pound of ground Italian sausage for the chicken. (Brown and drain the sausage before adding.) So yummy for last week’s date night. (And tonight’s!)img_6960

This coffee table- So, this was a pre-referral purchase because now all our pennies are being saved for plane tickets, but we ordered this coffee table when it was on sale with free shipping for Memorial Day. I had found a similar one at West Elm that I loved, but I did not love the price. Then, I found this nearly identical one at World Market for so much less. Sold. Our favorite part is that the top lifts up, so it’s perfect for couch dates. And we can store our games underneath the top.

Uno- Speaking of games, we’ve played Uno every single night since summer started. It’s fast and easy for young kids to play. Plus, Lottie is learning her numbers! Lydia keeps track of the scoreboard and somehow has way more points than the rest of us.

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist– Oh, Shauna. You outdid yourself. I loved, loved, loved this one. Several years ago Lindsay Letters made a print from a blog post Shauna wrote with the same title, and I have it hanging in my dining room most of the year. Right now, though, it’s hanging above the mantel. (With my velvet pumpkins.)

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From Depths We Rise by Sarah Rodriguez– This one releases October 1st, but you can pre-order now. I got to read an advanced copy, and I read it in one sitting. (When my girls asked two hours into rest time if it was time to come out, I might have lied and said no so I could finish the last few pages.) Sarah’s story is captivating with an outcome that’s still hard to believe.

Falling Free by Shannan Martin– This one is still pre-order too, but it releases September 20th so not long to wait. This one smashed my toes a bit (and by a bit I mean a lot) and left me really exploring some areas of my life. This past week I read a quote that reminds me of the theme of this book, “When you have more than you need, build a bigger table-not a higher fence.” I’ll be thinking about (and acting on) this one for a long time.
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Tonight I’m baking the Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie in The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book because I’m missing Quebec and all things maple flavored. (Most of all the boozy salted maple caramel milkshakes from Le Chic Shack.)

Happy weekend!

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Letting Them Go. Fear and our children.

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Taken August 31, 2012. After 8 months of work, our dossier was ready to go to Ethiopia. The guy at FedEx took this (blurry) picture of us right before we mailed it off. Lydia had turned two that summer, and I was pregnant with Charlotte. 

When we first started this adoption journey, Lydia was 18 months old. She pronounced Ethiopia E-E-O-O, and her favorite thing to say was, “Mo, mo babies!” while she attempted to carry a half-dozen baby dolls in her arms. Fast forward four-and-a-half years and that adorable toddler is now a beautiful, compassionate first-grader. Her dream of “mo, mo babies” surrounds her in the swirl of little sisters God has given her. Granted, they don’t always do just what she wants like the baby dolls she used to play with, but they love her and look up to her and want to be just like her.

When we switched agencies this summer, we learned that our new agency highly recommends we only make one trip to Ethiopia. Instead of doing the two one-week trips that are usually 4-6 weeks apart, they recommend one trip that is usually around three weeks long. The main reason they recommend this is because our Ethiopian daughter becomes legally “ours” upon our successful court hearing which happens in the first trip. So, if we do one trip and stay in-country she is able to stay with us, and we can begin bonding with her in her home country, in the city and culture she knows and loves. After a lot of prayer, Matt and I decided one trip was the best option for our family. It wasn’t long after we received confirmation of that decision that the question started circling in my heart, “Should we bring Lydia?” In my typical fashion, I mentally made a pros and cons list. After making the list over and over for several weeks, I realized all my cons were born out of fear–fear for safety and disease, fear of the additional cost, fear of a looooooong flight with a child (and two children coming back). But I’ve made decisions in the past out of fear, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to bring the fear to God and move forward in faith.

I pray all these big prayers for my girls, but I can’t pray those prayers and then bubble wrap them and lock them in their rooms. I have to give them back to God, much like Hannah did with her beloved Samuel. I have to see the purposes God has for them and encourage those even if they might scare me. The Holy Spirit is showing me a corner of the tapestry. He has lifted back a small piece for my eyes to take in, to see how He is knitting us together, our gifts and weaknesses woven together for the beauty of His Story.

The Lord is threading Lydia’s compassionate, sensitive spirit to a baby sister she has yet to meet. Her ability to see when people are hurting despite a happy facade will allow her to know when her baby sister is struggling but doesn’t want to say. Her gentle, nurturing hands will make her baby sister feel safe when they don’t speak the same language. And her sharp memory will capture her baby sister’s homeland in exquisite detail so she can tell the story over and over to reassure her baby sister of her roots.

And there’s just the full circle quality of it all. Lyd was our only child when we started this journey. Now, she is the oldest of four sisters, the servant leader. I believe God made her “for such a time as this.” And there’s her name from Acts 16–Lydia, the woman who had her heart opened by God and then led her family to know the God she worshiped. Never could I have imagined when I sat on the couch pregnant with this child I had begged God for and my Bible open to Acts that the name He would give me would carry forth to this day and this journey and this adventure.

Today, we go to renew her passport–her first step in this journey to bring her baby sister home. There will be vaccines and malaria meds and plane tickets and Dramamine. But above all I pray she tastes for herself the goodness of the Lord and the greatness of His adventure. This morning, I read these verses from Luke speaking of John the Baptist and wrote them on a sticky note for her page.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79). 

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For Bible this week, Lydia’s lesson said to write ways she “spies” God at work. Her faith spurs me on. 

 

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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.