Digging

Digging

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetI had to take a little break from the blog for another project. That project has been sent off, and there’s a lot swirling around upstairs. The last five months–wow–it’s hard to believe it’s been almost five months since Eve came home. So much has changed, and, yet, it’s hard to remember life before the six of us were together. Her dedication was this past Sunday and our friend Stephen said he had seen a picture of our family from February. He said it looked like there was a big hole in the picture, a gap where our Eve girl wasn’t there.

At dinner last night, Peach asked Matt for a “campfire,” meaning fire in the fireplace. So, after bath times and pjs we all sat in front of the fireplace reading books. Lottie wanted to give Evie her bottle. (Yes, we still do one bottle a day for her because it’s a bonding moment, and we missed 20 months of those.) I looked over at them and thought of this time last year when our first court date was coming up in December. We walked through so much this year. But the gifts throughout this hard year have been beautiful and plentiful.

Saturday, I planted nearly 200 bulbs in our front yard. The big girls helped me while the little girls played in the dirt. The blade of the shovel cut through the dirt and I tucked in bulb after bulb, each one hidden beneath several inches of dirt to protect it through winter. There is nothing to show for my work right now, except a bit of a bruise on my right palm from all that digging. But I’m believing that come spring tulips and narcissus and later in the summer anemones and ranunculus will bloom.

Somewhere around bulb #89 the obvious metaphor hit me. This is what growth looks like. There’s digging, and it’s dirty. There’s planting, and it feels hidden. There’s growth, and it feels slow. But wait. Because the beauty is there already. And in time it will bloom into something that reflects the glory of its Creator.

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A Concrete Story {And an Adoption Update}

A Concrete Story {And an Adoption Update}

IMG_1448We knelt on the slab, the powder from demolition coating our knees. We were maybe three feet from where we first stood, that first Sunday we found ourselves newlyweds living in Memphis, Tennessee. We were six months removed from college, babies really. We stood there that Sunday knowing we needed to find a church, hoping to find a community, never imagining we would find another family. I don’t remember the sermon or the songs, but I remember the story. The story of a lost person found, a dead person made alive. I remember the roar of the crowd when that beautiful soul brought her head out of the water, soaking wet and wholly redeemed. I remember turning to Matt with eyes that said, “This is it. We’ve found it.” Just above where we knelt was the stage, the stage that represented my first real job. A job that taught me not just about service planning and lighting and transitions but about submission and teamwork and the messiness of ministry. That same stage where I tried to hold back tears as we dedicated our three daughters, where I looked out and felt the weight of a thousand prayers prayed for us.

As we knelt down, I wrote Isaiah 61 and prayed these words over our family, the ones in my home and the ones who gather in this building…

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

Isaiah 61:1-4, NIV

Freedom for the captives–those held in bondage by shame or substance, fear or failure. To comfort all who mourn–from loss or hurt. A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair–with a heart that knows nothing is beyond God’s redeeming hand. Renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations–a family where skin tone and salary and education aren’t excluding, where cycles of destruction are broken and new legacies created.

And we signed our names, L smiling up at me proud of her letters. C leaving her scribbles, and Matt tracing G’s foot. And we were about to go when L said, “Wait, what about EEOO?!” Of course, we had to include EEOO. As we sat in a pew that rested on this same slab of concrete more than three years ago, we felt God say, “Now. It’s time to begin the journey to bring your child home.” One more piece of our family’s story written across the dusty concrete.

That slab will be covered soon, our names hidden under the flooring. Come fall, we will be back in there, and I will look at that spot and think of God’s faithfulness. August 31st marks 36 months since we became DTE (dossier to Ethiopia). Our wait time for a referral call still stands at 36-48 months. Lord willing, we will get the call soon. After spending nine months filling out paper work and then almost three years waiting, it feels strange to be coming up so near it. I wonder if Sarah felt this way or Rachel or Hannah. After all that waiting and hoping and clinging, did the arrival surprise them in the end?

I’ve got a new pile of paper work to fill out. We need to update several things–our home study, our fingerprints, our I-171. We just finished an intense six-week class for parents with children who come from hard places. I’m working on a couple fundraisers to help cover some of the adoption costs we will need to pay soon. But every day I pray that same passage I wrote on the slab. Isaiah 61. “That they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor . . . For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations (Isaiah 61:3b, 11, NIV).”

We are trusting God that one day the six of us will stand where those names are written, knowing we are on holy ground. Not because of our names but because of the Name above every name. Not for our splendor but for His alone. Oaks planted for the Lord.

Happy Birthday, Lottie!

Happy Birthday, Lottie!

Charlotte Anne, my little firecracker. No one wears me out like you do or makes me laugh like you do. Your crazy blonde curls and those mischievous blue eyes. The way you tilt your head when you ask a question and all the hilarious things you say to us.

In the past year, I’ve found you sitting on top of the table “reading” Charlotte’s Web, in the pantry gnawing on raw sweet potatoes, at the table for Easter eating the blue egg dye tablet and feeding the dogs handfuls of not-so-cheap organic raisins.

You are equal parts fiercely independent and faithfully clingy to Momma, Daddy and Sissy. You tell us all the time, “I got it.” But you love to sit in our laps, and you usually fall asleep snuggled right next to your big sis.

You came into the world with a bang, and you’ve been messing up my plan ever since in the best possible way. You keep me on my toes, and I’m pretty sure you had something to do with that new patch of gray hair I found the other day. But you make me smile like crazy. You make me dance in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store. You make me laugh until tears are rolling down my cheeks. You make me wonder how I ever lived without you.

When you were just a few months old, your daddy started praying you would be like Queen Esther. That was a scary prayer for me to hear because Esther was willing to risk her life to save God’s people. But I see now God laid that prayer on his heart knowing He had given you a feisty, sweet personality to fit the calling. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” It’s still a scary prayer, but it’s one I pray for you every day just like your daddy–that you will be like Esther, willing to risk everything to love God’s people.

To the moon and back, happy birthday my Lottie Dot!

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A New Table & Recipe

A New Table & Recipe

tableWe have a new addition to our home. Not a wee one yet, although only eleven weeks to go! Sunday, my parents brought us the dining room table and chairs from my grandparents’ farm. As Daddy and Matt were putting the chairs around the table, one of them placed the chair with arms at the head of the table. And I could so clearly see my Papaw sitting in that chair, spreading sorghum molasses on his biscuits with Folgers coffee in the cup next to him. I could see those strong, tanned hands from many years spent herding cows reach out across the table to grab the hands of those near him to say grace. When the light hits it just right, you can see little dimples in the wood. I imagine my mom sitting at the same table as a little girl.  Much of our life happens around the table. This isn’t just a piece of wood. It is the place where Matt tells me about his day. It’s where Lydia is learning to read. It’s where Charlotte has already figured out how to scale new heights–literally. It’s where, Lord willing, this sweet baby kicking and squirming while I write will take his or her first bites, and it’s where our Ethiopian child will learn what family means.

Monday morning, with Charlotte wearing an ensemble of swimsuits and plastic princess heels and with Lydia still in her pajamas, we sat around with my parents and christened the table in its new home with pumpkin chocolate chip bread, scrambled eggs, and bacon. This morning while I did my priority time, I ran my fingers along the grain thinking of the million memories varnished in its sheen and of the million more I hope to make. We will continue to gather around that table, light a candle, and share this crazy, wonderful, hard life together.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

recipe from my sis-in-law many years ago

Ingredients

  • 1-15 oz can pumpkin
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips (to taste)

Mix wet ingredients in mixer. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add to mixer. Grease loaf pans well. (Note: this recipe makes three large loaves or one large loaf and four mini loaves.) Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

All you need to know is this tastes like fall to me. And, also, if your local Memphis Kroger is sold out of pumpkin… it wasn’t me. (Except it was. And I’m sorry. But not really.)

 

Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

We spent the weekend in New Orleans for Matt’s step-mom’s family reunion. The girls loved getting to see their Doc and GranJan and all their cousins, and we had so much fun exploring and eating lots of Cajun food. Matt and I love New Orleans. When we got engaged, we wanted a destination wedding that felt like a vacation for our guests but still wanted somewhere that our grandparents could easily get to. Since New Orleans is only three hours south of Jackson, we both grew up going there often for family trips, and it’s a festive city so it seemed like a fun place for a wedding. Two months before our wedding, Katrina tore through New Orleans devastating the city. My daddy was stationed with the emergency response team right outside of New Orleans, and I remember him calling and saying, “Liss, it’s time to find a Plan B. It’s really bad down here.”

With no electricity, scarce gasoline, very little cell phone coverage and only eight weeks to go, we started making plans to move our wedding from NOLA to Jackson. It ended up being just perfect for us, but we still have a special place in our hearts for the Crescent City. We’ve taken the girls back a few times. Lottie’s first trip she was not even two months old yet, but I snuggled her in the Baby Bjorn and we trekked all over the city. This time the temperature was a bit warmer, but that didn’t stop us from going all over and leaving our mark–quite literally as eating out with littles tends to go–throughout NOLA. Thank you, Doc and GranJan for a fun weekend.

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Fourth, Fireworks and Fun

Fourth, Fireworks and Fun

Have I mentioned I love summer? Nothing is more summer than the Fourth of July, and we made it a weekend to remember. Thursday night, we watched fireworks with friends. The girls loved dancing to the music with their glow sticks. Lottie’s dancing is something truly special.

Friday morning we ate breakfast outside enjoying the most beautiful weather July has ever seen in Memphis. We spent a few hours at the pool which combined with the late night fireworks the night before resulted in a four-hour nap for both girls. Which meant Matt and I got to watch an entire movie together. Aren’t nap times spectacular? While we were sitting on the couch watching the movie, the baby was kicking like crazy, and Matt got to feel baby kick for the first time. We’re both thinking this baby is a girl, but Matt hasn’t had “the dream” yet like he did with Lydia and Charlotte, so we’ll see. Only 19 more weeks to go!

Friday night we grilled out. I wanted to make something different, and I saw this recipe on Pinterest for White BBQ chicken. The first time I had white BBQ sauce was at Cypress Inn in Tuscaloosa, and this recipe reminds me of that. It’s hard to find BBQ sauce that doesn’t have tons of sugar or preservatives. This recipe has none of either. It’s tangy, spicy and super yummy! We also grilled zucchini and corn. Lydia ate her corn cob and finished off everyone else’s too. After a Saturday morning run through all the fireworks wreckage, we took the kids to the zoo to enjoy the beautiful day and a picnic lunch Lydia had been asking for. Charlotte even got a kiss through the glass from Teva the sea lion.

The best part of the weekend–date night. We went to Babalu, a 601 creation that recently opened up in Overton Square. They had me at the guacamole made table-side. Everything was fresh and delicious, and I Love Lucy was playing on the wall like artwork. Mamaw and I used to watch I Love Lucy marathons while we would shell peas or snap beans in the summer, and I would glance up every now and then and laugh because I could remember exactly what happened in that episode. After dinner, Matt and I went to Levitt Shell for an outdoor concert. Apparently, Elvis played his first paid concert at the Levitt Shell on July 5, 1954, so the music celebrated 60 years of rock and roll. We had a great time talking and listening and definitely people-watching. (Twilight meets Animal Kingdom, right, Matt ;)) Memphis has so many fun–and often free–things to do. I love this city we call home.

I’m grateful for freedom, the freedom that comes from being an American and the freedom that comes from being a child of God. Thank you to the men and women who sacrifice so much to give me freedom and to my Savior who sacrificed everything so I could be free.
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On Salt Licks, Lemon Ice Box Pies & Leaving a Legacy

On Salt Licks, Lemon Ice Box Pies & Leaving a Legacy

IMG_6037This past weekend, we embarked on a little road trip to Sweet Home Alabama to visit my Mamaw and meet our new niece. Fueled by iced coffee and the Love Does book on audio (me being the audio), we made the trek to Leeds, Alabama, a small town just north of Birmingham. My grandparents have lived in the house my Papaw built since the day they were married, and my mom spent her entire childhood in this home. My Papaw went to be with Jesus almost five years ago, but his fingerprints are all over this home and this land.

So many of my childhood memories are on that farm. The golden sun breaking through the blinds, the smell of sausage and biscuits wafting from the kitchen, the sound of the train rumbling across the tracks just over the highway. Mornings spent in the garden where I would play underneath the trees bursting with apples, pears and figs. And where I secretly wondered how that odd looking fruit came to resemble the Fig Newtons Papaw would keep in the pantry for an afternoon treat.

After Mamaw finished picking the ripe vegetables, we would head inside. Some days we shelled peas. Some days we snapped beans. But whenever we were done, I would assemble my grocery store on the wooden table in the dining room. I would drag out Papaw’s old scale and separate everything into baskets. The plump eggplants were my favorite, weighty with waxy skin the color of a moonless night. Once I had everything just right, I would invite Mamaw to come shop at my grocery store. As she made her selections, I tallied up her total on a yellow notepad. A few years ago, we came across a small stack of these now-wrinkled and faded receipts. She had kept them all those years.

In the late afternoon, I would go out to the pasture with Papaw to check on the cows. I loved sitting on the tractor with him and hearing all his stories about his beloved bovine friends. He would tell me how each one came to the farm, its age and its personality. He would tell me about the bull too and how he had to be careful with that one. We would ride past the salt lick (which I know from experience is quite salty) and make sure the cows had plenty of fresh water. Papaw used an old bath tub for their water trough. I would run around the pasture while the water ran, Papaw warning me to watch out for “fresh patties” and to never ever touch the electric fence. Even though I knew he’d already checked it a half dozen times to be sure it was off.

At night Mamaw and I would make lemon ice box pies, two at a time, and watch I Love Lucy marathons. And I would always sneak out to the back porch where Papaw would be reading his Bible. Every Christmas he had only one request, a new Bible. Because his one from the previous year would no longer be attached to the binding and the pages would be falling out from being read so often.

And every time I had to leave to go home, they would stand on that porch and wave goodbye. They tried to cover their tears, but I knew they were there. I didn’t even try to cover mine. I would look out the back window down the long driveway, waving one last time and at the top of the hill we would enter the highway, giving a little honk and a last goodbye.

My Papaw went to be with Jesus November 2008. A few months later on January 17th, his birthday, the first one he wouldn’t be here to celebrate, I found out I was pregnant. That baby would join him in heaven a month later and then another baby would join them both later that summer. But as I watched Lydia running and Charlotte crawling on the lawn in front of that porch, I smiled. The same patch of grass my Papaw once mowed. The same patch of grass my mom played in as a child and then me and my siblings a few decades later. And now my two girls enjoying the magic of that farm, lost in the sweet smell of country air and a lifetime of treasured memories.