Dear Daughter, The Song We Sing

Dear Daughter, The Song We Sing

image from

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.

To the Mom Who Doesn’t Feel Deserving

To the Mom Who Doesn’t Feel Deserving

I received several responses to my post about The Other Mother with ladies asking for prayer. I’m honored to pray with you. In the wee hours of Sunday morning I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I checked my email and found these words from a reader, a grace-covered sister, who vulnerably shared a little of her story.

I am one that probably doesn’t deserve to be a momma….but every Mother’s Day hurts the same. You see, I had an abortion…because my husband is older and never wanted children….it was convenience. And at the time, (30 years ago) I never knew it was wrong…but every day since then for years and years, I felt the pain and loss and shame…until I realized Jesus forgave me. Now it’s not every day, but every Mother’s Day hurts. It doesn’t seem fair to even ask you to pray for me…I killed a baby I had….you lost yours. I am so, so sorry. I will pray for you – and for other mothers who have lost their babies, or their children to accidents or war or illness. Yes, there are a bunch of us out there.

I read her words and sobbed. I loved where she said, “until I realized Jesus forgave me.” Because really that’s all that matters. It seems every mom I talk to feels inadequate, ill-equipped and even undeserving. But that’s why grace matters so much in parenting. It’s grace that makes us a parent, and it’s grace that shows us how to parent. I’m learning my mistakes are just as big an opportunity to train my children as my successes. I love this quote from Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly.

The real questions for parents should be: “Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?” If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time. The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children. Perfection doesn’t exist, and I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.

We all come into this parenting thing in need of buckets of grace. Gratefully, Jesus has all we need. Because of His grace, I can be a great mom–not a perfect mom but a vulnerable, grace-giving, compassionate, hopeful mom. If you’re carrying around shame today, I invite you to lay it down at the foot of the cross with the rest of us imperfect moms. You are forgiven and made whole by Jesus.

Several years ago, a precious friend Chariti made this video telling her story to share with our church. Her story is beautiful and painted with grace and redemption. If you have been through the pain of abortion or loss, I hope her story will encourage you. The part where my story changes, the part where our sister’s story changes and the part where your story changes happens here–and then I realized Jesus forgave me. 

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI’m not talking about the early-morning view when the alarm clock buzzes and you roll over to see your spouse’s bedhead staring back at you. Although I’m willing to admit I look a little–okay, a lot–like my youngest in the picture, take away the spaghetti sauce.  (The expression is usually the same too.) No, I’m talking about marriage and husbands and wives and how the good, the bad and the ugly all go together. By that, I mean the qualities I love most in my husband are in tandem with the qualities that drive me crazy and vice versa. A laid-back, easy-going person usually isn’t great about remembering to take out the trash or throw dirty socks in the hamper. A type-A, highly motivated, get-it-done person tends to love checklists and high expectations. Someone who is hard-working and always goes the extra-mile might be a little late to come home most nights. And someone who is highly creative and artistic might be prone to forget minor details like paying the mortgage or the electricity bill. Our strengths go hand-in-hand with our weaknesses. The good, the bad and the ugly–it’s a package deal.

I don’t remember a ton from my undergraduate days in biology, but I do recall a lesson from my Genetics class. We were learning about genetic linkage and experiments on sweet pea plants and flies. (I also one time had to hunt crawfish out of a pond on campus and mate sea urchins. Who says biologists don’t have fun?)  I will spare you the details because they would most likely bore you and, honestly, I don’t remember them, but these scientists found that some traits which are located in close proximity on a chromosome are transferred in pairs or groups. Ironically, this is referred to as coupling.

I know you’re probably wondering what flies have to do with marriage, but those traits he has that just drive me up the wall might very well be linked with the traits I love most about him. We certainly can’t wallow in our weaknesses or use them as an excuse, but when it comes to my spouse or to my friends or colleagues or anyone I value, maybe we could step back and see that everyone is a package deal with strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws, good and bad. And maybe instead of trying to change them–which never works anyway–we could love them for who they are and let God change the things that need changing.

No one person has it all, but every person has gifts to contribute. When we turn our focus to strengths and begin highlighting our spouse’s gifts instead of focusing on the weaknesses, we provide an environment for healthy growth in the relationship, space and grace for dirty socks and superfluous checklists. And our hearts grow more grateful. After all, when we stood on that altar and became husband and wife, I chose all of him and he chose all of me–the good, the bad and the ugly. And when Christ humbled Himself to death, He saw all of me and chose all of me–the good, the bad and the ugly–and loved me anyway.