19 December 2012

the same, but different





This Christmas.

Things are different this year {IN SO MANY WAYS}. And yet, somehow the same.

Our family has grown by two!  After such a long, long wait. 

Last November, I thought our child(ren) would be home by Christmas.  I just believed they would be home.  Our caseworker had told me about a sibling set and I had even spoken to their foster parents.  I hadn't seen their faces.  {Thank you Jesus}. And as the days turned into weeks and November dwindled with not so much as a phone call, December began to feel heavy.  I had also hoped for a very special baby to be able to come home from the NICU by Christmas.  God knew these deep wishes in my heart, even if I wasn't that comfortable admitting just how desperately I wished for them.  He knew.  And as that first week of December dragged by, I spent more and more time in prayer - or really in quiet brokenness, because I didn't know what to pray.  And He met me there.  He always does. I can't put my finger on it, I don't have a beautiful image to give you, and I am not even certain it will make sense...but He gave me peace - the kind that goes beyond understanding.  And my heart knew my child(ren) were home... my heart had made a place for them, and God would fill in the details when the time came.  Our caseworker called around mid-December and told me that sibling set she had mentioned was in a different county now, but she was certain "2012 would be our year!"  Somehow her words were enough.  And that sweet baby wasn't yet able to come home for Christmas, but God told me He was faithful even in that.  While my heart was still heavy, it was also hopeful.  I left some Christmas decorations up longer than I normally would - a stubborn hope that our child(ren) would be coming any day.

January 11, we got the phone call that we had been matched with our boys.  And I felt like it was Christmas all over again.  Weeks later, sweet baby John Buckley was discharged from the NICU.

Oh what joy to wait on Him, the Giver of all good gifts!  This year had some bumps along the way, but there were many, many moments to celebrate as our family grew from 4 to 6.

As this Christmas approached, we considered not setting up our Christmas tree at all.  Our babies have one speed- GO!  They are healthy, active, inquisitive toddlers and we couldn't be happier about that.  We put out our nativity sets... the nicest one is a little further out of reach than it has been in the past.  We put out a tabletop tree in the kitchen and our little light-up Christmas village buildings too.  By December 1, though, we decided we should put up our tree too.  The big boys chose a few of their ornaments from their boxes to hang way-up-high, non-breakables only.  We bought a box of shatterproof bulbs to hang too.  Our garland covers the top 2/3 of the tree.  I put out the wonky tree skirt that I had made years ago.  A lot of the same, but still different.  It looked nearly perfect ;)  ...until the babies discovered they could drag that silly tree skirt all over the living room.  Or wear it like a cape.

Thankfully, Dayspring had chosen me to receive the No Greater Love Than Jesus- Reversible Tree Skirt from their Redeemed Christmas line.  I was a little over-the-top excited when it came.

It really is the perfect fit for our tree.  And nobody can wear it like a cape because it ties securely with two ties - which is two more ties than the tree skirt I had made years ago. 
 Its reversible which is all-kinds-of-fun.  I am especially fond of the side that says, "no greater love than Jesus."  I can't think of a better reminder for beneath the tree.
Most days Lincoln and Franklin spend some time lying under the tree while their big brothers are at school. And most of the days, if I am quiet and listen, I am reminded that God brought these gifts home to us at just the right time.  He redeems the waiting time.  He loves so deeply, so carefully, so intimately.  At Christmas, I am thankful for His love and overwhelmed by His good gifts. 

It's helpful to have it spelled out right there like that - because sometimes I forget how truly blessed I am, how deeply my Redeemer loves.

***Dayspring sent me the tree skirt for free (awesome, right?) but the opinions about it, are all my own.***

P.S. the tree skirt is on sale right now.  Big time.  Click here to check it out!

17 December 2012

and the tears keep falling...

...and there are no answers.  Not really.

Brad told me while I was driving across town Friday.  "There was a school shooting, 26 dead most of them children."  So while I merged into the left lane I could not answer him.  I could not speak; the tears, the ache in my stomach, the hurt in my heart.  And he says, "Are you still there?"  So I tell him I can't bear it.  Its so awful.  And every adjective I know seems small in comparison to this kind of horror.  At a school.  An elementary school.

Today the tears still come.  I ache for families I don't know.  I weep for children that have had to huddle in a bathroom and listen to nearby gunfire.  There are presents tucked away in closets that will not be wrapped.  There are half-finished Christmas projects in elementary classrooms that are circled with crime scene tape.

And I wonder as I watch the footage, did someone go collect the winter coats for those children that escaped the horror?  I know they hugged their parents on that cold Connecticut day without coats.  And my mind lingers on the coats, because its easier to wonder if they have coats then to think any deeper.  And I scold myself a little for being so concerned with their coats.

I cried before church.  I almost cried while the preschoolers danced crazy to "Big House."  The tears spilled as we sang Christmas carols in service and wondered how these families will ever hear the carols again.  I cried as I read the newspaper.  I wondered aloud to Brad if I should just go shut our bedroom door and wail and weep and mourn and moan.  If I cried enough, would the tears stop?  If I really got a good cry out, would it end?  Or would it just keep happening?  And he in his wisdom said, "it will keep happening."

He's right.  I've seen some of those sweet baby faces now, and heard snippets of their much-too-short-stories.  And my tears spill again.  and my stomach feels sick, and my heart feels faint.  And I pray, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be near, come quickly, hold close."  My mind wonders how?  How can these families walk into their baby's bedrooms?  How can they look at their Christmas trees?  How can they breathe?  Oh my God.  Its too much. 

But God.

He is compassionate, so He reminds me that He is able.
{be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. luke 6:36 ceb}

He is the Comforter.  
{blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 corinthians 1:3-4}

He is the Healer.  
{and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 peter 2:24}

He is Immanuel.  God with us.
{“the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). matthew 1:23 niv}

He is here. 
{where can I go from Your Spirit? or where can I flee from Your presence? psalm 139:7}

He wraps His arms around Newtown.
{I am surrounded by trouble, but you protect me against my angry enemies.  with your own powerful arm you keep me safe.  psalm 138:7}

He is near the brokenhearted. 
{the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. psalm 34:18}

He carries the weak.  
{come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  matthew 11:28}

He weeps with those who weep. 
{when Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “where have you laid him?” they said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. john 11:33-35}

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  Only Him.

He does not scold me for crying long and often.  He hears my cries and my prayers for this broken world.  My arms are heavy with the blessings of my family this Christmas, while at the same time my heart aches for those with empty arms.  Tears fill my eyes.  Those families far away.  The first responders that saw horrors worse than any imagination can fathom.  Those parents that fell broken at the news their babies were gone.  Tears fill my eyes.  The hurt down deep is only matched by the gratitude for the blessings He has so richly given me.  He urges me to count those blessings.

Tears came again this morning.  I hugged my boys extra tight. I snuck notes into their lunch bags even though the 4th grader has repeatedly asked me not to.   I even wrote notes to their teachers. Two women that God has chosen to teach our boys this year, I told them "thank you."  Through tears I wrote in flowing cursive how deeply grateful I am that they care for our boys so well.  I told them that I expect the best from them, that I do not doubt for a minute that would do everything in their power to keep their students safe - and I wanted them to know that I was grateful for that confidence in them.  I wanted each of them to know that they are appreciated.

The tears will continue this week.  No doubt.  As I see those sweet faces, and hear the brave stories; I will continue to beg Jesus to hold and comfort and bring mercy to us here. I won't seek for answers, I won't ask "why."   I will hug tighter and hold closer and make sure words are not left unsaid.  I will believe  God's word to be true and trust that He is enough.  I have no other choice.

30 November 2012

finally final!

Here is a little slideshow of our boys. It is mostly in chronological order. I had made another one, but for some reason it turned out all choppy & weird. Brad swooped in and saved the day by quickly transferring pictures to this version last night. {I had originally added captions with the babies' names on their photos. You'll have to just watch closely and look for the color-coding hints... generally Lincoln wears red and Franklin wears green. So if one of those colors is more dominate you can guess who is who. But SO many of our clothes for the boys have been given to us and therefore the color-coding isn't super consistent.}
 


The song is "Mine to Love" by Dave Barnes.

24 November 2012

Thankful!


We have so very much to be thankful for this year. Including each person that added a feather to our Turkey this year (and we're thankful for those of you that didn't too - you know who you are!) 


We tried a couple variations of the picture, the sitting one didn't last long and turned out a smidge blurry, as you can see.  The standing pose above, well, the babies r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to get their hands on some of those crosses on the cross wall!

We had a great Thanksgiving celebration.  The babies were absolutely thrilled with the amount of food and the number of choices they were given.  Brad had to work in the morning, but thankfully he was home all afternoon.  We are truly blessed!

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 
 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

19 November 2012

National Adoption Month

first meeting
Did you even know that the month of November is dedicated to adoption awareness?  I'm not sure I did until we started on this process. 

Oh, and fun fact :: I thought our child(ren) would be placed in our home during that first National Adoption Month after we finished our home study in 2010.  And get this - I thought the adoption would be finalized by the end of that same month.  It is almost laughable now {praise God} but I really believed it would be fast.  And easy.

Our experience with adoption has been neither fast nor easy.  But we have learned a whole lot.  Some things we've learned, if I'm being honest, I'd like to unlearn.  There are some hard truths out in the adoption world.  Things that unsettle, unhinge, and more or less just wreck a person.  And once you are wrecked, you can't be unwrecked.  But the glory of it is that God makes something beautiful in that messy space.  And that wreck in your heart becomes a humble place for obedience.  So, maybe I don't want to unlearn it after all.

second meeting
 "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."  Psalm 68:5-6



 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27




"But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortal  will never again strike terror." Psalm 10:14, 17-18



All that to say.  There are a few things I want to tell you in honor of National Adoption Month.  And its sort of hard to even know where to start.  Don't worry, this is not a post to try and convince you to adopt.  I'm pretty certain the Holy Spirit has got that covered.  Rather, its just a bit about how to be a part of adoption in general.  More than anything, I think, I want you to know that you have a role to play.  And its important.  Here's why:

1.  A lot of people don't know very much about adoption.  See the 2nd paragraph and you will know that I was once one of the ignorant ones.  I do not mean ignorant in the sense of idiotic so much as lacking-information.  Its not an insult, its an observation.  Folks just do not know things.  And they don't realize that they don't know...so they say things that lead you to an awkward place really quickly.  This can be a very isolating and frustrating experience for the adoptive family.  For example a nurse at the doctor's office recently launched into a tale of a baby with FAS and all of his issues after learning that the babies with us were our new sons.  Awkward. And not helpful.

2.  Adoption is expensive.  But so are children in general.  Somewhere along our journey after yet another well-meaning-encourager told me how great it was that we were adopting from foster care instead of "paying all that money to get a baby from somewhere else" it hit me.  Babies cost money.  Each one.  I haven't done the math, but I think if I added up the costs from when I was pregnant for all of my doctor's visits, prenatal vitamins, blood tests, labwork, ultrasounds, acupuncture, adjustments, maternity clothes (why not?), plus all the costs of labor + delivery... we'd be awfully close to the price of an agency-assisted adoption.  {And maybe beyond that price with my induction + epidural with Walker.}  And while we aren't really paying anything out-of-pocket for our adoption, the State is paying. There is still a cost.  And I am certain that there is not a price you could tell us today that we would say, "No way, these babies are not worth that much!"  Every child is worth it. 

3.  Adoption is a battlefield.  I feel like we have had to fight {hard + often} along the way.  I know other adoptive families that have done the same.  I have had people in church pull me aside and whisper "why are you adopting?", and I've felt judgement when I expected joy.  Somehow, the horror stories in adoption are the stories that Christians retell most often.  I don't know why, but I have a theory.  I think Satan hates adoption.  Russell Moore wrote an excellent book called, "Adopted for Life" and in it he writes, "The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world.  As we become more attuned to the gospel, we'll have more of a burden for orphans.  As we become more adoption-friendly, we'll be better able to understand the gospel."  Moore does clarify that he doesn't believe Christians should adopt out of some sort of obligation like donating to the building fund.  And to be clear, we do not believe that either.

So you might be wondering what role you have to play in all of this. 


In a nutshell : Learn, pray, give. 


Learn more about adoption, might I suggest you read "Adopted for Life" as a starting point?  This was the first book I read after we felt certain we should adopt.  Rather than convince us of anything, it confirmed what we already knew - and put it into words that helped us understand better how God was leading us through His story.  I think reading it would help anyone have a better understanding of adoption as it relates to Jesus...both as the act of adopting a child and the process of becoming an adopted Child of God. Having more knowledge about adoption will allow you to be a support for those families that are adopting, and help avoid awkward conversations!   [Click here for purchasing information!]

One of the absolute best things we did in our journey is ask others to pray.  I have a chicken-scratch-list of emails on a notecard near our computer and I emailed this group of ladies regularly about how the process was moving along (or not moving along).  These ladies encouraged me in my worn-out-weary-state more often than I can say.  Their well-timed words were soothing, encouraging, and strengthening.  They are forever a part of our family's adoption story.   They continue to be a vital part of this process.   So if you know someone that is considering adoption or is in the process of adopting... volunteer to pray with them.  And then do it.  Often.  This will help in the battlefield of adoption more than you or I can know.

And one more practical thing you can do?  Give.  If you know a family that is adopting there is a good chance that they are needing to raise funds.  Not always, but often. So ask what they need.  And give.  Maybe you can trade services or goods, or host a yard sale.  You might be able to offer something that will translate into funds for them, even if you can't hand over cash.  Whatever you can give will help with the expense of adoption.

And if we happen to be the only family that you know personally that is in the middle of this adoption journey, well, I have a suggestion. ;)

I am guessing that if you have read this far than you r-e-a-l-l-y love our family.  And there is a good chance that you would have given as much as you could if we had needed you to.  But God provided for our adoption in another way.  So today I'd like you to consider if you might like to make a donation in Lincoln and Franklin's honor to help bring home some baby girls from India.  My friend, Aimee, and her husband and two boys are adopting two sweet girls from India.  God has brought in an astonishing $37,000 toward their adoption and they are in the final push for the remaining $10,000.  I assure you, every little bit helps.   I will send you an email with further details about donating to their adoption.  Leave a comment or email me if you would like this information.

24 October 2012

long awaited and somehow unexpected

Only God.  He gives us a dream, a hope, a heart-desire.  And this broken-down-world seems slow, and procedures seem pointless.  But He promises.  And we wait.  With expectation.  And He gives confidence to the expectant heart.  So we wait with hope.  Psalm 33:20 - We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.

This journey to our boys has been long.  And its been hard.  Our blog has been quiet through most of this process, and I regret today that you might not know all the twists and turns and heartaches and setbacks that have been intermingled with the laughter and joy and belly laughs and messy hands.  I pray that your not-knowing will not diminish the BIGNESS of what our God has done. Psalm 40:5 - Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

We met these sweet boys nine months ago.  {Yes, nine months.} And this week, the state of GA released them to us for the purpose of adoption.  We signed all the necessary paperwork and now we wait to go to court.  (At that paperwork-signing-meeting we found out that the State is waiving the six-month-post-placement period because they have been in our home for so long.  Oh and we found out that the State will pay for the adoption costs and that the babies qualify for federal adoption assistance.)

And in the middle of all this good news, can you guess the thing that has just totally blown me away this week?  Is that I didn't know THIS WAS THE WEEK.  I've longed for it, begged for it, believed it was coming - and yet somehow our God can still surprise an expectant heart.  And in doing so, He has reminded me of the greatest story - of the long-awaited Messiah and the surprising way He came.  And isn't it like God to remind us that our story is always a part of a bigger Story?  Always.

And I can't help but think of Mary's song to God upon hearing her good news -  Luke 1:46-55
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.  He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

And isn't this the sweetest treasure that God has blessed us with this Truth for Lincoln & Franklin's story too?  I feel small, and humbled, and amazed, and grateful.  Psalm 8:3-4 - When I look up at your skies; at what your fingers made- the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place- what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them?
                            
**All photographs are courtesy of Lasting Frame Photography, or as the boys call her "Aunt Emily"  

...and for the sake of helping you determine "who is who" this picture helps with that a bit.  Lincoln M. Lutz has the blue shorts on, his face is a little fuller; we generally describe his face as a round oval.  Franklin T. Lutz has the darker shorts on, his eyes are a bit more round, at times his face looks thinner, at other times just as round.   God has also blessed them with distinguished birthmarks for easy recognition if you're in a pinch.  Franklin's is on his shoulder and Lincoln's is on his thigh. ;)  And they have very distinct personalities. ;)

08 October 2012

long weekend

 Sometimes I forget that we still have a blog.  Ooops.  The boys had a long weekend, and thankfully Brad had Friday off too!  We went to a place called The Farmhouse.  We had lunch then checked out the farm.
 

I adore this picture of the four of them.  It kinda captures their personalities perfectly.

 And this is a collage of my attempts to get a picture of all four boys together in the "pumpkin patch."  You really need to click on the collage to see the facial expressions... especially Walker in the first and last picture!  {They call it a pumpkin patch, but really its just a bunch of pumpkins sitting around that were trucked in from who knows where.}

21 August 2012

the turning

This summer has been a tough one.  I've wrestled with putting pen to paper and listing out every hard thing - from the little to the big. I wondered if I saw just how many "various trials" there were that somehow I could find balance in the heaviness I still carry.

But I don't think that is the answer.  Seeing it all in black and white.

No, I want to see it through the lens of His grace.  The grace that carries, chases, and holds close.  The grace that says you don't have to try-hard or strive more or dig deeper.  The grace that says let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.

Yes, I want to remember the summer of 2012 as a milestone of God's amazing grace in my life.

I re-read Grace for the Good Girl slow with some awesome women {good girls, really}.  I am reading Grace-Based Parenting.  And its grace upon grace upon grace in my life.  As the big boys start school and challenges continue to pile up - with a quick trip to MI, and an important long-awaited-court-decision pushed back two weeks, and a potential "permanent profile" for Brad.

I sense that the hardness of the summer is lingering.  And its still heavy.  I plead to let peace rule.  As often as it takes.  Behind the steering wheel, in the shower through tears, after disappointments resurface.  And His grace finds me.

There have been a handful of out-of-the-blue-THIS-is-THE-life-moments in my life.  Times when it almost feels like a picture was taken and a caption was written "You are exactly where you are supposed to be right this very moment."  

I'm not talking about a wedding day, or a baby's birth, or a redeployment ceremony, or even that sweet moment when your grandparents meet their great-grandchild.  No, I'm not referring to the obvious "I ADORE THIS WONDERFUL LIFE" moments ... I have so many of those.  And they are certainly part of my stored up treasures that I revisit during hard times.

However, every once in awhile when everything isn't right, when there hasn't been a conclusion, when relationships still hang tense...Grace finds me and gives me that out-of-the-blue-THIS-is-THE-life-moment anyway.  I have a pretty crappy memory, but these moments I can recall perfectly.  I remember that moment driving down the mountain from Julian to Oceanside with my window down, and jammed onto a smelly bus with my knees alternated between Gambian knees, and after driving through the gate between open fields and Wilson's school while Brad was deployed - these vivid, etched-in-my-brain moments of God whispering, "Child you are exactly where I want you to be right this very moment - and I know its hard even still, but believe me I am with you."

This weekend as 5 out of 6 of us battle a cold and we head into Brad's crazy week... God gave me that moment.  I'll add it to my treasury.

It was late Saturday - late for us is after 10pm these days.  All of our boys were in bed.  Brad was prepping the coffee for Sunday morning.  I walked up the stairs, and turned the corner just past the loud creak, and I paused - deciding whether or not to hide and scare Brad when he came up the stairs {because we are very mature around here}.

And Grace found me.  And peace rushed over me.  And I knew in that moment that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.  As I stood in the glow of the nightlight, I breathed that deep breath of joy. And smiled wide  And decided not to scare Brad this time.

I turned the corner.  Peace rules.  Grace wins.  Always.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."  

Colossians 3:15

This post "When you are finding it hard to keep up {Chased by Grace}" by Ann Voskamp speaks of this Grace in a much more beautiful way than I ever could.

16 August 2012

so we won't ever forget

I made some artwork as a reminder of our little-sesame-seed-size-baby and our God's faithfulness in the middle of heartbreak.  We considered buying some artwork, but I couldn't find any that fit my font-criteria & was budget-friendly.  So, I used some old fabric to wrap the mat board and Microsoft publisher for the rest.  And a cheapo frame from Micheal's.  I love it, not too girly, not too boyish... just perfect in my opinion.  The verse really was an anchor for me.  Even while I was in the ER that long Saturday, there was a song in my head that references this verse - "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand".

I had considered some sort of artwork with a sesame seed, because this little itty-bitty baby will always be connected to that for me.  When I went to the due-date calculator, the little write-up about "Your Baby at Five Weeks" said it was the size of a sesame seed. So tiny, yet life-changing all at the same time.

I'm not sure if you can get the jpeg from here or not, but if you want it and this doesn't work, just let me know ;)

03 August 2012

eighteen months

Today is your half-birthday. We aren't really half-birthday-celebrators. But, we are still making up a little bit for those days before you were home. So momma dressed you in your cutie-rompers-that-are-almost-too-small and drew on the sidewalk with chalk. Because I am marking this day in my memory bank, babies!
Neither of you are really all that impressed with photo-shoots. You were interested in the chalk a bit. And while a photo of both of you looking at the camera at the same time was a little too much, I did manage a couple of cute shots of both of you together.
And a couple cute shots of each of you on your own.  

You are such a cheeser when you want to be, sweet boy!  You are ready for whatever the day brings you, as long as there are snacks and some outside-play-time.

I can barely take your adorableness at times.  Yes, I am your momma, and adorableness is totally an acceptable way to describe you.
And you, little man, with your fake-surprise-face.  Oh, let me always remember it.
You would really rather be on the go than sitting still.  And I get that.  You are healthy, and inquisitive, and all the things an 18-month old baby should be.  I can still call you 'baby', right?
This might be my favorite, because it captures the fact that you both would rather look anywhere than at the silly camera. 
And one more of you with your lovies. 
You are 18 months old today.  You giggle with glee at your brothers.  You love the big, white dog.  You will eat almost anything you are offered, unless of course, it is a vegetable.  Recently, you've both determined that jumping in your cribs as high and as hard as you possibly can is THE. GREATEST. THING. EVER.  You both are gathering more words in your vocabulary on a daily basis.  

We love you dearly, babies.  More than your little-18-month-old-brains can possibly comprehend.  

We have a few more steps in this process until we all have matching last names.  We are praying that God will allow each step to happen just the way it needs to, and I am asking Him to hold my momma-heart-close as we wait for that finalization day.  I trust His timing, and I believe His word.  You are safely secured in our hearts.  The rest is just paperwork. 

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope."
Psalm 130:5


p.s. Grandparents -  if you click on a picture, they should open in a bigger screen so you can take in the cuteness more easily.

27 July 2012

junior

 On a summer Tuesday we draw pictures for a boy in Uganda.  
We draw clouds and sky and grass.

We pick a verse and put it on construction paper.

We choose stickers and write a letter.  We tell him we are praying for him and his family.  We are grateful to reply to his note, and throw in some extras for fun.  Junior's most recent letter to us... he wrote without the help of a translator!  Its the first letter of the kind with no one else transcribing his words.  We are seeing this boy grow.  And we marvel that we get to be a part of it.

So as we write, we do it together.  Babies put crayon to paper, while the rest of us do our part. (And shortly thereafter, crayons to mouth, naturally).


We are blessed to be a part of Junior's life.  We celebrate when we get a letter.  I get teary-eyed when we get a new picture.  This is one of the most marvelous ways to remind our family that we are blessed... and that we can be a blessing to others ... and in turn, we are blessed even more.  Over and over!

If you don't already, would you consider sponsoring a child?  We sponsor through Compassion International. Click here to check it out. 

22 July 2012

four boys.


Just thought I'd post a couple pictures that I adore of our kiddos and balloons. You can probably figure this out, the first one was taken on Walker's birthday and the second one was taken on Wilson's birthday.  I've learned even in that short span of time (less than a month between those two birthdays), to stress less about having all eight eyes on the camera.  So when we all look back on those pictures of the tops of heads instead of faces we remember laughter instead of momma screaming "look at me, look at me, look at me, keep your eyes on my camera, would you just look... etc, etc."  And really, laughing memories are much better.  Slow and steady, we'll win this race.

18 July 2012

nine!

for real? 

My first born is NINE.  Oh Willy-Bills!  Before you came along I was a teacher.  And now I am a mom.  The way I identify myself totally changed once you came in my world!  Crazy, huh?

You know the day before you were born I was anxious to meet you.  So anxious, in fact, that I brewed up some Raspberry Tea and added a shot of Castor Oil to it.  Supposedly those things can make a momma have a baby faster.  And I don't know if it was my magic mix or if somehow your tiny-self decided it was time; but the next night I held you in my arms.  I know that it was really God's perfect timing.

And, by the way,  I still can't believe that all you have to do is give birth and the hospital people let you bring that baby home with you.

But we did bring you home, didn't we?  And since you are the first born, each year is a new first for us.  Your dad and I have never ever been parents to a nine year old before.  So we'll be learning right along with you... as always.

Wilson, 8 was really a big year for you.  You know that right?  I couldn't get over how well you connected with your classmates this year.  It was so fun to listen in on the conversations in your classroom on the Fridays when I came to help out.  When one of your classmates came to our church and ran over and said, "Hi Wilson's mom!  You know Wilson is like the smartest kid in 3rd grade?"  I will always remember that.  Its something I call 'treasure' and son, you've given me a lot of it.

Speaking of church, the last time I was volunteering I watched you sit and chat with one of the boys sitting in your row.  Just having a full-blown-8-year-old-boy conversation.  I just loved it.  We had pegged you a bit as being "the quiet, shy one."  But this year, you've kinda taught us to be careful about how we peg.  

Now you want to play football!  I am so excited for you to try this out again.  Although, I am not sure that we should count your just-barely-three-year-old football experience as actual football experience.  It was hilarious to watch those videos the other night.  At first I laughed so hard that tears came in my eyes, and then the tears stayed because I am a mom.  And there is such a teeny-tiny-line between laughing tears and sorrow tears.  Because babies grow up.  And fast.

And you hate it a little when I get all teary & mushy.  You've been around for so much of my teary & mushy, and your sensitive heart always tries to encourage or make a joke.  I love that sensitive heart of yours.  God has carefully crafted you in such a way that makes you a fantastic big brother.  Even with the giant changes in our family this year and your big-brother-responsibilities growing in BIG ways, you've managed to do your best.  You've adapted to sharing a room again, and you've found ways to play with Walker more often... even if you would really rather be reading! You make the babies giggle so easily.  I am proud of you.  So proud.

I know NINE is going to be fantastic.  It will probably go too fast.  So let's try our best to really take it one day at a time.  I know God has BIG plans for you this year, I am honored to get to be a part of it all with you!

11 July 2012

five days


We knew for sure for five days.  But deep down, I’m pretty certain I knew before that pregnancy test.  And I couldn’t believe it.  I inwardly giggled at the commissary as I bought diapers, dog food and a pregnancy test.  I almost took a picture on instagram to record the moment.  If you are in my inner circle then you might know that I think I’m pregnant a few times a year, regardless of seemingly insurmountable circumstances.  The $1 pregnancy tests at the commissary have been an inexpensive way to disprove my pregnancy-related-thoughts.  Somehow, I thought this time might be different.

I never wait until the time is up to look at a pregnancy test.  I’m too impatient.  So when the control line was the only one to appear - some ugly lies started yammering in my brain - “You are so stupid, like God would really allow you to be pregnant right now.  Seriously?  You thought He would?”  - but another voice started up almost immediately, “That is NOT what THIS is about.   God called you to this moment whether this test says you are pregnant or not, You are His and He loves you…” and I kid you not, the faintest of faint lines began to appear.  I picked up the test and held it close, I scoured my memory, never before had these $1 pregnancy tests shown even a glimmer of a 2nd line.  I was pregnant! 
 
Brad had to work late.  I intended on waiting until the next morning to even take the test, but again with the impatience.  So when he came home at 11:30 or midnight or who knows what time, I was still awake.  Wide-eyed.  I ran downstairs and he looked puzzled, I blurted out, “I can’t sleep” and he noticed I was holding something in my hands and he asked, “You’re pregnant?”  And he wore the biggest smile because he knew the answer.  And there wasn’t any stress or concern, just a smile and then a big hug; followed by “Number Five!”  

We weren’t sure what the caseworker would think.  We weren’t sure really what anyone would think.  Brad was working his crazy-schedule-week so we hadn’t even really discussed when we’d tell anyone.  We were giddy and shocked and giddy.  I wasn’t so shocked that we would eventually have 5 kids as I was shocked that I was pregnant again.  I kinda thought we would just adopt again.  I wondered about my much-older-than-the-last-time body.  And thought I should try NOT to gain 60 + pounds this time.  We knew we had a court date scheduled for mid-August so maybe we could just wait until the adoption was finalized before letting the cat out of the bag.  That would give us plenty of time to settle in to the idea of a maxed-out mini-van; and figure out how to reply to the sure-to-come comments like, “you know how that happens right?”  I worried that Wilson and Walker might never have their own bedrooms again, Brad assured me that this was a first-world-problem, and I laughed because he was right.

We savored our secret.  I think we were both much more excited than either one of us really expected.  It felt irresponsible and brave all at the same time.  FIVE kids!  We knew God would provide for us.  That was never an issue.  

We found out on Tuesday with that $1 test.  We bought some fancier, more expensive tests on Thursday and, of course, one confirmed it.  It was a twin pack, so I had an extra left over. 

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.  Five days.  Not even five full days.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling sick.  Headache and nausea.  And some bleeding.  I was convinced it was nothing, it would go away.  I have this weird response to nausea, I eat.  I know it goes back to my post-Africa-stomach-issues; so I made myself eat breakfast and drink some coffee.  Brad was worried.  I told him I was OK.  I felt awful.  I went to lie down.  I don’t even know exactly what happened that morning.  The bleeding didn’t stop.  The headache got worse, my breakfast came back.  I remember thinking my body was fighting for this pregnancy.  I remember trying to talk my body into fighting hard.  Brad drove me to the ER.  I got sick on the way.  I thought about a story about an ectopic pregnancy and asked Brad if he was my “ICE contact” in my phone.  I wasn’t sure my legs would carry me in when he pulled to the door.  I just wanted it to all be better.  

I walked in to the ER and told them what was happening, “I think I am having a miscarriage.”  Of course, the words will barely come out through the tears.  I feel weak and silly and mad at my body.  “I have a bad headache, and I can’t keep anything down.”  She asks me how far along I am, “I think I am 4-5 weeks, I haven’t seen my PCM yet and didn’t know what to do so I came here; I didn’t have a doctor to call.”  She takes my card and I go sit down.  I think to myself that maybe my running shorts weren’t a good choice.  Brad texts me to let me know he is waiting in the parking lot for a bit. 
I feel a little like everyone in the waiting room is wondering what is wrong with this crying lady.  I tell myself no one in the ER really cares.  

When I get called back, I get hooked up to a bp cuff, and heart rate monitor.  I’m in a private ob-gyn room off the main ER bay.  I get to change into a gown and sit on a bed.  I’m relieved a little bit about the running shorts.  The doc comes in shortly, I tell him my LMP date.  I tell him I just had a physical on the 20th, I tell him I took a pregnancy test on the 26th.  He decides to give me an IV, run bloodwork, do a pelvic exam and an ultrasound.  He also gave me some Tylenol. My headache continues but the nausea subsides.  Brad texts some people from church.  He asks me if I want anyone to sit with me.  I don’t.  He would be the only one I would want there, but I want him with the boys.  And since we are still foster-to-adopt parents of our babies, we can’t just call a friend to watch them, it would have to be a state-approved caregiver.  That stresses me out to think about.  I want Brad with them.  

I don’t feel alone though.  I know I am not alone.  Whenever the nurse leaves my little room, I close my eyes, and let the hot tears well up.  I tell my Savior that I know I am not alone.  I trust Him to carry us through this.  Brad and I texted back and forth the whole time, my favorite text from him said, “God is good, we just gotta trust Him.” 

Finally the doctor comes in and says it’s a “threatened abortion.”  I hate that word.  I know it also means miscarriage.  He tells me there’s a 50/50 chance of this pregnancy continuing.  He tells me that the body will do this if there is a problem with the pregnancy, it will take care of it.  Or something.  I don’t remember exactly.  He said the ultrasound was inconclusive and that I needed to get my hCG checked on Monday.

Everything in me hoped this would be one of those “close calls.” I sent an email to my praying girlfriends, although I had no idea how to ask them to pray.  Our parents and siblings all knew and were praying too.  We did our best to explain things to Wilson and Walker…even though I know they were still both confused about it all.   I think Brad knew early on how this would end.  He didn’t rush me to the same conclusion.  Even after the bleeding continued he didn’t make me feel silly for hoping maybe just maybe.  I think I am pretty good about realizing how awesome my husband is, but oh my, does he shine during tough times.  My words would really be lacking if I tried to elaborate on how well he cared for me, for all of us, during these days.

I spent much of the day Monday googling about “threatened abortions at week 5”.  I’m not proud of it, I was just hoping to find something to make it ok.  I found out late Monday that my hCG went down.  Brad was at work.  The babies were sleeping.  Wilson and Walker were watching TV.  I just laid on the bed and sobbed.  I knew there were people that wanted to know what we found out, but I couldn’t bring myself to call or text any of them.  I thought there was going to be a miracle.  I cried some more.  I told God how awful all of this felt.  I told Him that I didn’t feel like telling anyone.   I just wanted to lie there and close my eyes and wake up with it all over… like a nightmare you wake up from.  I know people were praying even in these moments because I was protected from accusations cropping up in my mind.  I felt sorrow, but I didn’t feel guilt.

A week later and I still do not know the first thing about how to process this.  I cannot believe how incredibly painful this is.  We only knew for 5 days.  And I will carry this loss all of my days.  In many ways, I feel God spared me some pain, like if we had seen a heartbeat, or ultrasound pictures, if we had made our ‘big announcement;’ while at the same time I feel that we missed out on so much because this pregnancy only lasted a few short days.  We’ve been left with nothing to show for it.  Those stupid digital pregnancy tests just show a blank screen after a day instead of the word “pregnant.”  And I’m mad about it.  And the tears come so easy.  And my heart feels so broken.  And I have four beautiful boys that bring so much joy to my day, but there is still an ache for a baby I will never hold; that I never even got to feel the weight of.  And it is a heavy burden.  There is a word that keeps rising in me, as I muddle through fleeting pregnancy hormones, the word is cruel – to still ‘feel pregnant’ when there is no baby growing, I can’t think of a better word for it.  I know my God is not cruel, but I am reminded again that this world is.  And this is not my home. 

I feel a little tossed about.  But I am certain that the anchor holds.  And while, technically there is nothing tangible to show for this pain, I will hold tightly to the memory of the night we found out… that priceless, indescribable look on Brad’s face.  I will treasure the reminders of God’s faithfulness in that ER room as the tears fell slow.  I have the emails and texts from friends & family that reassured me of their prayers and God’s goodness.  The sweet hopefulness of a biggest brother, that thought maybe this would be a girl, and that middle brother that asked me just yesterday, “if the doctors were sure this was a miscarriage.”  I didn’t expect them to be excited too.  God has shown me again how big their little hearts are.  

So my heart hurts.  But my faith grows.  I know He has good things in store for us.  I don’t doubt it.  I don’t know how, where, or when, but I don’t doubt it.  I know He comforts carefully and faithfully.  He led me to this anchor verse to tie me down and hold me safe, if you get a chance you should read the verses surrounding it to, 

“We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19a

22 June 2012

SIX!

 Oh our full-of-life Walker boy!  You are six today.  Six!  I won't ask you how this happened, because I think I know; but goodness, you are just growing so fast.

You totally rocked age 5.  You started kindergarten even though I was certain I couldn't handle it.  God and your daddy talked me off that ledge, but I sure {secretly} hoped that by the 2nd week you'd be miserable and I could keep you home with me longer.  But as is often the case, God and Daddy were right and you thrived at school.  You excelled in the classroom and on the playground.  I am almost positive that you know everyone in K and 1st grade... and you don't just recognize them, you know their name and which classroom they are in.  Somehow at age 5 you have already started investing in people.  And your daddy, big brother, and I all marvel at this.

And son.  I can't begin to tell you how amazing it has been to see you as a big brother.  If I'm honest, I'll have to admit that I was so worried about how you would do with two new brothers.  More worried than I should've been.  But once again, God asked me to trust Him with your heart.  And He showed me marvelous things.  You are patient.  And you want to help so much.  Just this week I watched you building blanket forts with your brothers, and I listened to them giggle as you played.  They think you are a pretty awesome big brother!  You have grown in so many ways, and it has been such an honor to watch you stretch your big brother wings to fly!  What joy!

You enjoy the simple things, and help the rest of us enjoy them too.  The only thing you were adamant about wanting for your birthday was balloons.  BALLOONS!  You continually amaze me with your grateful, contented heart.  I pray God continues to nurture gratefulness and contentedness deep down in your soul. 
Your energy is seemingly endless, your laughter is contagious.  You bring joy along with you.  I have no doubt that God has big things planned for you in this year of 6.  I'm sure He'll have to ask me again and again to trust Him with His timing in your life, and I pray I keep learning that lesson well.  I love this adventure with you!

14 May 2012

naive enough






So, most of you know how we got to this place of adopting.  Lots of praying, conversation, waiting, praying, rinse & repeat.  And we decided to jump in and move forward with a domestic adoption through foster care.

And you know what? I was naive enough to think that God was going to place a child in our home in just a handful of months.  And after nearly a year of waiting, I thought, well, maybe I just need to fire up some prayer warriors.  And I was naive enough to think that after I sent that first email to my praying-friends that God was going to place a child in our home.  And after 8 months of emailing out updates, we got a call that we had been matched.  And I was naive enough to think that our babies would be legally-our-babies within a month of two.  That was four months ago. 

I don't know how long this process will take until we all have matching last names.  I am ok with that.  I can see that God leads me with enough naivety to take the next step.  He doesn't fill me in on all the details because there is a good chance that I would just say "NO WAY! THAT IS LIKE WAY WAY TOO HARD."  And so He just leads me step by step.  With constant reminders that He is the same, yesterday, today and always.  And He has surrounded me with lovely people that pray for our family.  And I am certain that they also pray that I am not kept awake at night with worry about this process (because I am not kept awake at night with worry about this process).

It occurred to me today, about those weeks between that "you've been matched" phone call and our first meeting with the caseworkers & foster mom.  Weeks.  It felt like forever.  But God was already growing love in our hearts for these two babies.  And I realized today, that those weeks gave root.  Because at that first meeting we found out some things that might've caused us to say, "NO WAY!" if we had found out on that initial phone call.  We needed those roots to hold the news that this was going to be a different path than we had expected. And by the time we found that out,  there was no longer a place in our hearts that could imagine a "NO."

"The very steps we take come from God, otherwise how would we know where we are going?"
Proverbs 20:24

Wherever you are, whatever you are facing.  God has a plan.  And He is working it out.  And it might seem like its taking a sweet-forever, but His timing is always just-right.  And the things that are growing roots in this waiting place, are things you need in your life... and there is a good chance that those roots will one day hold it altogether.  So take your next step with confidence that He has got this.  And if you look back and think you might have been a little naive with your expectations, its likely His way of protecting you from throwing your arms up and saying, "NO WAY, THAT IS LIKE WAY WAY TOO HARD!"

11 May 2012

on celebrating mother's day

Mother's Day has never been a one-woman celebration for my sister and I.  I think probably even on the Mother's Days that I don't remember we celebrated Grandma's too. 

Its tricky being from a broken home.  Every circumstance I've encountered has helped shape me into who I am and the life I now live.  And while I would never advocate that divorce is the best-case-scenario, I will stake my life on the belief that God can take broken dreams, broken hearts, and broken homes and create beauty.  I know it, because He has done it for my sister and I.  The road here has not been easy.  God used many women to touch my sister and I in a maternal way.  We have taken for granted too many times how much love our grandmothers' poured into us - each in their own special and unique way. 

God used other women to mold us too... And I am guessing that back in the early 80's each of those women had some strong opinions about this situation we were in. Those ladies could've filled our little girl hearts with their side of the story.  And I am sure each one had a side.  Likely we would've felt we had to choose a side, or would've felt bad for not choosing a side.  We might have felt caught in the middle.  But instead, because they stayed quiet, we just felt loved.  By many.  And I treasure each of these women that have made me the woman I am today.  Dearly. 

Today, though, I celebrate the one that is my mom.  She didn't do it all.  She never claimed to.  She did the best she could.  Always.  And she allowed others to love us when she wasn't able to.  She never tried to diminish their love for us, she never tried to take away from what they had given.  And so amid her own heart break and hard choices, she made room for my sister and I to grow up strong and well loved. 

In Joel 2, there is a verse about God redeeming the years the locusts have eaten.  I believe He is faithful to His word...

The threshing floors will be full of grain,
And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.
 “Then I will make up to you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
 “You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
Then My people will never be put to shame.
Joel 2:24-26

And what started out rough, is turning out beautifully.  When God reconciles a relationship, He allows us to remember the joys, and helps to cover the pains.  So I look back on what the world calls broken and see laughter.  I see trips to the beach, the cabin, the Ocean.  I see dancing in the car.  I see Shel Silverstein poems being read often. I see hugs and laughing and teasing with sisters.  I recall the loudest mouth from the bleachers, even as I was up to bat - to strike out again. 

My mom taught me to do my best.  To try new things.  To believe the best in others.  To love adventure.  To love your {extended} family, even if you disagree wholeheartedly; because they will be there for you and for your kids.   To never give up.

I love my momma, not because she was perfect while I was growing up.  I love her because of who she is.  And by God's grace, my momma and I are experiencing a great relationship now.  What could've been trampled and forgotten so many years ago, continues to flourish now.  Those ladies that invested in my sister and I, might not realize that they have helped my grown-up-relationship with my mom.  But I can see it now.  And I am so grateful that they were able to keep their opinions to themselves, so God could nurture this seed buried deep. 

She is a superb "Yaya" to my boys.  I am almost positive that there is a laugh-until-we-cry-moment every time we are together these days.  And sometimes it happens over the phone too.  And when I am just having a down right bad day, she answers my call and breathes encouragement.  It gets better and better.  And while neither of us could yet claim perfection, we both adore one another. 

The greatest gift she gave me is this beautiful relationship we have now.  It reminds me to do the best I can each day with my boys and trust that God will create something beautiful in the end, even when I fail, even when I crumble.  God does not, will not, and can not.  I can trust that my mothering will be enough because God is faithful.  He has shown me His faithfulness in my precious relationship with my own momma.  In a place that maybe back in the 80's nobody had much hope for.  But God knew. 


09 May 2012

book review


I finally finished the 2nd book I bought after Christmas.  I tend to read books slowly, take in bits and pieces and think them over before moving on.  Add to it the adopting-twin-one-year-olds, and my book reading process really, really slowed down!

Grace for the Good Girl - letting go of the try-hard life is an excellent book; even if you wouldn't necessarily classify yourself as a "good girl."  It actually took me a bit to commit to reading it because of that "good girl" phrase.  But I adore the author's blog, and so often her posts are written exactly for me on exactly the right day.  And a few women (girls?) that I highly respect and appreciate had great praise for this book.  So I decided to go for it.  And wouldn't you know right in the middle of this adoption process is actually the perfect time for me to read this book?

Because I need grace.  A lot of it.  
But sometimes, I believe the lie that I should be able to handle this myself.
I believe that if I just to do the right things, the right way, it will work out right.
And when I make a mess, I get mad at myself for making a mess... because I should know better.

Instead of trying harder and shoulding myself, I need grace.

I need to let go of tightly clenched fists and let grace grow in open hands.

This book gave me a new mantra for these days that are newly filled with double-toddler-hood.  
Chapter 11 - receive - on truth and trusting : begins with this verse {and by the way, I adore books that have quotes at the beginning of a chapter, its like a little sneak preview all wrapped up in perfectly chosen words}

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."  Colossians 3:15

Emily goes on to talk about "the letting" in chapter 11.  I feel I might do a great disservice by just choosing a few of her words, but this letting bit covered me like the most comfy blanket...surrounding me and assuring me that this letting is where I will find my Savior's grace.

"We have the letting power.  If I cling to my if-only-I-coulds and my if-they-would-justs, I miss out on the freedom to be found in letting peace rule.  The truth is true whether I let it be or not.  Colossians says let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...
... I have to receive this peace.  It is not an easy thing to do, to quiet the voices of the accusing party and to allow peace to have the authority.  If I will let it, the peace of Christ will stand between me and the lies of the enemy, the lies that accuse and attack and shame.  Letting this peace rule is a profound mystery, and for many years, it seemed impossible."

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  

Many mornings, before I even put my feet in the floor, I start with that verse.  Many times throughout the day when things get messy and frustration starts creeping, I repeat that verse.  Sometimes, as I repeat it, I put emphasis on "LET" and other times on "PEACE" and still other times "RULE," and of course, "and BE THANKFUL."

So good.  So so good.  You should read it.  And just today, Emily posted this on her blog... so maybe you should read it this summer.

p.s.
Emily is in the process of editing Graceful, which is written for young women that are starting out as good girls. It will be available in  the fall.