He Knows

Once upon a time there was a two week old baby girl who Kevin and I wept for and prayed over while pregnant with our son. We loved her fiercely and longed to provide for her the stability that we knew she needed. “Lord, show us what you want us to do and make a way for us to do it.”

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And He did show us. He did make a way. Because He knew. He knew Layla while she was in her birthmother’s womb. Long before Kevin and I dreamed about building a family, God knew what our family would look like. He knew he would prepare our hearts to be her parents. He knew that, though our abilities were limited, our faith in Him was big and none of what would come after that would ever, ever surprise him.

 

Once God did open the door for us to adopt Layla, it was time for us to take action. We had to step out in faith that He would provide. That He had prepared us. That He would continue to guide us. It was one of the best yeses we have ever said.

That same baby that we wept over and prayed for made her own decision today. Like the decision we made to take a leap of faith and say yes, Layla took a leap of faith and said yes to Jesus. She took action and we are so proud of her.

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I’ll be honest, when Layla told us she wanted to be baptized, I was hesitant. Although I was the same age as Layla when I was baptized, it was different. My family had gone from not serving the Lord to finding Jesus and it changed everything. There was a clear line between before we were saved and after. We were baptized at the same time, shortly after accepting Jesus and it was easy to understand because I knew what it was like to not know Jesus. But from the day Layla came to stay we have told her about who Jesus is to us. How we believe he had perfect plans that lead her to us. Layla doesn’t know that clear before and clear after. Her Mommy and Daddy have known Jesus much longer than she has been alive. She didn’t get to see the way that God changed our lives when we accepted him. I was afraid that because of that, she wouldn’t fully understand what she was doing. And I didn’t want her to make the choice to be baptized simply to please us.

My fears were all for nothing. That sweet girl loves Jesus for herself. She started telling me about how hard it gets when her brain goes too fast and she feels like she needs to calm down and that she talks to Jesus and He always calms her down. She told me how she sings to him in her room at night because she just loves him so much. She has her very own relationship with God. And while I hope we have modeled it well, I am confident that we have not forced it. Today Layla said her very own yes. She was just a tiny baby in need of stability and now she is a big girl making her very own choice to follow Jesus. And I can’t even explain how beautiful it was to watch her Daddy, who became her Daddy because of adoption, participate in Layla’s baptism symbolizing that she is adopted into the family of Christ. Wow.

Recently a hailstorm ripped through our small town leaving softball sized holes in roofs and windows. Our home is not livable and we’ve lost a lot of our belongings. We are in an extended stay for what we hope will only be a month. It has been a roller coaster. But all I can think about is the way heaven is rejoicing today. Nothing else matters in comparison. All I can think about is how important it is to live this way:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

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God knew her. And God knows us. He knew that the vivacious little girl who grew in our hearts instead of my tummy would make the big choice to follow Him and He knows the plans He has for her. He also knew exactly where my family would be on this day. He knows all about our current trials and current victories.He knows what is coming next. As we continue to strive to store up our treasures in heaven, as we continue to walk alongside our kiddos showing them that God is always, always enough, we find peace in the promise that He knows. Nothing surprises Him. And He is good.

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Sometimes she leaves us…

One minute she’s with us and then the next minute she’s gone.

 

All is well when she gets in the car after school. I hand her a snack and she tells us she earned a sticker. We make our way to Target and the mood shifts. I can see the manic look in her eyes and my stomach drops. She is defiant and loud. Her movements are brisk, her eyes refusing to make contact with mine. She’s gone.

She’s not Layla anymore. She can’t be reasoned with or spoken to. She doesn’t even hear us. She just screams. We leave and she won’t keep her seatbelt on. Out of desperation, Kevin puts her in the car seat with the 5 point harness. He hopes she won’t take that off. She’s not safe.  She scratches him and yells. I get in the seat next to her and wrap my arms around her tightly as Kevin drives away. I squeeze her arms close to me so she feels some sense of security in the midst of her thrashing around and I whisper “Shhhhhhhh” into her ear over and over. Her body goes limp and she cries. I cry, too. And I silently thank God that her Occupational Therapist gave me the right tools to do something. I silently thank God that it worked. She doesn’t know why it happens. We talk about all the better things she can do when she starts to go to that place. She tells me her brain talks to her and sometimes it says bad things. She is confused and sad and we are exhausted in every sense of the word.

Honestly, on days like this I fantasize about a Layla who was never exposed to drugs in her birth mom’s womb. I dream about a Layla who doesn’t struggle with dark moments in private. My mind drifts to what it would be like without a world of Neurological testing, Occupational Therapists, Psychiatric visits and medications under our belt. The doctor says scarier things than she used to. Like how to look for signs of bipolar disorder. I feel ill-equipped. But the moment I catch myself thinking this way, I stop myself. God has assigned Layla her portion and cup. And he has assigned me mine, too. And if I acknowledge that He is good, (He is, by the way) then I must acknowledge that what He allows is for our eternal good as well. We can do this. One day at a time.

It’s just that it gets so lonely. To most of the world she appears normal. The well-meaning “She seems fine to me” comments are like a punch in the gut. I am grateful that you have never seen the scary side of her and yet simultaneously frustrated that you do not understand. On the other hand, if you HAVE seen that side of her, I am terrified you will compare her to her brother and sister and somehow view her as less. Is there a way for you to recognize she is different without treating her that way? I’m not sure.

Before the night is over she is completely back to normal. And our aching hearts are already on the mend. We have been there/done that too many times before. We may go months before we see anything like this again, or tomorrow may bring another day of pain. We just never know. But we carry on. We know that even when Layla is at her worst, she is the most incredible gift. And when she is at her best, there is not a greater feeling in the world. I wouldn’t trade her or change her for anything. Her story is beautiful and she is a fighter.

 

P.S.-Give grace to the family with the kicking and screaming child walking out of the store. Yes, that child may be a spoiled, entitled, brat. But that child could also be the most pleasant, well-behaved, sweet thing who fights the hardest, darkest battles behind closed doors. And her Mommy and Daddy might be afraid and overwhelmed. One smile and nod can remind us that we are not in the trenches by ourselves. Assign positive intent. It makes all the difference.

First Day of School!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Our babies are growing up so fast!! Today Layla started 1st grade & Bryson started Kindergarten. I am counting down the hours til I get to pick them up and find out how their day went! Tomorrow Bryson will have to miss school because he’s having a little procedure in hopes of finding out what’s been going on with his tummy lately. I’m so grateful it worked out that he didn’t have to miss his first day though! I’d like to write a post soon about the crazy whirlwind of a month we’ve had and how lovingly God has poured peace into our tired souls in the middle of the most difficult circumstances. But for now, let’s all cry about how big my kids are!! Hehe! 

 

Until the next blog…be blessed!

A Special Birthday

I will never forget the night we got the call about our first hosting with Safe Families. And Kevin started his distant drive, long after our kids were in bed. I rushed around on pure adrenaline putting together a toddler bed and pack & play at midnight. He came home in the early morning hours with two scared little girls who wanted their Mommy. I promise you I watched God wrap them up in his arms before I even had a chance to. This whole experience with Safe Families has been so much more about God doing what He needs to do through us and so much less about us actually doing anything but be obedient.

Our phone calls with their Mom were short and awkward. Her pride outweighed nothing but her fear. I wanted to grab on to her but she didn’t want to be held. In her 20 years of life there was no such thing as a person who came through unless they wanted something in return. Though she won’t admit it now, I’m pretty certain she was terrified we were going to take those babies from her. And those babies are her everything. They are her reason. They will be the reason she eventually gets out of that shelter. They are why she doesn’t blow off the steam that accumulates from her difficult life by getting wild and making poor choices. Although there are nights she wishes she could. They are the reason for her 50 hour work weeks with minimum wage pay. They are the reason she dreams. Some days, they are the only reason she lives.

After they were back safely in her arms, she could finally breathe again.  At first, when she realized we still wanted to be apart of her life even without the girls in our home, she was defensive. She waited to find out what we really wanted from her. Then she waited to see if we would give up on her after she lost the job that would give her a better life because it wouldn’t work with daycare hours. But we kept on calling. Kept on texting. Even when she wouldn’t respond. A year later, God has woven our hearts together and now she calls us family. And we love her so!

Her oldest turns 3 next month. And you know how you spend hours agonizing about a Pinterest-perfect party with matching favors and décor? She’s just figuring out how to have enough money in her budget for a pizza that day. But she doesn’t believe in taking handouts so when we offered to help she wasn’t interested. Until we came up with the idea to have our daughter and her daughter celebrate their birthdays together. That didn’t feel like a handout to her. It felt like family. It felt safe to her. And we want her to feel safe.

Next month we will load the Suburban up with wrapped gifts. We will make the hour drive across the metroplex again. But this time, it will be to celebrate a sweet little girl whose Mommy has made a million right choices even when she gets push back with each one. On that day, she won’t worry about being short money or stuck in a shelter. She won’t think about her broken down car or when she will find a better job. There will be playing and pizza and cake. And the kids will meet Mr. Chuck E. Cheese in the flesh and either scream with joy or terror (it’s really a toss-up with that mouse!).  I will take an obscene amount of pictures and love on their Mommy every second that she lets me. She will step out for a minute to smoke a cigarette and I will watch our kids play and I know I will feel God there. Because this is what the kingdom of heaven is like. We are all poor and we are all rich and it doesn’t matter which of us lives in the shelter and which of us lives in a house. We are family. All of her struggles listed next to mine, all of my accomplishments listed next to hers….it all means nothing because we are equally and fully loved by a Savior who gave his life for both of us. There is no difference. And He is most evident in the moments that we live like this fact is true.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Jordyn

We sit by the window, enjoying the tiny streams of light that peak through the clouds. I help her trace letters. From time to time she gets frustrated and says, “I can’t!”

I lean down to her ear and say “Yes you can, baby. You can tell me that it’s hard, and that’s okay. We’ll keep trying. But don’t ever say you can’t.”

She tries again and gets it right. We cheer about it and I pray that she learns, deep in her soul, not so much about writing letters, but about trying when it’s hard. About not being afraid to fail.

She is beautiful sitting there tracing her letters. She looks so old.

But she will never be this young again.

Ever.

I stare long enough to catch her attention and she looks up and smiles so big. I take in all of her 3-year-old beauty and ask God to help me appreciate her to the fullest.

May we live intentionally with our children; taking every opportunity to teach and to love. May the thankless and never ending tasks of parenthood not keep us so preoccupied that we miss the moments that could become memories. And may we hold on to these precious times and remember that our children will never be this young again.

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Until the next blog…be blessed!

My Word for 2014 (a blog assignment from Compassion International)

My little one cries with a torn paper in her hands.  Right now her biggest 3-year-old problem is that her big sister ripped her artwork. Her feelings are real as tears run down her cheeks and so I do the only thing I can. I grab some tape and get to work trying to get those pieces to fit back together. At first she continues to cry, but as I focus in on some of the tinier pieces she gets quiet and starts to watch.

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And soon she is squealing with delight saying “It’s gonna be beautiful!” and I think to myself that right now I can come to her rescue by kissing boo-boos and taping artwork and then all is right in her world again. These are the most magical moments of motherhood.

But my wheels continue to turn, because that’s just how I roll. And I go from enjoying this simple moment to battling with the sinking feeling in my gut that this moment is fleeting. One day she will come crying to me with broken things that are much harder to fix. Broken things that I will be unable to mend. And my heart begins to ache at the thought of not being able to kiss her boo boos away forever.

And the wheels turn faster. It’s quite a talent I have, really.

Today I texted with a mom who has become apart of our lives through Safe Families for Children and she is working so hard to get out of the shelter she is in with her little girls. She is a great mom and such a hard worker, but she was not born into circumstances which put opportunity in front of her. She’s fought an uphill battle for so long. She is tired as she continues to march forward and it just doesn’t seem fair. And I am reminded what bringing people in crisis into your life can feel like . It means feeling like you are standing on the front lines in a war and deciding it is your responsibility to care. So you run to one injured soldier and there are huge gaping wounds but all you have are small bandages…so you do what you can but know it’s not enough and then you look up  to see so many more who have fallen while you were trying to clean up the first mess. And it makes your heart so weary.

And so I say in my head, as I hand the taped up paper to my now-happy little girl, “I won’t always be able to fix her problems. And if I can’t fix her, how will I ever fix anyone else?”

And I hear a still small voice say, oh so lovingly, “You won’t. You don’t have to. I will.”

And He will. We wait around for God to show up when things start to unravel. But He is omnipresent. He has already shown up. He just waits for us to show up. And if I have shown up, no matter how ill-equipped, then that is enough.

And so all of this leads me to my word. I am so thankful that Compassion International does this yearly assignment for it’s bloggers. Because resolutions have always been a huge fail for me. But focusing on a word has been a great way to go through the year.

My word for 2014 is:
REST

This year has been full of my eyes being opened to the very real issues of poverty and crisis and hurt. God has changed my heart and shown me that the least of these are my brothers and sisters and that should inspire action. While I am so full of love, I often wear myself out trying to figure out the mess that comes along with loving people well. I have these moments where I try so hard to fix it all myself that I leave God out of the equation until I come running to Him all broken and exhausted because there was no way I was meant to carry a burden that heavy on my own.

In 2014, I want to focus on resting in who He is, knowing that what I am capable of doesn’t matter nearly as much as His strength and His ability. And I will continue to work and fight and love when it hurts, but I won’t take a step alone. I am looking forward to finding more rest in Him. And it is my own sneaking suspicion that He will be able to get a lot more done through me with me fully trusting Him instead of trying to figure out how to solve things on my own.

As a wife, as a mother, as a daughter of the Most High…as a boo-boo kisser and homeless person lover…as a woman full of big feelings and big dreams, I will seek after rest in Him.

What is your word?

Until the next blog…be blessed!

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For Bryson on His 5th Birthday…

Every year I write a letter to the kids’ on their birthday. The years go by faster and faster and I cannot believe it’s time for Bryson’s birthday letter!

Dear Bryson,

Five years old, sweet boy! You are certainly not a baby anymore! We are constantly reminded of it. You are growing so fast that when we buy you clothes we have to get them a size too big if we want them to last longer than a month! It is becoming painfully obvious that one day soon I will blink and you will be towering over me! Yes, my little love, you are a big boy…with an even bigger heart!

I often watch you in adoration. I would call it a mom crush if it didn’t just sound creepy. The thing is, I am in awe of the little boy you have become. I could stare at you all day! Sometimes you catch me staring and you smile really big and wink at me and my love tank gets so full I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t know what your Dad and I did to deserve such a cool kid. You are my favorite little boy in the whole world. You are rough & tough. You can wrestle with daddy and play sports and be a very convincing Batman. You always want to show me your “big muscles.” But you are also sweet and sensitive. You look out for your sisters and are kind and giving to others without the smallest complaint. Such a great combination.

It amazes me how unselfish you are in the chaotic moments.  Like when a little one arrives through Safe Families and is full of trauma and needs all of our attention. You step right up and become a helper. You don’t fight for my affections or attention…at 5-years-old it seems like you intuitively know that these little ones need us. I am thankful that you are able to be secure enough in our love for you to not push for more validation when someone else comes into the picture. You love on these little ones like they are your family and then you let them go with peace. You believe me when I tell you that God has a plan for them and that seems to be enough for you. In fact, just today as we started the process of saying goodbye to a little houseguest who has been with us for awhile you said to your sister “We have to say goodbye because soon Mommy will get another call when another friend needs to stay for a little while.” It took my breathe away that you could understand that at such a young age. We are truly blessed.

You are protective and supportive. I don’t know many 5-year-olds with those traits. At Target the other day you said “Hold my hand, Mom…I need to keep an eye on you!” probably because you take your role as Daddy’s helper very seriously and he has done such a good job of being the protector and provider in our home. When Layla shares a note from her teacher saying she had a good day you say “Good job, Layla…I’m so proud of you!” And it makes ME so proud of YOU.

You are spiritual. You love learning about the Bible and about Jesus. Your faith that comes so easy is inspiring. You tell us that you can’t wait to get to heaven because you can be with Jesus forever. You remind your sisters (and even correct yourself) about how you guys should listen to Mommy & Daddy. You say it’s important to do that because the Bible says to honor your father and mother. You once gave up your favorite toy to a little boy when we were out playing, just because he really liked it. When we walked away you said you did it because Jesus loves it when we give and you love to make him happy.

Like any other little boy, you sometimes get too tired or too hungry or too annoyed with your sisters and then you may cry or complain…but to be honest, 99% of the time I just stand in amazement of who you are. I pray that you will always have the incredible capability to be so strong and so sensitive at the same time. It is such a gift to watch you grow. Daddy and I love you all the way past Disney World!!

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