Stories No Longer Told

About a month ago, we were on a family walk, and the kids insisted that they had enough energy and motivation to walk the four country miles to their Granny’s house.  We placed one foot in front of the the other for two miles (except for the smallest child who took turns riding on shoulders).  At the two mile mark, there is a little country church…every bit of the church you’d imagine in an old movie.  Nothing else visibly surrounds it but trees, open fields, the sound of pumping oil rigs, and an old cemetery.   We stopped and rested on a log  before cutting across the cemetery to resume our journey.  We walked slowly and read the markers.  So many of them were covered in moss, their names and memories rubbed smooth.  So much history beneath our feet.

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We walked past a few more gravestones , reading the words and the names and the years….so many years and so many stories that are no longer told.  I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at the stories these men could tell, the things they saw, the battles they fought, the lives that they lived…..here, 2 miles from my house.

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This one in particular has floated around my thought the past few weeks…..fought under General Jackson…..lover of the Constitution of the United States……1799-1874. Breathless……history books can’t draw intrigue like this.

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My Grandpa was recently moved to an Alzheimer’s unit.  He served in the Korean War.  His roommate worked on fighter planes during World War II before becoming a pilot.  They no longer tell their stories.  I wonder how many more of the 60+ Alzheimers residents have unspoken stories of battlefields and grief and victory and hope and despair as they fought for our country.

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I pray you have a wonderful Memorial Day today, and that you remember for every story shared, a thousand more have grown silent……but they still join together to write the story of our freedom.

On Love and 11 Years

About this time 14 years ago, I told Andy I didn’t want to date him because he was like a brother to me.  (Ouch!)  2 weeks later I was driving with my mom to church and informed her that I knew I would marry him.  God works in mysterious ways, and even as I told him I didn’t want to date,  I already knew I could never live a day apart from him.  He was my best friend, the one who made me laugh, and wiped my tears, and treated me more sweetly than I knew possible.

We quickly got engaged and waited 2 (long) years to marry…May 15, 2004.  Today we celebrate 11 years married together, and God has continued to grow our love and faith through one another.  Our journey has taken us near and far, and the memories are too numerous to recount.  But, here are some of my favorites:

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Our first summer as youth leaders–we took about 6 middle-schoolers to Agape music festival. We had only been dating a few months. 2001

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Engagement Pictures– October 2002

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Our beautiful wedding day– May 15, 2004

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Honeymoon at St. John USVI–lovely to be married!

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Graduation Day for both of us….and our one year anniversary! May 2005

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Our first fur-baby (or whatever crazy animal people call them). 2005

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One of many beautiful hikes we have taken together– Multnomah Falls, Oregon 2006

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Ah, Paris….great memories lounging at the Eiffel Tower, especially when a torrential downpour left us like drowned rats and lost in the middle of the city!

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We heart England! –2007

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+ Baby #1 2008

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+Baby #2 2009

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+ Baby #3 2012

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Pursuing Baby #4…Starting the adoption process 2013

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10 Year Anniversary at Grand Canyon 2014

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<3 I love living life with this guy. He’s my favorite. <3

 

A Healing Hand

I was so overwhelmingly blessed by the kind words and prayers that were spoken after my last blog post.  I felt fairly certain that “moving on” and “healing” weren’t going to something that came easily or quickly.  There have still been tears that sneak up on me at moments I least expect them, but the healing that has poured over my family the last 2 weeks has been so sweet.

God has continued to use my family, my children, my marriage, my friends, other adopting families, and the new life of spring to begin mending the wounds and replacing them with hope of the child He does have in store for us in the future.

The afternoon that we realized we couldn’t say move forward was so hard.  Andy came home from work as soon as I had heard from our agency.  We grieved together, and then we started cooking.   We stood in the kitchen together stirring and mixing and seasoning.  Our ears were filled with the sound of our laughing children outside.  After supper, we walked around the pond watching our children chase the dog and ducks, and we sat on the hill  while the kids fed the fish.

Each day since, has been bursting forth with the beauty and hope of spring….for me, a gentle reminder of a loving Father.  A father who doesn’t allow us to go through hardship without a purpose.  I look forward to understanding the purpose and living the story He has written for us.  If it is anything like the rest of His creation, it’s bound to be beautiful!

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A Resurrected Heart

This isn’t the post I wanted to write this week.  I thought this would be the post where I introduced you to our daughter.  It’s not.

A lot has happened in the last 7 weeks, and yet everything now remains the same.  We began pursuing more information about a bright-eyed little girl with some special needs in late February.  God seemed to open one door after another and we were seeking Him.  Oh, how I was seeking Him!  I spent every day of 6 weeks in fasting, pouring myself into His Word every spare second of the day, laying awake hours each night in prayer.  I laid my hopes and dreams and fears in an adoption journal each night hoping they would become the story of us finding our next child.  We wanted to jump in, say “yes” and see how God would work.  We wanted to see her overcome her struggles little by little, and help her along the way.  We wanted our kids to learn to love in new ways.  I dreamed of drawing her into my arms and burying my face into her little neck.  I prayed that God would stretch us in our faith by taking on things we weren’t open to before.

So we waited.  42 long days and nights.  Waited for more information. Waited for phone calls.  Waited for emails.  Waited for updates.  Waited for doctor appointments.  Waited for God to show up and tell us “yes.”  Waited to know if these pictures were of our daughter.

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We waited for this phone call.  I believed it was going to give us confirmation .  I took it  believing this picture was  going to be in her photo album as the moment we knew.  But we hung up after 2 hours on the phone with Vanderbilt with a new unknown, a “hypothetical.”  A fear that wasn’t supposed to be.  A day later we felt God shut the door.  More of a slam in the face, to be honest.  I was left beating down the door.  Fists clinched tight.

So began the battle between my Maker and me.  I said things to Him I never imagined I could utter.  It seems that with each accusation, His reply was, “I’ll give you perfect peace.”

“I don’t want perfect peace, Lord!  I want to say yes, we want to be her family.  Why did you place such undeniable desires in my  heart and then not show up?!  Why does THIS have to be part of the story?!”

I found bitterness in my heart that Easter was approaching–the time we celebrate the perfect gift—the only one thing we really need.    In anger, I muttered to Andy, “I don’t want to worship Him right now.  I don’t want to put on a happy face.  I’m angry with Him.”

And yet, minutes and hours and days have passed and I cannot deny the perfect peace, peace that surpasses all understanding.  It has settled over my grieving heart.  It has brought with it hope that the family she is meant to find will hold her soon, and that I will understand it more as time passes.  As I have sobbed for what seems like days on end, I realized during a phone call with my dad that those would be my last tears (for now) for this loss.  I see how it has moved Andy and I into a place we didn’t expect, and drawn us closer.  I have encouragement that for over a month this little girl had a small group of women meeting every Tuesday in my living room interceding in prayer for her…..and they haven’t stopped.  I know now I’m not meant to be her momma, but I have loved her like one, and I hope that in some vague way she felt that.

Slowly.  Slowly, I am beginning to unclinch my fists.

I know now, that I can worship Him with my whole heart…..even if it’s bruised and beaten up right now.   It may not be a season of thanking Him  for all that is good (although I know that will return), but perhaps a season of being grateful that He is the same as yesterday.  He still holds strong when we are falling apart.  I can feel the power of Easter in my soul —a soul that is so in need of a Savior.  I can trust that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave, is the same power that can resurrect this disfigured heart……and with resurrection comes the hope of things greater than we can imagine.

 

Happy Easter.

 I pray that wherever you are right now, you will also feel the power of His Resurrection.

 

Bread and Wine

I brought my first daughter into the world on the same day of the year that my mother brought her first daughter into the world (me!).  I have loved every single aspect of sharing a birthday with my daughter…..I love the way it binds us together, I love the birthday outings together, the party planning together, the fun, and …..the gifts.  I’ll be honest, no 32-year-old woman should receive as many birthday cards and gifts as I do.  I give Addy Rose the credit for it.  People naturally enjoying celebrating a child’s birthday with extra love, attention, cards and gifts, so when they think about her, it is a natural progression to remember my birthday too.  We just celebrated another birthday, and we were both showered with love and thoughts and gifts.

That said, my husband is becoming a really great gift-giver, and truly outdid himself this year with thoughtful presents to bestow upon me.  Ugandan-made Sseko T-strap sandals….be still my heart.  He also got me 2 books by Shauna Niequist for my birthday.  I hadn’t heard of her previously, and didn’t know anything about the books, but he knew I would love them.  He knows me well.  I have only read the introduction and first chapter of Bread and Wine, and I am already in love.lindsay-letters-breadwine_1024x1024

You know a book is going to be great when it has you at, “Introduction.”

I just can’t get past this paragraph:

“My friend Nancy is a nature person. To know her is to know that the created world–mountains, wildflowers, sunshine–is the tie that binds her to God, that demonstrates his presence to her in the deepest ways. For my dad, it’s the water. The sounds and smells and rituals of life on the water bind him to God in ways that nothing else does. For my husband, Aaron, it’s music. And for me it’s the table—it makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit…creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table.”

It’s so interesting to think that God reveals Himself to people through different ways of beauty. It made me think…..how does God communicate with me deeply?

I have to say the times I have felt “in communion” with the Maker, have been in the deep, untouched stillness of His creation AND in creating food in love for others.  Two very different things, but definitely the things that resonate with me the most.  To be sure, God speaks and moves in the day to day of our lives, but there are absolutely moments where your soul is stirred more than usual.  I’ve been thinking of those moments today–the times where distractions are stripped away, and beauty and mountains and yeast and berries are what speak love loudly.

These moments have been when I understand Him the most, see Him the most clearly.  I am so thankful we get to experience such beauty and grace in this life.

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The rugged Oregon coast

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The base of Multnomah Falls

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The grandeur of the Redwoods

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Hiking around Cathedral Rock

 

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Sunset over the Grand Canyon

 

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Hiking the Grand Canyon

 

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Red Rocks of Sedona

 

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Hiking out of the Grand Canyon

 

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Sharing a special family recipe with those I love

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Preserving fruit

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Harvesting our garden and sharing the abundance with others

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Turning yeast and flour and water into daily bread

Now, I’m so curious, how does God speak to you? <3

Life on the Doormat

People often use the terms “God will open or close doors” in certain situations in life, revealing more of His will or purpose for you.  However, we have been living for 3 weeks now on the doormat.  Standing at the door, patiently waiting and seeking– longing to see if God is going to open the door or shut it in our face.  It’s this “doormat” that is so difficult.  This not knowing how a certain situation is going to end up.  Limbo.

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Life is easier when it is black and white.  Gray can seem so foggy, and it’s sometimes hard to make sense of.  It’s easy to lose patience and want to do things yourself instead of letting God make the situation beautiful in His time.  Or it’s easier to just give in to fear instead of trusting that He is in control.

It’s as if I think He doesn’t know I am at the door, and so I just keep knocking harder and harder, trying to figure out how to get in on my own.  I’m so very thankful that He doesn’t get annoyed by the pounding, and leave.  Rather,  He knows the waiting is for my own good, and he’s simply, quietly saying through the door,

“I’m coming.”

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.  Worry not……

Snow Days

In theory, I love snow days.  I like the idea of no school, Andy getting snowed in with us, baking and crafting all day, sledding and hot chocolate.  However, the reality looks more like Andy  going to work no matter what the roads are like, the kids and I still doing school, and as for the baking and crafting–just making more messes to clean up.  Add that to be cooped up days on end and it ends up looking more like a psych ward than a snow globe.

And yet, there is something to be said about the way everything slows down.  When I stop to appreciate not being able to run ourselves to death, and see the messes for the fun that was had, I can be thankful.  This has been true the last 2 weeks.  God has placed some pretty monumental possibilities in our path right now, and I have used the slow, quiet, cold to prepare my heart.  I have been able to seek Him more and loosen my grip on some overwhelming fears.  I have been reminded that I am so deeply loved by my Savior.

As we have “weathered” the (snow)storm, I find myself singing the lyrics of this beautiful song over and over.  They have provided peace and joy.  What comfort to know He knows the names of my fears and sorrows!

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Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him
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He knows the names of my sorrows
He knows the names of my fears
Why should I let them bother me
For I know he is near

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Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him

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And if no other will love me
In this life I own
There’d be no love I would long for
I know I am His own

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Oh to Be Loved By Jesus- Thad Cockrell

 

Guarding Your Heart

I have been told many times since we decided to adopt to “guard my heart.”  I’ve even told myself that a few times.  Guard your heart when you look at small faces with great needs, lest you fall in love, give into hope, and have your heart shattered.  I’ve tried to be diligent in this task– this protecting my heart from pain.  The scriptures even say,

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Psalm 4:23

And yet, God is making it quite clear to me that this “guarding of my heart”–this act of protecting myself–is not the context He meant for adoption.  God is a God of love, of hope, of second chances, of families.  There are real little children, real stories and faces and names and hurts and heartbreaks, and they deserve to be loved.  They don’t need someone to say, “I’m guarding my heart against the pain of loving you.”  They need someone to say, “This could end in sorrow, but the potential for joy and love far outweigh any pain.   You are worth loving at any expense.”

Jesus didn’t come into our broken world and guard His heart against the things that could cause him pain…..the people who might hurt Him.  Rather He poured Himself into them.  He met them where they were–in all their pain and brokenness and disease–and He loved them.  This was done without the thought of whether they might love Him back in return.

In the adoption world, we sometimes become afraid of loving a child we may not have a future with.  Almost as though that love could ever be in vain.

It’s so very clear to me now that this “guarding of our heart” isn’t a call to keep our love to ourselves…this isn’t the context at all.  Rather, I believe He would want us pour all of ourselves out to those who need it the most.

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My favorite singer/ songwriter, Jill Phillips, recently came out with an album called Mortar and Stone.  On it is a song called “Broken Heart” and she expounds upon this abandoned heart so beautifully:

There are other ways that Jesus could’ve saved the world
Ones that wouldn’t end up with him dead
He could have done it with an order from the throne of God
But he did it with a broken heart instead

So I’ll take a broken heart …
Cause a broken heart is better than one that doesn’t feel

In the Wait

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Adoption is the truest roller coaster.  Some days pass with gentle joy and anticipation, a sweet longing for a child you do not yet know.

And then, there are days–like today– where the wait is excruciating.  Where the physical weight of it seems too much to bear.  Days where you cry to God, “I don’t NEED a lesson in patience, Lord.  Please answer swiftly! Move mountains!” (Clearly this rant at God proves otherwise.)  Days like today pass by with knots in stomachs and prayers for guidance.  Nights are spent sorting through thoughts and desires of a vulnerable heart, prayers that He would hold it gently in His palms.

And He hears each prayer.  He catches each tear.  In His Fatherly love, He also catches each tear of a little girl across the ocean crying for someone to hold her, or a little boy longing for a warm bed and a full belly, and a kiss goodnight.

I am thankful for more days of patience and peace than of turmoil.  I am grateful to a God who has this–who already knows the outcome.  A gracious God who works all things for good and makes all things beautiful…..in its time. I won’t choose fear.   I will choose to rest in His embrace, and rejoice in the hope of what is to come.  A peace that He already knows what is around the corner….He already knows what is in store for me, regardless of what I think I want it to look like.  And rest assured, it will be more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed it to be.

Lent from a Former Catholic

Today is the first Sunday of the Lenten season.  It’s cold and icy here, and church was cancelled this morning.   Andy is at  work, the kids are busy building a fort, and I am having “church” in my pajamas on the couch.  I have read Matthew this week– saturating my heart with the Words of Life, and I can’t help but think about the beauty of Lent and the coming Easter season.

You see, I grew up in a wonderful home where my father is Catholic and my mother is Baptist.  After marrying, the decided not to “convert” or “go to their own churches,” but rather to interweave their denominations.  My entire life, we went to the Catholic church at 8:00 AM as a family then straight to the Baptist church at 10:30 AM–together.  Granted as a ranting teenager, I threw more than a handful of fits about having to go to two churches every Sunday, but looking back I wouldn’t have changed my upbringing for the world.  I feel like I have been able to glean the best of both worlds.  My ultimate decision was to attend a Protestant church–not so much because I held firm to the details and doctrines, but more because it was where I attended while courting my husband, and it became a family to me.  I was able to worship with other believers each week, and grow in my love and knowledge of the Word.  I haven’t ever really considered myself someone who “left the Catholic church”–although of course, I did; rather, I view it as bringing the reverence and love of liturgy and unity with me as I worship elsewhere.

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That said, I’ve often noticed that there seems to be a confusion, even a judgement, of the practices of Lent outside of the Catholic church.  A sort, “Oh, how cute, they are giving up chocolate for a few weeks.  Or, I don’t understand what the big deal is with not eating meat on Fridays.”  I believe these small sacrifices are often viewed as simply “ritual” or tradition.  But fasting, in all capacities, is biblical.  In Matthew 6:16, Jesus says,

When you fast……..

Not IF, but WHEN.  It is a calling of the believer.  I am just growing into a place in my faith where I am trying to work this out, but I find it fascinating.  I always sort of considered fasting a thing for people who were in deep grief or mourning, but I am just learning about the depth of fasting.  For instance, there are many reasons to fast.  The biblical reasons for fasting are:

  1. Mourning
  2. Inquiry of God
  3. Repentance
  4. Preparation
  5. Crisis
  6. Worship

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The idea behind fasting during Lent is mostly preparation–preparing our hearts for the death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter.  Preparing our hearts to receive Him, to worship Him.  From the outside it looks like not eating a little chocolate, or eating a little more fish, or skipping a meal, or not having a Coke, but it is so so much more.  In my own life, the times I have realized how “weak” I am or how little “control” I actually have, have been in seemingly insignificant things–like giving up my favorite drink or comfort food or media device.  It is incredibly humbling to realize that  I can’t even easily take away a few “luxuries”  or “distractions” for a few weeks.  that my flesh is indeed weak, but my Savior is strong.

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The flip side of the sacrifice, or fast, is that in taking away some of the distractions around us, we become more spiritually sensitive.   We remove the fog around us to see Christ more clearly.  We take away the things we cling too and we are drawn to cling more closely to Christ.  When this is done as a community of believers, imagine the possibilities of being used and in tune with Christ!

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Lent also isn’t just a time of giving things up, but also adding to.  Adding to the gifts you give, time in the Word, time spent in fellowship with others, time spent serving.  I’m so excited this year because my church has plunged into a 40 Days in the Word, and I long to see what God does to move the hearts of His church.

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Lent is such a beautiful time.  A time of preparation and seeking.  A time of worship and repentance.  A time to be moved and used by the One who sacrificed ALL for the ones he loves.  Lent is a time for ALL believers to seek the face of the Savior, and long for the promise of His return!