I chose a nap today.

I chose a nap today.

I chose a nap today. Few things seem as luxurious, as absolutely extravagant as a nap these days. But I did. And it wasn’t the first time this month. Or week. I glanced right over the scattered toys and microscopic Perler beads on the floor. I laid the book I’d been reading on my chest and closed my eyes.

But I haven’t written in days. The laundry is sitting wet in the washer. Nothing has been marked off the bullet journal in at least three hours.

And I closed my eyes.

“You can’t write what you haven’t lived.” I don’t remember who said it or if she was the originator of that pearl of wisdom, but it lodged. And every time I hear the whispering scream to “do more, be more, have more, share more, say more,” I whisper back, “No thanks, I’m living this one small and wonderful, messy and beautiful life. This season–with a flurry of little girls around my feet and in my lap and barnacled to my left calf and with a wall held up in prayer and Scripture and drawings made by big sisters and a husband who somehow keeps getting more and more interesting, what with his fun socks and newfound love of fountain pens–it’s ripe for living. And then napping.

So, to the world it might look like less. Less productivity. Less doing. Less to show for all my effort. But to the heart and soul it looks like everything.

So you gathered with girlfriends and ate chips and salsa by the gallons and laughed until you thought you might need Depends but no one took a picture. Or you realize when your child is two that you never wrote a blog for her first birthday and you think surely you’re giving her material for the therapist she’ll visit in her 30s when she describes her third child problems. Or you close your eyes and nap. (Because sometimes the living happens in the middle of the night potty trips and tuck-ins.)

Just because the moment wasn’t captured on your phone or task list, doesn’t mean it wasn’t captured where it matters. In your heart and in your soul. 

 

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Letting Them Go. Fear and our children.

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. 

 

Dear Daughter, With a begging, believing heart.

Dear Daughter, With a begging, believing heart.

“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.

 

Dear Summer

Dear Summer

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.

Break & Pour ~ A Mom’s Mission

Break & Pour ~ A Mom’s Mission

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*This post was originally published May 7, 2015. 

Some time ago, when Georgia was still tiny and all swaddled up and the skies were gray and icy, I sat in the rocker in the nursery rocking back and forth. I was reading about the last supper, the last meal my Savior shared with his friends before his crucifixion.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28

I glanced over at the eyelashes of my baby girl between the crib slats. I was weary and feeling very empty. I was also feeling very lumpy post-delivery and very in need of a shower. Those words kept crashing in my head like waves on the beach. Broken. Poured. Like a piece of wood bent until it splinters in two. Like a wine bottle hitting the tile and shattering, crimson droplets everywhere. Bread broken. Body broken. Cup poured. Blood poured.

I was a mess of emotions Tuesday after hugging Heather tight and saying goodbye to her before Jess and I boarded a plane back home. Heather is one of the most talented writers I know, and one day while talking in the car we both said how difficult writing is in this season. Because quiet time is rare and little hands need us. Because our minds feel like mush. And, I confessed to her, because it feels like every blog I write reads . . . This is hard. This is really hard. Have I mentioned this is hard? And who wants to read (or write) that all the time. But it is hard. And that’s okay. I could write just the pretty stuff, but that would be a lie. Break and pour. That’s what we do. Whether by pregnancy or adoption, our bodies bear the scars and the stretch marks and the gray hairs of that breaking. Our hearts beat with the muscle memory of those desperate tears and the painful prayers of that pouring out. We are acutely aware of our own brokenness, humbled by this great call on our life, this call of motherhood. We are keenly aware of our need to be poured into–by the Word, by the gift of friends and marriage, by the Sabbath.

We break bread and cut the crusts off peanut butter sandwiches and break smiles when they tell us the same knock knock joke 89 times in a row. We break sleep and change the sheets and rock the baby and banish the monsters under the bed. We pour milk and juice and cool water. We pour Cheerios and laundry detergent and cups of bath water over dirty heads and sun-kissed noses. And all those tiny moments seem insignificant and menial. But they aren’t. Because woven into each of those seemingly unimportant actions is the pursuit of a relationship. A relationship born out of love. A relationship for which we sacrifice and surrender. We break because He broke. We pour because He poured out. We love because He loved.

{Dear Daughters} Let’s talk about beauty.

{Dear Daughters} Let’s talk about beauty.

I was reading this series on motherhood around the world. The stories were fascinating, but I loved the one about parenting in the Congo.

On weight:Jill: There’s no need to step on a scale on the continent of Africa. I know I’m gaining weight when I start getting compliments on my appearance. More specifically, my butt. I’ve been told, with great kindness, that I looked “nice and fat” after returning from a vacation. The tailor who recently made me a dress looked at my lackluster curves and reassured me that she could figure out how to add in boobs and a butt via some magical seams.

Sarah: Recently I took some photos of some of the Mamas in my children’s lives, and Mama Youyou gently brought me Mamitsho’s photo (above) saying, “Madame, umm, hmm, well…Have you seen this photo of Mamitsho? Well, hmm, has she seen it? Is she okay with this?” I told her I thought it was a lovely picture of Mamitsho, and in fact everyone who has seen it comments on how nice she looks. (In retrospect, I guess it was only Americans giving the compliments.)

“Well, Madame, it’s not a good photo,” said Mama Youyou. “She looks skinny. It must be embarrassing for her. You can see her”—and then she yell-whispered—”collarbone!” Body fat is a precious thing here; a sign of nutrition, comfort and a good life.

Jill: The different perspectives on bodies and beauty are something that comes up fairly often. I just read an article in a local magazine about tia foin, the dangerous trend of women using prescription medications to fatten up a bit. It’s the same discussion as we might see in the pages of Marie Claire or Elle about weight-loss drug use among women, but with a completely different spin.

Excerpt from 13 Surprising Things About Parenting in the Congo from cupofjo.com

So, if our country defines beauty as skinny, but the Congo defines beauty as “nice and fat” what does that mean? It means beauty is subjective, sweet daughters. And we can listen to what the glossy magazines tell us about beauty or that boy in math class or the cluster of whispering girls in the corner. Or we can listen to what the pages of Scripture tell us.

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 . . . bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. Isaiah 61:1, 3

Beautiful daughters, we can one day talk about acne and frizzy hair, and then later talk about wrinkles and grays. We can lament post-breastfeeding woes and the joys of cellulite and the torture of barre class. We can laugh and chat and share products. As long as you know deep down what beautiful really is.

Beautiful is a brave, vulnerable soul willing to share her story. Beautiful is stripping away the mask and showing the daily markings of grace. Beautiful knows her worth comes from the cross and not the scale. This is a beauty that only gets better with age. Daughters, I hope you will learn to look in people’s eyes to see the beauty that goes soul deep, to hear someone’s story and see the hand of God, to revel in beauty from ashes.

That kind of beauty isn’t the work of makeup or hair product. That kind of beauty is the work of your Creator, your Redeemer. 

Celebrating 10 Years in Memphis (And a list of favorite Memphis restaurants/things to do!)

Celebrating 10 Years in Memphis (And a list of favorite Memphis restaurants/things to do!)

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At the Redbirds game our first summer in Memphis

This weekend marked ten years since we moved to Memphis. Matt was driving his car pulling our tiny U-haul up I-55 with me following behind in our other car. In the nine months prior to our Memphis move, we had graduated from Bama, moved back home to Jackson, MS, and gotten married. We were young, naive, and ready for adventure. Now, ten years later, we are not quite as young, hopefully a little bit wiser, and we’ve got lots of adventure (named Lydia, Charlotte, and Georgia!)

We spent the weekend celebrating a decade in the 901 with a date night to Porcellino’s, a trip to the zoo and Belly Acres with the girls, and, of course, Muddy’s. This morning, Matt’s team invited the girls and me to their office to celebrate his 10 year anniversary at Speak. I still remember the Friday when Matt called me in Jackson on his way back from Memphis. He had just interviewed for the job at Speak, and as soon as I picked up the phone I could tell how excited he was. We talked and agreed this was a good move for us. He accepted the job, and we packed up our little apartment in Jackson. A short two weeks later we moved into our new apartment in Memphis. I returned to Jackson for a couple more weeks to tie up some things with my job. While I was away, colleagues introduced him to Sheridan’s custard so that when I arrived he said we had to go. So, that first night in our new home we drove to Sheridan’s and got the grasshopper–vanilla custard with mint and crushed oreos. And then we did it again our second night, our third night, our fourth night, until we realized about a week in that neither our wallets nor our metabolisms were going to be able to sustain this habit.

Several years passed, and when Lydia was about six months old, we tried to sell our house so we could move back to Jackson. At that time, the real estate market was struggling, and it was a bad time to sell a house. Also, we had certain friends who shall remain nameless 😉 praying that it wouldn’t sell. And it didn’t. As much as I know it would have been good to be near our extended family, I’m glad the house didn’t sell. It forced us to build our little family, to create our own traditions, and establish our own rhythm. We had to dig our roots deep here in this new home and write our own story of family.

And, oh, the learning we’ve done in this place. You don’t go from 21 to 31 without (hopefully!) learning a ton. Much of it has been painful because I am stubborn and love to learn the hard way. But God gave us a village in this city, a sisterhood and brotherhood to teach us, challenge us, sharpen us, and push us. These people have poured into our marriage, have encouraged us as parents, and have given us that rare gift of authentic friendship.

Sometime several years ago, I remember realizing that, finally, after years of living here, when I said home I was talking about Memphis. For years, Matt I would say we were going home whenever we went back to Jackson to see family, but sometime after bringing our first pink bundle across the threshold this place became home. We were building something new. We were learning something important–to savor this moment and this spot, to dwell in God’s Presence right where we are.

Some of our favorite places in Memphis . . .

Restaurants // Restaurant Iris / Porcellino’s / Second Line / Hog & Hominy / Babalu / Aldo’s / Belly Acres / Brother Juniper’s / Sakura / Muddy’s Bake Shop / and a new favorite Casablanca!

Fun things to do // Memphis Zoo / Brooks Museum / The Dixon / Memphis Botanic Garden / Walk or run the Greenway / Levitt Shell summer concerts / Civil Rights Museum / Go see the ducks at the Peabody / Antique shopping at Sheffields / Redbirds game / St. Jude half-marathon