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!

IMG_0444 IMG_0402 IMG_0387 IMG_0382 IMG_0367 IMG_0360 IMG_0321

IMG_0513

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.

IMG_0159

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.

100_4733

The rugged Oregon coast

100_4413b

The base of Multnomah Falls

100_4757b

The grandeur of the Redwoods

IMG_0354

Hiking around Cathedral Rock

 

IMG_0111

Sunset over the Grand Canyon

 

IMG_0140

Hiking the Grand Canyon

 

IMG_0295

Red Rocks of Sedona

 

IMG_0187

Hiking out of the Grand Canyon

 

292326_10150990607017097_2001587951_nb

Sharing a special family recipe with those I love

IMG_0160

Preserving fruit

IMG_8384

Harvesting our garden and sharing the abundance with others

IMG_8212

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.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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!

IMG_0288

 

IMG_0293

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
IMG_0315
IMG_0313
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

IMG_0338

IMG_0330

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

IMG_0360

IMG_0351

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

IMG_0304

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.

o-BROKEN-HEART-facebook

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

2471856960_de673004aa

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.

IMG_0022b

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

c077

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.

028

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!

IMG_0152

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.

IMG_0150

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!

Planning An Adventure

So there’s not been much to report lately.  It’s been cold, life has progressed as normal.  I don’t know if it’s just this time of year that makes me long for a getaway or the fact that I’ve been snowed in with the kids almost 4 days straight…..either way, Andy and I have got the itch to plan our next big adventure.  We are pretty sure it is going to be epic.

1

We stripped and cleaned the exterior for that Airstream shine!

We bought our 1972 Airstream Land Yacht 2 years ago.  It was the fulfillment of a dream of sorts–before we were ever married we saw one, and vowed to have one someday.  I forgot the “vow” a few minutes after we made it, but Andy didn’t.  When the opportunity arose to buy an Airstream, we saw decades of unforgettable memories on the horizon.  Ironically, our “silver bullet” is the same one my mother-in-law’s father owned.  She spent most of the summers of her childhood in our (her family’s) camper.  I love being able to ask her about all the places it has been!

Some vintage Airstreams you come across are a nightmare (or a “project” depending on your artistic outlook), but ours was in great condition…..out-dated to be sure, but everything worked great.  We have spent the last few springs and summers slowly working on little updates as time allows.

3

A little “mustard-y,” but oh-so-much potential!

7

Thus far, we’ve yet to embark on any major updates on the interior…..mostly just some cheap accessories from the Dollar Store!

2

The project I couldn’t wait to do—re-cover the stinky tweed cushion!

6

We gave all the logos a fresh paint of the classic “royal blue” paint.

We will have some major projects before this so-called adventure.  Andy is going to custom design and build bunk beds, we are considering ripping out the carpet and laying laminate wood floors, we’ve been wanting to paint the interior, we’ll need to buy a spare tire, and we’ll need to work on maximizing storage space.  Overall, not an incredible amount of money, just a lot of time and work before we can go very far in it….then we’ll hope for the best!

Thus far in our camping life with kids, this has been the scenario:

Endless fun all day long. No naps.  An exhausted Addy, Abe, Andy and Bethany at the end of the day…..and a Cora who cries non-stop for 4 hours and won’t go to sleep in the camper.  Everyone up at 5:30 AM.

fun

So we have made beautiful family memories….and lost a lot of sleep!   It’s been worth it, and we have always known that eventually Cora would be big enough to feel comfortable in the camper.  Well, we think this is the spring.  We are in a window of time right now where Cora is getting easier (did I just say that?!?) and we don’t yet have another “little one” with us.   We have decided this is the perfect opportunity for our first major Airstream Roadtrip!!

IMG_3694[1]

Because every good vacation needs a binder!

Much more to come on all this fun!

Happy Anniversary, Adoption

Today marks our 1 year anniversary of the “official” wait for our child (2 years of waiting overall).  February 2, 2014 we received word that all our hard work with paperwork and appointments had paid off and our file was registered in Bulgaria.  I thought then that we would be starting the most excruciating wait of our lives……but God proved otherwise.  We have been so tremendously blessed this past year that I wouldn’t have sped it along or wished it away for anything.

  • The adoption friends that I have made will remain a part of my family forever.

agci

 

  •  I have learned to love without abandon in a very hard adoption situation, risking it all, and feeling the pain of rejection, but the peace that comes when you’ve left it all on the table.

 

  • I’ve seen my community rally together to help put a roof on an orphanage in Bulgaria–halfway around the world from our little town, and never felt more supported in anything.

IMG_9809

  • I’ve watched my daughter feel called to advocate for the orphan and help meet their needs.

lemon4

  • I’ve laid in my son’s room, and listened to him lovingly voice his concern that his brother or sister wasn’t being read a bedtime story like him.

 

  • I’ve experienced my church rallying together on Orphan Sunday to present all the many ways to care for the orphan.

g2

  • I’ve giggled as my “baby,” when asked to count, has chosen to do so in Bulgarian, “edno, dve, tri…”

 

  • We hosted a sweet orphan-girl from India in our home for 2 days, an opportunity we may have somehow passed up before God opened our eyes and put a passion in our heart for the least of these.

IMG_6617

IMG_6635

  • I’ve been blessed to share life with the McArthy family, also waiting to bring home their Bulgarian baby.  Our children have become such good friends, and we have already begun our own Bulgarian traditions that we can’t wait to carry over in life post-adoption.

IMG_3595[1]

IMG_3599[1]

  • I’ve experience exciting, jaw-dropping phone calls of friends who just received their call, and been able to rejoice with them.

 

  • I’ve spent hours dreaming with Andy about planning trips to Bulgaria, and what our life might look like when the dust settles.

photo 1 (3)

I certainly do not want our child to have to wait any longer than necessary.  I would love to have them home with us tomorrow if it was possible, but typical adoption isn’t like that.  However, that doesn’t mean the wait is in vain.  There is great purpose in the wait– a preparation we don’t yet understand.  I hope to not have to “celebrate” many anniversaries before we come home with our child, but today I am grateful to be one year closer to growing our family and our hearts.