Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm from

I am from burnt orange Tupperware and mustard yellow Kitchen Aid mixer and the fragrance of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven.

I am from home-with-an-open door and someone always there. Overnight guests, family friends and neighbors always welcomed to the table.
I am from book-reading, notebook-filling, diary and poetry-writing.


I’m from family reunions, dozens of aunts and uncles and too many cousins to count. Visits to grandparents on the farm and to the yellow house in the small town in the southwestern corner of the state.

From hardworking handyman father and homemade-cooking mother. From younger brother and 16 month-older-sister.


I’m from loudness and laughter, prayer before meals and family birthday celebrations.


I’m from Michael W. Smith cassette tapes, footprints in the sand poems, music concerts, spring break trips and “Our God is an Awesome God.”


I’m from small towns followed by life in the city. From warm sloppy joes, green bean casserole, hot dishes and mashed potatoes.


I’m from Sunday services and youth group Wednesdays. From Bible camp in the summer, youth retreats in the winter, and God-seeking moments in the midst of it all.  


I’m from sinful ugliness, hurtful words, tears and tough times. From a broken heart and a sad smile and would someone please take the pain away?

I’m from grace and forgiveness, from commitment despite hardship and messiness.

I'm from a long line of Jesus lovers and Bible believers and truth seekers. I'm from hope in the Everlasting God who brings beatuty from ashes and makes all things new.



-----------------------------------------------

Awhile back I read an I'm From blog post and decided to take a crack at it myself. If you're interested in writing your own I'm From, you can use the following template to get started (if you write your own, please leave a comment and link so I can read it!):
 
Adapted by Levi Romero

Inspired by “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon

I am from ________________________ (an everyday item in your home)

from ________________ and _______________ (products or everyday items in your home)

I am from the ___________________________ (description of your home)

_________________________________ (a detail about your home – a smell, taste, or feel)

I am from the____________________ (plant, flower, natural item)

The __________________________ (plant or tree near your home)

whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I’m from _______________ and ________________ (a family tradition and family trait)

from ______________and ______________________ (family members)

I’m from _________________and _________________ (family habits)

and from_____________________. (family habit)

I’m from _______________ and _______________ (things you were told as a child)

and ____________________________________ (a song or saying you learned as a child)

I’m from_________________________ (a family tradition)

I’m from ____________ (place of birth) and ___________ (family ancestry, nationality or

place)

_______________and _________________ (family foods)

From ___________________________________ (a story about a family member)

___________________________ (detail about the story or person)

_____________________________ (description of family momentos, pictures or treasures.)

_________________________ (location of momentos – under my bed, on the wall, in my

heart)

______________________________________________ (more description if needed)

_______________________________________________

By

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday Little Man

Dear Samuel,
My sweet Samuel. I can hardly believe that tomorrow you will be five years old. It seems impossible that five years have gone by since we first laid eyes on you.

Your dad and I feel so privileged and honored to have watched you grow during the past five years. You make us so very proud Samuel. And never more so than in the past 13 days as we have watched you love on your new baby sister. Your world has been turned upside down with the arrival of a baby in the household...and yet you love her so much already. You want to see her, hold her, kiss her constantly, check on her, laugh at her, touch her. It's very apparent that you are as crazy about your little sis as we are.

I love that you have a tender side that is so gentle and loving with younger kids. I love that I get to see you be a big brother all over again. I love that God gave you a tender heart for little ones...while the rest of your heart is filled with love for superheroes these days :)

Waiting on the breakfast table for you are some batman toys, spiderman underwear, ninja turtle band aids and Vikings playing cards. These are your passions at age five. When you're not fighting bad guys, you are pretending to be a football player wearing your jersey multiple days each week. You make your Grandpa Steve, Uncle Scott and Aunt Sher (Vikings enthusiasts) so very proud.

Recently you learned to ride a two-wheeler. It was months in the works, but the day we took off those training wheels you took off -- confidently and smoothly. It is so FUN to see you ride your two wheeler. It also requires extra prayers for safety and protection. It's a reminder that you are growing up quickly and each season, each milestone is a lesson for me...a lesson in letting go just a little bit more and allowing you the freedom you need to experience life.

When I talked to you from the hospital after Lydia was born I said, "I miss you Samuel and can't wait to see you at home." Your response: "I miss daddy." I could only laugh and smile. You have always been a daddy's boy. You two are best buds. You take trips together nearly every day to the gym, Target, library, grocery store, Home Depot. The last time dad was "lawning" you followed him around with your lawn mower continually asking him to go slower so you could keep up. You love your dad so much and he returns that love wholeheartedly.

Your energy is endless Samuel. Your questions are constant (Which way is Africa? What's the Incredibles last name? Why is it called Minnehaha Falls?). Your memory and your observation skills are impressive. Your love for salami sandwiches, hummus and almond milk is second to none. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and it is a JOY to celebrate you today.

Five years little man. It's been a whirlwind. It's been an adventure. It's been so much more than your dad and I could have ever dreamt or imagined during our wait to welcome babies into our family. Five years ago today our family consisted of just your dad and I. And now we are a family of five. And it all started with you and your grand entrance into our lives, our world and our hearts. Since the moment we saw you in the nursery at the hospital, when they placed those wristbands on us declaring that we were your parents...we have never been the same. You changed us Samuel. You made us parents.

As always, we are eternally grateful to your birth mom for choosing us to raise you and love you and watch you grow. We are humbled and in awe that God has given us three precious miracles to parent. You are part of our story Samuel....and our story is part of a greater story that God is writing for our family.

Happy 5th birthday my son. I love you the whole, whole, whole, whole, whole way to the moon and back. I love you from the top of that beatiful head of blonde hair all the way to the tips of those oh so dirty boy toes.

On your birthday and always,
Mom

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Introducing the newest member of our family

Friends my heart is full tonight as I introduce you to my precious Lydia Ann. She was born Friday, September 20 at 3:14 a.m. weighing in at 8lbs, 4 oz.

She is beautiful and healthy and another reminder of God's goodness and faithfulness to us.

We did not know the gender of this little one, so when Ryan said, "It's a girl!" and they placed her on my chest, I sobbed and couldn't stop. She was here. She was perfect. And I was desperately in love with her simply because she was mine.

I am so in awe that God has seen fit to bless us with three beautiful miracles.

As I type these words, this little bundle of sweetness is curdled up on my chest snoring away. Her skin is soft as silk. She smells like I imagine Heaven must smell. And I want to memorize every feature of her tiny face.

I am overcome daily, sometimes hourly, with gratitude. I continually thank God for this little life and the honor and privilege of being her mom. I thank Him for her two older siblings who adore her. I randomly break out in tears as it hits me again -- we have another miracle in our home and she is part of God's beautiful, amazing plan for our family.

Praise you Jesus for this incredible child. May she bring you the glory and praise you are so deserving of. I will do my best to raise her to know you...love you...and follow you all the days of her life.

Here are some photos from the first few moments and days of Lydia's life:














Thursday, September 12, 2013

"I wish I was her"

Earlier this week Lauren and I were snuggling while I was watching the weather. Ryan and I watch the weather every single day - sometimes twice a day. I don't know why, but we do.

As Lauren and I are watching the weather woman - a very nice looking blonde - Lauren said, "I wish I was her."

Immediately I asked her what she meant, why she said that, and went on and on affirming who God created Lauren to be and all the other things parents are supposed to say in cases like this.

And then my heart was sad. For days. Every time I thought about her saying that she wished she was someone else, I felt I needed to reassure her, once again, about how perfectly she was was made and that we love her just as she is.

And then I saw this:





Baby girl, tomorrow you turn four.

And I want you to hear the words of this video over and over and over again. Not just on your birthday, but every. single. day.

You are loved.

You are beautiful.

You are worthy.

You were perfectly made by a great God whose grace covers all.

You are a daughter of the Living God.

I pray that you will be so confident in yourself that you would never again utter the words "I wish I was her." I am sure that you said that because you thought the weather gal was pretty and you want to be pretty just like her.

Oh sweet girl, you are pretty. You are beautiful. You are precious from the bottom of your long legs to the top of your blonde, blue-eyed head.

I will spend my life teaching you the truth of who God says you are and helping you discover who He made you to be.

Happy 4th birthday. I cried as I put you to bed tonight (of course!). I am so proud of you and the kind, gentle, caretaker you are becoming. I cried because it's going by so fast and someday you won't want to snuggle with me.

But until then I'll soak in the sweet moments that involve me, you and your Dora blanket. I'll remind you that you are more precious than rubies, you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that your gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth. 


I love you L. More and more every year.

Love,

Mom

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"you are mine and I am yours and we are family”

Have you read Kisses from Katie yet?
It's the kind of book you want to read with a pen or highlighter in hand so you can underline quotes and phrases and powerful reminders of who God is and what He has called each of us to. Or, in my case, there are too many lines so you just take pictures of pages you want to imprint on your heart forever.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend adding it to your fall reading list.

I love the following quote. Not only because I live it and believe it to be true, but because it comes from a 20-something mom of 13 adopted girls. Being a mommy isn't about dna. It's about receving with open arms the tender hearts God has given us to care for.

“...because "Mommy" is forever. It's such a powerful name. Mommy means "I trust you." Mommy means "you will protect me." Mommy is for shouting when you need someone dependable and for laughing with when you are excited. Mommy is for crying on and cuddling with when you are sad, or giggling and hiding behind when you are embarrassed. Mommy is the fixer of boo-boos and the mender of broken hearts. Mommy is a comfort place - a safe place. Mommy means "you are mine and I am yours and we are family.”--Katie Davis

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

But He Was Already Ours

I started to type out some powerful phrases in this video by adoptive mom Jennie Allen, but there were too many. It's from the heart of a mom…about unconditional love…and a reflection of our Father’s love for us…her heart was stolen by her son...he was not from her flesh, but from the hand of God.

"I think that this idea that love is supposed to feel right. It's emotional....whatever. It's a commitment. It is a decision. That you say: you know what? No matter what you do to me I am in. You can treat me any way. I am in and I am not going to quit pursuing you and I am not going to quit loving you and I am not going to quit sacrificing for you." 

Take 4 minutes to watch this:


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

God is smarter than we are

"Have you come to the realization yet that what God desires for your life is infinitely better than anything you can think or imagine? He knows far more than we know. He knows far better than we do. God is smarter than we are. He is kinder than we are. He knows the beginning from the end like we don’t. He knows it all."
—Pastor Eddie Hancock

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Summer photo shoot

A couple weeks ago we went down by the Mississippi River and my co-worker took some family photos. I am so thankful to have these moments captured. And I am feeling incredibly grateful to God for the miracles represented in these photos.















Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Whose tummy did I grow in?"

We’ve been talking a lot lately about my growing belly and the baby that resides there.

Samuel and Lauren are trying to convince their dad and I why they should have a brother or a sister. We’re trying to explain that it’s not up to us to decide….but they are relentless in their persuasions: “I already have a sister, I want a brother!” or “I have a brother, I hope it’s a sister!”

Last week Lauren said to me, “Whose tummy did I grow in?”

I love that she asked that question.

Why? Because it means that she is aware that not everyone grows in their mother’s tummy. Yes, everyone grows in their birthmothers tummy, but not necessarily in the tummy of the mom who daily raises them and loves them to pieces.

I don’t think “Whose tummy did I grow in?” is asked in households with all biological children. But it's talked about in our house. For example:

We had our friend Chloe over for dinner the other night and somehow the conversation led to whose tummy Chloe grew in…"Elsa’s tummy," she said. Samuel said he grew in Samantha’s tummy and Lauren said she grew in mine. It was a precious moment to celebrate that the three children around the dinner table grew in three different tummies. Each child is unique and all are part of God’s amazing plan and amazing story.

As an adoptive mom I feel as though some people believe these types of questions and conversations should be off limits or shhhh’d and avoided.

I couldn’t disagree more. While I know that our story is not the norm, every adoption story should be celebrated and acknowledged and treasured—because it’s part of your child’s story. It’s not his or her identity, but it’s their story and every story deserves a time and a place to be told and shared and celebrated. And each child needs to feel the freedom to ask questions…without shame and with complete honesty.

So, yes, baby girl you grew in my tummy. And your brother grew in my heart. And dare I say this next little one is growing in both my tummy and my heart? Because as I watch the two of you love this baby you haven’t even met, my heart grows and grows.

And the closer we get to meeting this little one, and finding out if it's a brother or a sister, I find myself even more thankful for the gift of adoption...and the gift of pregnancy...and the beautiful story that our sovereign God is weaving and writing for each one of us.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Love delivered in green containers

It was early afternoon when the doorbell rang. Four of us were up to our ears in house projects while the kids were with their cousins for two days. I was in the midst of cleaning out a closet when I opened the front door.

There he was with his green containers stacked high on my front steps. And there I was, hot, sweaty and nearly 6 months with child, telling him he had the wrong house.

Is this your street?

Yes.

Is this your house number?

Yes.

Well then this is your food.

But I didn’t order anything from Coborn’s Delivers. There must be a mistake. Whose name is on the order?

It says ‘To My Friend.’


Can you tell me who ordered the food?

He shrugged and gave me a half smile: There’s no way to know. 


That's when I became undone. I did not order one single food item from Coborn’s…and yet there  were containers stacked high and filled with nourishment to feed my family: bread, deli meat, cheese sticks, apples, lasagna, salad, waffles,  rotisserie chicken, ice cream.

I explained that I had spent the last four days at the hospital with my father who had surgery and that my husband’s collarbone was broken and we have two young children and a third on the way.

I pushed back the tears as he handed me bag after bag of food.

Living like Jesus isn’t about spewing out Biblical truth or going through religious rituals—it’s about loving like Jesus did when he came across those in need. And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, this self-sufficient, responsible and capable woman, was in need of a little help. Because sometimes life happens and you’re just trying to make it through.

It unlikely the Coborn's man will ever know that he was the hands and feet of Jesus that day delivering love in green containers. Along with the person who cared enough to click send and put food right on our doorstep. And the people upstairs loving us enough to spend two days sorting, moving, drilling, pounding and the like. And the guys who came for 10 hours one summer Saturday in June to turn an old, never-been-used bathroom into a workable place for children to bathe and brush their teeth. And with those who came and mowed our lawn and dropped off meals and delivered fresh fruit and veggies all cut up and ready to be eaten. And the people gifted with organizational skills who help turn chaos into calm. The sister who spent weeks organizing a garage sale and collecting donations and raising more than $1,000 to gift to her sibling. Those who pray us through the surgery, the doctor’s appointments, the hospital visits and the long days of recovery. The friends and family who lovingly care for our most precious littles—sometimes planned and other times with only a moment’s notice. 

In John 13 Jesus tells us to love one another as I have loved you. Often times that means loving in real, practical, tangible ways. And that's when we see the face—and the grace—of God...through watermelon and taco salad and lawn mowers and sleepovers and painted bathrooms and organized closets and continuous intercession on our behalf.

It's these things that teach us and remind us and leave us forever changed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A sacrifice of thanksgiving



I read not too long ago that sometimes when you’re living it, you just can’t write about it.  


Writing is my life. It’s not part of my life. Or just what I do for a career. It’s who I am. I am not drawn to television or organizing or shopping in my free time. I am a reader and a writer. God created me to write. And I read like crazy because I love to hear what others are writing and I want to be inspired by them. When I don’t write on paper or the computer, I write in my head. Or on my phone when I’m on the bus :)

Sometimes when life happens, writing helps me process. Other times, it’s too painful or personal or draining to try and put my experience into words. And that’s when days upon days go by with no blog updates. Because I’m too busy living it.


I think that’s where I’m at right now. Getting my thoughts and emotions onto paper (or the computer screen), seems like more than I am capable of doing. I start blog posts but I don’t finish them. I write them in my head, but they don’t make it beyond that. I think often of what I want to write about…but it ends there.


There are seasons when God calls a writer to write. And other seasons when He calls us (or forces us) to silence. Sometimes it’s like a well that has run dry…you know the water is underground somewhere, but you can’t get to it. I know the words are there…waiting to break forth, but I can’t dig them out most days.


Currently my world is filled with a broken collarbone, surgery, hospital visits, infection, and storms that lead to water-soaked basements. I am not complaining. I know many whose lives are full with their own hard stuff and I know I am not alone. I am just stating that this is my world right now and it’s hard to write about it while I’m living it.

Are you familiar with the Jesus Calling devotional? You can get it as a book or an app on your phone. It is filled with inspired words written by the author as if Jesus were speaking to the recipient. These daily devotionals speak to me personally and profoundly so very often.

I woke up Saturday to no power and no water (except in my basement where it was not wanted). Here were the Jesus Calling words for the day:

Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you. You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face. You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment of you. But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away. The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time.

Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, your thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart. Thankfulness awakens you to My Presence, which overshadows all your problems.



I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
—Psalm 116:17 nkjv


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
—Philippians 4:4–6



Jesus: Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you.
Me: Are you kidding me? Dad’s surgery and recovery, Ryan’s broken collarbone and impending medical bills, a broken dishwasher and a wet basement? And that’s just the past month!

Jesus: You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face.
Me: Yes, I most definitely am.  

Jesus: You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment of you.
Me: I’ve given into temptation and am partaking in complaining daily. Hourly. If not verbally, for sure mentally.



Jesus: But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away.
Me: Pretty sure I bought a one-way ticket to self-pity this past weekend.

Jesus: The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time.
Me: Thanksgiving? It’s so hard to imagine that right now. What does that even look like? I don’t know how to thank you for these things and I don’t want to curse you…so instead I just say nothing at all.

Jesus: Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, your thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart.
Me: My flesh doesn’t want to thank you. But the Psalmist reminds me that it’s a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving isn’t expected to be easy in these days. Lord only you can grant me the strength and grace to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving that comes from a pure heart. Teach me how to pray in faith words of thanksgiving. If not thanking you for my trials, then thanking you simply for who you are in the midst of them.

Jesus: Thankfulness awakens you to My Presence, which overshadows all your problems.
Me: Awaken me God. Awaken my heart. Overshadow my earthly problems with your grace and love and beauty and your promises of provision for the day. Let me not wait until the trials pass, but enable me to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving today.


So here I am friends. I’m living it right now. Just like many of you are. My situation is not unique. I am not alone. Some of you read this bone tired. Some of you read this heart broken. Some of you read this deeply concerned for a friend or family member. Some of you read this while living it out yourself (whatever your ‘it’ is). Maybe you can’t write about it or talk about it either. But together we can pray that God might supernaturally enable us to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving in the midst of it all. And one day we’ll look back at this season and see how God replaced our rebellion and complaining and self-pity and fist-shaking with thankfulness. And our heart will be so overwhelmed with it all, that we won’t be able to stop writing (or telling) our story.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sovereign

I've been reading a lot about God's sovereignty recently and pondering what it means for my life and for many of you. My belief that God is sovereign doesn't take away the hard stuff or make the path easier, but it changes everything. Everything.

I'll share more in the days to come, but for now, I'm loving these words by Chip Ingram:


“Because God is sovereign and He loves you, nothing will ever come into your life that He does not either decree or allow. Consequently, no matter what you face in life, you can take comfort in the fact that God is sovereign.”—Chip Ingram


and this powerful song by Chris Tomlin:


 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To our birth mother on Mother's Day

My Facebook post for today....

To our birth mother: Thinking about you today and the courageous decision you made entrusting Ryan May and I with the gift of your son. This is my 5th Mother's Day today because of you. I looked at Samuel this morning and thought, "I can't believe he's mine." We honor you today and we are eternally grateful.

I am raising him and that takes grace and perseverance and endless patience and energy. But she chose to allow someone else to care for him and teach him and love him and that takes strength times one million. She is, and will always be, our amazing birth mother.

I would wait all over again...for one thousand years...to unwrap the beauty of these precious gifts that call me mama.



Friday, May 10, 2013

Would you like prayer for Mother's Day?

While I've completely neglected my blog the past few weeks, I think of you, my readers, so often and the journey the Lord has has each of you on. When you email me and share your story, or leave a comment, my heart is reminded that God still has so many of us in waiting seasons.

As I have the past few years, I would like to offer to pray for anyone who requests prayer for Mother's Day weekend. If you find yourself facing your first--or your fifth--Mother's Day with empty arms, please leave a comment below and I will be on my knees this weekend lifting you before our Heavenly Father. You may leave your name anonymously if that is more comfortable for you.

It is my desire to pray for those of you who:

  • want healing for a heart that is broken, bitter or hardened from years of waiting
  • need to be reminded that your identity lies in Christ, not in your role as a parent 
  • are striving to trust that God's plan is worth waiting for
  • feel a sense of deep sadness or loneliness as you wait for children
  • need perseverance to continue to wait in trust and faith for the God of perfect timing
  • just desire a little extra prayer for comfort and hope to get through this weekend.
The prayers of many people have carried me through my seasons of waiting and I would consider it a privilege to pray for you. Please don't hesitate to comment below!

I post the following story each year around Mother's Day. It's my story of how the God of restoration healed my heart as I waited on Him. 


The Year I Skipped Mother's Day (
from the archives, May 2009):

One year ago today I could not face the reality that another Mother’s Day was upon us. My dreams of motherhood were unfulfilled, and I did everything possible to avoid facing the day that so many families celebrated. My husband and I enjoyed a lazy and relaxing Sunday morning. We didn’t go to church and we didn’t see our families.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “A hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Last year my heart was desperately sick. For nearly three years my husband and I had walked the road of infertility and miscarriages.


We lost our first little one at 10 weeks in July 2006. For the next two years we struggled to conceive again. We pleaded with God. We begged God. We petitioned God. But His answer was no. His answer was, “Wait on me.”

Waiting is hard. It’s full of questions, doubts, and fears.
And for me, the pain of waiting was magnified one year ago today when everywhere I looked I was reminded that others were celebrating a gift that God had not yet given to me. Mother’s Day 2008 represented the tender reality that my womb was still empty. I was 32. It had been 22 months since our miscarriage and my heart was bitter, broken and hardened.

Last summer led me on a journey of dealing with the resentment, anger and bitterness that had taken root in my heart. This was difficult, yet necessary, as I longed to walk in the freedom of God’s grace and forgiveness.

And finally, in August of last year, I discovered I was pregnant. Surely this was God’s blessing as a result of the healing that had taken place in my heart. At 7 weeks we heard a beautiful heartbeat. But at 9 weeks we were told, for the second time, our baby had died in my womb.

My dreams of motherhood vanished as quickly as they had come. And another bitter root threatened to grow.

But in God’s great mercy he didn’t allow that to happen. Just 24 days later God took my waiting and showed me it was not in vain.

On October 4, 2008, we got a call about a baby boy born in Waconia the day before. He was just 24 hours old. Were we interested? We had not started the adoption process, but we jumped in the car and went to the hospital to meet the birth mom. Within an hour she told us she would like us to adopt our son, whom we promptly named Samuel. We took him home two days later.

For seven months we have not stopped praising God for Samuel’s miraculous arrival into our lives. We are in awe of God’s timing and God’s plans for our family. And we continue to live in awe of the author and creator of life: in January we discovered that I was pregnant. Samuel will become a big brother this fall. Our story continues to be a beautiful reminder that despite all of our planning, God alone determines our future.

Today, Mother’s Day 2009, I could celebrate that my future will hold children just 11 months apart. I could celebrate that my battle with infertility has come to an end.

But instead, today I choose to celebrate that God restored my soul…before He restored my circumstances. I celebrate that He healed my heart. I celebrate freedom from the bondage of bitterness. I celebrate the blessing of waiting on the Lord.

Friday, April 19, 2013

We serve a God of surprises





God brought Ryan and I our first – and very biggest – surprise in October 2008: a baby boy. As you know, in just 5 hours we became parents to Samuel who has since taken over our hearts with his love, energy and big heart. We are crazy about this kid and can’t believe this year we will celebrate five years of life with him. What an honor. What a blessing. Our hearts are full of gratitude.

In January 2009 God brought us another surprise when we learned Samuel was going to be a big brother. We had tried and planned to get pregnant for more than three years. But we saw our plans erased when two pregnancies and years of waiting resulted in multiple miscarriages. When we least expected it – while we were in the midst of learning the ropes of parenthood – God sent us another surprise and today we call her Lauren. She has captured our hearts and we are madly in love with our sweet girl.

It is with a mixture of great joy and disbelief that I write to tell you that God has granted us a third surprise on our journey to parenthood. Although I have known about this for some time now, as I write these words tears fill my eyes because of the precious and unexpected miracle that is taking place within me. I can honestly say I didn’t ever think I would conceive again and yet I have. Our third child is expected to make his/her arrival on or around September 25.

My mom pointed out recently that all of our children have been surprises. In thinking about that, I realize she is absolutely right. The times when we have tried to control the growth of our family led us to frustration, disappointment and heartache as we waited on God and experienced the grief of multiple miscarriages.

It's only when God had our attention elsewhere, that He saw fit to send us our surprises. That's not everyone's story, but it's ours.

Many friends have asked how I feel about this surprise. Ryan and I knew we wanted a third child, we just didn’t care if he/she was biological or adopted. So my overwhelming response is that I feel incredibly privileged to have this opportunity. I have had one ultrasound that immediately put to rest my concerns about miscarrying. I saw the very tiny flutter of a heartbeat and was reminded again that God is the author and perfector and creator of life. Life does not begin outside the womb – it begins at the moment of conception. Our baby at just six weeks was already growing and developing the heart that he/she will have for the rest of his/her life. And I pray that this little heart would one day come to know and love Jesus.

While I feel incredibly privileged to experience the miracle of pregnancy again, my heart hurts and aches for those of you who read these words and it causes you pain. Because I know. I have been there. I clearly remember when pregnancy announcements put me in tears. I am under no illusions that some of you will not feel that same pain and I understand. And I want you to know that it’s OK. As you wait on God – for a baby or whatever else your heart desires – may you find the God of perfect timing dries your tears and holds you closely as you place your hope in Him.  

I will not be posting pictures of the baby’s nursery or writing daily updates on the pregnancy. That’s not the purpose of this blog nor is it where my heart is. I will continue to write about God’s timing, God’s endless and overwhelming grace in my life and all that He is teaching me through this journey of life. Our family is embarking on a new chapter. It’s filled with anticipation, excitement and, yes, a bit of anxiety about the future as well. But our God is a provider, protector and sustainer.

And He is, most definitely, a God of surprises.

Monday, April 8, 2013

"The right to a family is a basic human right"

Stuck is an award-winning documentary currently traveling around the country that tells the heart-wrenching stories of children and parents who are navigating through the international adoption system.
 
Stuck shares that:
  • There are an estimated 10 million children in orphanages world-wide waiting for families to adopt them.
  • International adoptions to the U.S. have declined by 50% in the past five years. 
  • "The world has stopped paying attention."
  • "The right to a family is a basic human right."
 
"The purpose of the film is to help the average person understand the issues and create a movement that will ultimately put pressure on U.S. officials to force a more supportive attitude toward International Adoption."
 
It's going to 60 cities in 80 days (it's already been on tour since March 1 and continues through May 16). The tour ends in Washington D.C. with a Step Forward for Orphans March on May 17.

I am attending the viewing on April 23 in Minneapolis. If you are local, please join me in supporting this cause and raising awareness.
 
If the tour isn't coming to your city (or you missed it), you can buy the documentary online for the cost of one meal at a restuarant. And, you support Both Ends Burning with your purchase.

I cannot watch this trailer (embedded below) without crying. Every. Single. Time. Please take two minutes and watch it.

You don't need to be an adoptive parent to support adoption. God calls us ALL to care for orphans. You need only have a heart for His children. 





Monday, April 1, 2013

Has God trusted you with a silence?

By Oswald Chambers:

"When he heard that He was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was." John 11:6

Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday: Oh how He loves

He loves, oh how He loves. Grateful. Oh how I'm grateful...


The Sun Stops Shining (for the little people):



And for the bigger people (5 minutes that leave me a grieving, grateful mess):


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week at our house

My clearest childhood memory of Easter is singing at church:

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o'er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!


I looked forward to that song every year and the jubilation with which we sang those words.
As an adult I’ve come to appreciate Holy Week and all that it represents. I'm recognizing that Easter is about so much more than 12 hours of celebrating on Sunday.

In an email from Connected Families this week, titled "Are Your Easter Traditions Leaving a Legacy of Faith?" they made this statement: "
It can be easy to let Holy Week slide by in a blur, but we challenge you to be intentional about the message and values behind the traditions you embrace with your family."

Whether you have children or not, Holy Week can certainly slip by in a blur of activity. This week can become about last-minute errands, grocery shopping, cleaning and Easter basket preparation. It becomes about Spring Break or visiting family and the meaning of Holy Week gets lost in the hustle.

I'm not sure where I read these powerful words:
"Before we can celebrate the resurrection, we must first take time to recognize the loss that precedes the miracle."


That’s what Holy Week is about. Recognizing the loss that precedes the miracle. We can each do that in our own unique ways, but here’s what’s taking place in our home this week to honor all that Holy Week represents:

Love to the Uttermost

Ryan and I are reading this ebook
by John Piper. There are 8 readings for the week. It’s definitely something to prepare one’s heart to honor Christ’s death and resurrection. It provides a thought-provoking perspective on the week’s events and Scripture that we’ve read numerous times.

Matthew 28:5-6
As a family we are memorizing Matthew 28:5-6 this week: The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.”
Thus far the kids have down, “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.” Apparently we are memorizing from the end to the beginning. It doesn’t matter. As long as they know we serve a RISEN Savior, nothing else matters.  

Easter Playlist
I’ve been trying to teach Lauren the words to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Turns out I really know the words to the more contemporary version, The Wonderful Cross, so we’ve been listening to and practicing that. Other songs on our playlist this week that keep us in prayerful reverence and thankful grief:
  • I Stand Amazed
  • Redeemer
  • In Christ Alone (Then bursting forth in glorious day up from the grave he rose again...if listening to this doesn't give you chills all over, turn up your music).
  • Jesus, Only Jesus (or anything on the new Passion 2013 album. Love. It.)
  • Jesus Paid it All (O Praise Him)

A Broken Hallelujah
I’ve read this three times and I just keep reading it. If you read nothing else this week, read this: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/03/25/a-broken-hallelujah


Each year my heart is drawn more and more to the Easter season and it becomes such a tender time. I understand the sacrifice of Good Friday and the miracle of Resurrection Sunday to a greater depth every year. I find myself living in a constant tension between the secular Easter celebrations and what truly honors the greatest gift we’ve ever been given. Jen’s honesty and authenticity challenges my heart about how to best show Christ's love on Easter.

The Most Important Story Ever
We’re reading about the events of Holy Week from the various children’s Bibles that we have at home. This is when Samuel asks deep theological questions like, “What color were Jesus’ burial clothes?”
We are reading about Christ’s death and resurrection from:
The Big Picture Story Bible
The Jesus Storybook Bible
My First Message

Dark Friday
I’m not sure how/if this will pan out, but we're planning to turn all the lights in our house off at 3 p.m. on Friday to represent when Jesus died and the world went black. We'll keep them off for the remainder of the evening. Maybe we’ll use candles once the sun sets. I’m not sure. We haven’t done this before, but I really want to do something in a tangible way that will allow my kids to comprehend as best they can what took place on Good Friday. It’s so much more than a day off of school and work. I have preparations that needs to be done for Sunday as well, but I won’t be doing them on Friday. Instead we’ll remember Good Friday for what it is: the day that changed the world for eternity. I hope you can take time to honor Christ’s sacrifice in a way that best fits your family.

Resurrection Sunday
This is a day of celebration. Not about bunnies or eggs or baskets. Though there will be some of that when we head to Ryan’s aunt’s home. But because we’ve taken time to recognize and honor the loss that precedes the miracle, today we will celebrate that Jesus Is Alive. We’ll attend church and sing about our Savior. We’ll spend the day with family. We’ll read about an empty tomb. We will celebrate that Jesus conquered death and He lives. He Lives! And the kids will probably hear me humming
Up from the grace He arose, With a mighty triumph o'er His foes...

What do you do to honor Holy Week in your home (now or as a child)? What are your favorite songs/hymns to listen to during the Easter season? Do you have a book or devotional that you read annually to prepare your heart to acknowledge Christ’s death and resurrection? Please share by leaving a comment. I would love to learn what traditions you participate in.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Take heart. I have overcome the world.


Last week in the course of four hours I got news about three difficult situations:

1 – A friend’s husband was notified that his position at the elementary school where he works will be eliminated in the fall.
2 – A friend was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that is resting on her optic nerve. Doctors are watching it to determine whether surgery is necessary.
3 – A friend’s dad, who had been battling cancer for more than four years died.

As I have thought about and contemplated and prayed through this news, the words of John 16 ring true: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The Message version states it like this: “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

I am so thankful that Easter is just days away. Because sometimes the hurts and hardness and sadness and difficulties in life can be overwhelming and discouraging.

Easter is so many things, but for me it is hope. Hope that this is not our home. Hope that life here is temporary. Hope that Jesus has conquered the world. Hope that in a godless world, God still reigns supreme. Hope that the One who created the Heavens knows the very number of hairs on my head (which I just
read last night because, of course, I am behind on my own Easter Challenge).

So when the doctor says there is a tumor, we can breathe in unshakable, unmovable peace trusting that God knew the moment the tumor started growing because he is the
star-breather and the hair counter.  

And when the husband shares the news about the job and the time has come to say goodbye and the trials and sadness and troubles and sorrows weigh heavy, we turn to the Truth that says we can have peace. Not empty your mind and focus on the sun and think good thoughts kind of peace. But peace that comes from the hope of knowing and loving and serving and believing in a resurrected Savior.

John 14:27 says, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

I have no tumor diagnosis and no parent that has died and yet the battle for peace rages daily. When the flames of doubt and confusion and discouragement are beating at my door, I can choose to unwrap God’s gift of peace. 


Take heart. I have overcome the world.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.


May we all unwrap God's greatest gifts this Easter: The hope of eternal life. The gift of deep peace. And the truth that these promises are for all people, at all times, in all situations.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I want you to know about my son's birth mother

I just read a blog post titled "what I want you to know about my daughter's birth mother."

It wasn't long but it was honest and it was powerful. And it was inspiring. 


So here's my what I want you to know about my son's birth mother:

My son's birth mother was 19 when she did the hard work of delivering my son into this world. She hadn't planned on him. She hadn't expected this little life. She found herself at a hospital delivering a baby and needing to find a family to raise him. She took a risk and chose us and trusted us with the gift of her son.

Today she is known to Samuel as Samantha. Samuel knows he grew in her tummy. We tell him how thankful we are for her decision to allow us to be his parents forever and ever and ever. We pray and thank God for Samantha and her decision. We don't talk about her often because adoption is not his identity, but it is part of his story and our story.
We cannot tell the story of God's great plan for our family without including our birth mother. It is through her that God gave us our miracle.

We don't shy away from questions or conversations about Samantha. Samuel will only ever hear words of affirmation and gratitude coming from our mouths about his birth mother. He will always know that we are grateful beyond words for the decision she made in that hospital room when he was just 24 hours old. Her decision changed our lives forever.

Today I have a son who is handsome and smart and fast and strong. He is passionate and good and curious and full of life. I had no part in his conception and I did not carry him or birth him. But I am raising him each day, by God's grace, to be proud of who he is, where he came from and who God created him to be. I am raising him to trust that the same God who placed each star in the sky wrote the beautiful story that led him to be part of our family. And God does not make mistakes.

Our hearts are full of love and gratitude for our birth mother. We will spend our lives praying that Samuel can see what a brave, strong and beautiful woman she is.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

An Easter Challenge

 
Today marks 25 days until Easter.
Here in the U.S. we're in full Easter mode as retails stores boast the perfect holiday d├ęcor, the tastiest candy, the brightest eggs and the biggest Easter baskets.
 
And, if you and I are like most Americans, we’re:
  • Snacking on Easter candy.
  • Making plans for church services, Easter brunches and family celebrations. 
  • Picking out Easter outfits for the family.
  • Creating menus filled with the delicious dishes we’ll serve to loved ones.
  • Shopping for items to fill Easter baskets.
With all of this taking place, it’s easy to get sidetracked and miss the true story of Easter. It’s difficult to stop amidst the busyness, still our hearts and contemplate the miracle that is Easter.
 
For the last couple years I've offered up an Easter Challenge for anyone who would like to participate with me. I have found it is a good way to prepare my heart to honor and acknowledge Christ's suffering for me on the cross and the power that was displayed through the resurrection.

There are 24 chapters in the book of Luke. Starting today, I plan to read one chapter a day until the day before Easter. Luke will bring us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If you are interested, you can start today along with me, tomorrow (March 8 and your last reading will be on Easter morning), or, you can start on March 19 and read two chapters a day and finish on March 30 (that's what I have done in the past).

This year, I am going to read one chapter a day which allows me time to ponder and meditate on what I'm reading. I can ask questions like: Who is Jesus? What was he doing here? What did his life represent?

I am planning to read Luke with this purpose in mind: to know God better. Each day before my reading, I will ask God to teach me more about himself. I don't want to walk away from the next 24 days and 24 chapters on the life of Jesus thinking about myself and my life and my burdens and joys. I want to know God better. I want to know the One who created me and loved me and sacrificed His Son for me. What kind of God would do that?
 
If you join me, it's likely that we'll experience deep joy and gratitude as we focus our hearts and minds on something more than chocolate-covered bunnies, time with family and an extra-long holiday weekend.

If you're in, leave a comment stating "I'm in" and I'll be praying that God would reveal himself to you during these next few weeks. Thank you for joining me! 
 
Lord, may we not be so busy doing Easter in the next few weeks that we forget to be still and prepare our hearts for the miracle that is Easter. God we want to know you better. Reveal yourself to us through the pages of Luke and through the life of your Son. Consume us with who you are and what you have done for us. Amen.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When the sirens come to your house

I sat in my robe holding my daughter at 5 a.m. on the first Saturday of the New Year. Just 60 minutes earlier I heard my 3-year-old  crying. I went to check on her and took her temperature. It read 101.5 so I gave her some meds, tucked her in and rubbing my tired eyes crawled back into bed about 4:20. 10 minutes later she cried again and Ryan went up to sing to her. He sat down next to her and asked her what song he should sing. She didn’t respond, and then he felt her legs shaking. He jumped up, turned on the light and saw she was having a seizure.

He called me upstairs, and by the time I got there she was done seizing but her eyes had rolled back into her head and she wasn’t able to gain control of her eyes or her mouth. I screamed at Ryan to call 911 and held Lauren. The tears poured from my eyes as I yelled in her face “Look at me Lauren” and there was no response. I panicked, of course. I sobbed and cried, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” I prayed and cried and the passing of time felt like eternity. “Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

I believed like never before in the promise of Scripture that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

I picked up my baby girl whose mouth moved without making any noise and whose eyes still could not look at me, and carried her down the stairs.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

That’s when I heard it: the sirens. We often hear them at our house because we live on a parkway and it’s a common route for police, fire trucks and ambulances.

But this time the sirens were coming to my house.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

In came the firemen. Next came the EMTs. They couldn’t get my baby girl to look at them or follow their faces or voices. We wrapped her in her Dora blanket and an EMT carried her to the waiting ambulance.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

The doctors told us it was a febrile seizure. No long-term effects. Common when fever spikes in a small child. Not common in our world. 
Not at all.

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

They sent us home a few hours later. We left the hospital just as the rising sun promised a new day.

“Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, Oh thank you Jesus.”

Those few hours before dawn on a Saturday morning in the New Year…they changed me. They changed me as a person. They changed me as a mom. When the sirens sound and they come to your house, it changes you. I’ve always prayed for ambulances and now I pray differently because I know what it’s like to ride inside one. The illusion of control we have as humans (and as parents)—it was squelched that morning. We have little control. Our lives, our every breathe, are in His hands.

We are given these children as a gift—
whether they are from our womb or from His hands, they are gifted to us just as every good and perfect gift is from above.


When the sirens come, may we all call on the One who gives us our very breathe: “Jesus, Jesus, Oh Jesus.”