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Monday, December 17, 2018

Mary, Joseph and Adoption

I remember reading a few years back about how darkness can only remain darkness if we choose not to bring it into the Light.  I'm learning more and more how true this can be and the freedom found in allowing others into our lives to surround us and support us.  By doing so, the darkness seems to fade and the Light shines forth.

It's no secret that adoption is hard.  There are very few foster/adoptive parents that I've ever met that would tell you differently.  It's beautiful.  But it's also brutally hard.

Recently we've been dealing with habitual lying. It started as small things that didn't have an impact on much but it has now morphed into him making statements that endanger himself and our family, as well as him telling classmates elaborate lies about someone killing Mark.

To say we have been heartbroken, terrified, hurt, in disbelief, etc. would be an understatement.  This morning I walked him into school and had him apologize to his teachers and classmates for lying to them.  I walked out with tears streaming down my face... a combination of sadness for him and a whole lot of feeling sorry for myself - for the embarrassment and humiliation we endure in our efforts to teach him ...for his own good and well-being.

And as I worried about our name and reputations potentially being ruined - the ones we've spent our lives building so we honor Christ and point people back to him - God reminded me of yesterday's sermon.

You see, when Gabriel came to Mary and Joseph, He told them that they'd be the earthly parents to the coming Messiah.  He did not share this news with anyone else.  Everyone else in town got to believe whatever they chose to believe.  This literally rocked their world, ruined their reputation, ruined their families' names, and ushered in shame and humiliation.  By Joseph taking in Mary as his wife, he in essence was choosing to take responsibility for her being pregnant, although he had nothing to do with it.  He willingly took on shame to follow in obedience to what God had called him to.

....willingly took on shame.

You see, the gifts God gives us aren't always going to be meticulously wrapped and donned with a beautiful bow.  Sometimes they're hard and heartbreaking, disappointing and anxiety-provoking, full of embarrassment and shame.

If the parents of the Messiah didn't get to escape the scorn, the looks of disgust, the gossip, the humiliation...... why should I think we get to?

Adoption is a gift.  But it's rarely ever beautifully wrapped.  Yet the gift itself is our son.  He is infinitely loved and treasured, even despite all the lies and accusations and challenges he has created.  He.is.loved.  And the greater gift?  The presence of Christ as we walk out what He has called us to.  As we drug this darkness into the Light yesterday, sharing with our Life Group the battles we're facing, they surrounded us and prayed over and for us.  This morning I've already seen posts reminding people to pray for us.  I've received texts checking on us, encouraging words, emails, etc.

Because the darkness can only remain dark if we choose to allow it to remain there.

And I'll tell you, there's likely a whole host of foster/adoptive families struggling in ways you are completely unaware of.  Dragging the darkness into the Light is hard, so much so that many choose to remain in the dark.  This isn't easy for me to share.  And I certainly am not sharing it because we want pity.  We (foster/adoptive parents) desperately need your prayers and words of encouragement.  If I could tell you anything today, it's that we need warriors to come alongside us on this journey.  We need people to educate themselves on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), the impacts of trauma on these kids, the ways it manifests, the ways it impacts their parents and siblings.... and then we need you to faithfully get on your knees and lift us up.  It is the single greatest thing you can do for us.

Might I encourage you sweet friends?  Go find an adoptive or foster family this Christmas season and just love on them...ask them how you can pray for them specifically.  I assure you, it will mean more than you know.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Write It Down

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it."  Exodus 17:14
Many times throughout Scripture, an emphasis on writing things down, remembering them, passing them on to your children, etc is heavily present.  We can see this time and time again when reading through the account of the Israelites, their freedom from Egypt, and during their time of wandering in the wilderness.  They took their eyes off of God and instead focused on the problem, which inherently led to them forgetting all God had already done for them.  It's no coincidence then that God instructs them to keep a jar of manna to be kept throughout the generations as a reminder of how He fed them all their years of wandering.  Or when he tells them to write all He'd done as a memorial in a book.

So often I'm tempted to see the giants in front of me instead of the Faithful God before me.  And as I've been leading my T2 girls through the account of the Israelites, I continually keep seeing God reminding them to write it down.

So here I am.... writing it down.  Because right now, there are things which I'm waiting to see how God works out.  I worry over exactly how it's going to work out, how long it's going to take, and what all life will entail in the meanwhile.

But God.

Oh how He's always been faithful.  I can look back over losing our babies and see how His hand was with me through it all.  I can look at total betrayal from a group of people and how He used that to move us where we needed to be.... to a place where we are accepted and loved and cherished.  I can see how He's worked in and through the lives of my friends and family.  And just this summer, He absolutely blew me away time and time again.

You see, I had been debating whether or not to get licensed as a counselor.  I had gone through the process 12 years ago after graduating from Graduate school but God put other opportunities in front of me that kept me from taking the test to move forward. And as I result, I was able to be on staff at a church for close to 9 years as their Biblical Adviser.  After taking a break since having Emilee and adopting Chi, I was offered a job....that would require me to get licensed.  And once again I was faced with a decision.  And I battled it for quite awhile on whether or not it was something I wanted to move forward with when God yet again stepped in.  Everything worked together where I was offered a job at Central as one of their Biblical Advisers - a job I had previously told Mark would be my dream job.  And here I am, every week getting to meet with teens and young women and am continually blown away by God's goodness at allowing me to do what I love - sharing how the Gospel changes lives.

But then God was also working in the lives of our friends, laying me and Mark on their hearts as who they should reach out to about buying their house.  She reluctantly sent me a message and said "I hope you don't think I'm nuts..."  We weren't even looking for a house, but little did she know we had been discussing "if we happened to find something."  Little did she know the struggles that our boys, each with their own diagnoses plus a 7 year age gap, faced sharing a room.  Oh the battles we'd been dealing with.  And now here we are in a different house, each kid with their own room, and dealing with substantially less fall out as when having our boys in the same room.

As if that wasn't enough, one Sunday morning Bro. Archie was preaching through Revelations.  I knew it struck a cord with Eli because he's our history buff, particularly on wars.  So when he started talking about Jesus' return, the battle that will ensue, etc., he perked up....and the rocking stopped.  As soon as invitation began, his rocking resumed and increased in intensity.  He said nothing.  He went to class.  And afterward, as we loaded into the car and began getting situated, I hadn't even put my seat belt on before he abruptly said "I need to be saved!"  It was as if if he didn't say it right then, it wasn't going to come out.  And so we talked on the drive home, me ensuring he fully understood, that he realized this wasn't a prayer but rather a lifelong decision to follow in obedience.   That no prayer has ever saved anyone without the faith behind it. And there in my bedroom of our previous house, I led him to Jesus.  That God would allow me that privilege.... You see, last fall/winter was really rough with Eli.  He had gone downhill quickly: academically, behaviorally, emotionally.  We were at a loss.  The lashing out.  The downright brutal things he would say that would crush my spirit as a momma....as his momma.  But God.  He allowed us to figure out it was a medication issue and through a series of trial and error to find something that worked better with his growing body.  To have gone through that together and to come out on the other side with him coming to me.  Grace.  Nothing but grace.  And to top it all off?  Mark got to baptize him in the 11 Point River... one of my all time favorite places and now one of Eli's too.



May I never forget.  Mercy on mercy.  Grace upon grace.

He has always been faithful.  He can be trusted.

I don't know what you might need to write down, what promises of His faithfulness that you need to call to mind, but might I encourage you to take a minute to do so?  It's in our remembering that we have the faith to keep our eyes on Him and to trust that He's not only been behind us, but is before us (Deut. 31:8) and beside us.

Write it down.  He has been, is, and will always be faithful.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Unfading Beauty

About 3 years ago I started on a journey.  A journey of being healthier and happier.  And 3 years later I've done that but not at all in the way I had expected.

You see, 3 years ago I joined Plexus.  I used it, sold it, lost weight, and felt better.  And in some weird way, I thought this would make everything about life better.

Can I be honest with you?

It didn't.

The truth is, I think we can become so focused on how we look that it starts becoming an idol in our lives.  What's the scale say?  Did I take my supplements?  How many calories did I consume today?  Did I exercise long enough and hard enough?  Is what I'm eating healthy?  Low carb, high protein?  What about gluten and dairy free?  Maybe I should try that.  Did I drink 100 ounces of water?  I wonder if I've worked hard enough to eat cake at the birthday party.  Have I done measurements lately?  What about adding coconut oil or apple cider vinegar.  

And life quickly becomes all about stuff that's not necessarily bad but that can become bad when it consumes your thinking and way of life.

I've had to take a step back from a lot groups and things that have aided me in focusing on lesser things.

Because at the end of the day, life isn't about what I look like.  It won't make one difference when I die if I was a size 0 or a size 10.  What will matter is how I invested my life in others.

And before you start thinking this is a post bashing Plexus, it isn't.  I love Plexus.  I've met some truly incredible people as a result.  And I'm still taking some of their products and I still sell it, although I don't actively promote it anymore.  I love MLM and direct sale companies and truth be told, if I'm going to buy something, I'd prefer to (and do) buy it from a friend and help them out.

But here's my issue.  I think I need clearer skin.  I buy what I think will help.  I need thicker hair.  I buy some shampoo and conditioner that's supposed to do the trick.  I need better makeup.  Then I need whiter teeth and less cellulite.  And I need some cute polish or designs for my nails.  I need ALL the cute jewelry and purses to go with it.  And I need something for these crows feet and dark circles and and and.....

..... it never ends.  There's always something vying for my attention - trying to tell me that how I am isn't good enough or that I could be better if I just had _____.

And I'm tired of believing that lie.

I've been doing a study on I Peter for the past several weeks.  And over and over again I keep reading how true beauty isn't from outward appearances.  It's not how our hair looks or the way we dress or the size of pants we wear.

But rather true beauty is found from having a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of GREAT worth in God's eyes.  And not only that, it's unfading (I Peter 3:3-4).  True beauty never fades.

Soak that in sweet friends.

My focus has been all wrong.  I have made the lesser the priority instead of cultivating what Christ says is true beauty.  Maybe you have too.

And maybe you echo with me: "I'm done!".

At the end of my life I want it to have mattered because I loved well.  Because I shared Christ with people.  Because I made a difference by serving and giving of myself.  I want to finish on empty - having given my all.

Not having worried about myself.

Is exercise bad?  No.  Is healthy eating bad?  No.  Are supplements bad?  Nope.  Are any of the things I mentioned wrong?  No.

Not unless you've given them too much room in your life.  If they've become your focus, your idol, your priority.

And that's where I've been.

Am I heavier than I was 2 years ago?  Yes.  But I'm learning more and more that it's okay.  I can exercise and eat pretty good and let God worry about the rest.  My body just won't respond how it used to.  I wish it would.  Oh how I wish it would.  But all the doctors and appointments and tests and money spent.....  it's all been for what?  So I can look a certain way.  And really friends, it's hard to admit that.  Sometimes you can only do so much until it becomes futile.

I'm there.

And I'm telling you today I'm surrendering.  I'm letting it go.  Am I giving up on this healthy and happier stuff?  Not really.  I'll still run 30 minutes every day and lift my weights and do my squats and pushups and planks.  I'm still planning on watching what I eat and limiting sweets. I just refuse to allow it to occupy more time and space in my life than things of eternal significance.  I'm refusing to make it the greater when it's really the lesser.  So much less than what really matters.

You know, when my husband can lay in bed beside me and say "No one ever has, does, or will make me feel like you do."..... that's all I need.  He has loved me at every size possible.  And now it's time that I love myself like that too.  That I see myself as Christ does.

So, go buy all.the.things from your friends.  Support them.  Love them.  But at the end of the day, realize what's really important is that Christ shines in and through you.  Put the majority of your effort into cultivating the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth.

It's invaluable.  So are you sweet friends.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Never Good Enough

Do you ever feel like you're just not good enough?

That you have to spend too much time and effort trying to prove yourself, only to be reminded you still aren't good enough?

I'd be lying if I didn't say that that's basically been my life in a nutshell.

I can remember distinct times growing up and thinking these things.  Like when I was in 8th grade band.  For 3 years, I was almost always 2nd chair, next to Mike (or next to Allen if I was 3rd).  Every time we had try-outs, my place remained.  Only one month, Mike messed up during tryouts and for a short period of time, I was 1st chair.  Not because I deserved it.  Not because I was better than Mike, because honestly, he's an incredibly talented musician, but simply because he had made a fluke error that day and I didn't.  I never measured up to him as a trumpet player.  I went on to quit band.

Or during my Sophomore year running track how I threw up before every.single.meet.  Yep.  Every single one of them.  My nerves would always get the best of me.  And while I was constantly improving and running my events faster and faster, there was always this guy named Scott who would rag me in Geometry class about how much faster he could have ran them.  Always asking if I threw up...again.  And then him and his friends would laugh and mock me.  It didn't matter that I received the Most Improved award, or that I had dropped 33 lbs between my Sophomore and Junior year.  I still wasn't good enough.

Or the time when I was a Junior in Chemistry class and everyone was struggling to even make passing grades on Mr. Hartsfield's tests.  That is, everyone except me.  So when the curve was implemented, everyone was elated that maybe they could finally get a passing grade.  But there was me, who made 95's and 100's, all but eliminating the curve.  And I remember the day Mr. Hartsfield said there was no curve because someone made a 100.  People were mad and seeking out the person that prevented them from getting extra points.  That's when Clay turned around, already knowing it was me, looked me square in the eyes and said "You're an ugly *itch."  Even being the best proved to not be good enough.

Or when I once liked one of my brother's friends.  They lived together for awhile and I had become pretty infatuated with him.  But it was never reciprocated until about 2 years later..... after I had ran track and..... you guessed it, dropped 33 lbs.  I wasn't good enough before and I remember that feeling permanently marking me.  I was excited when he asked me out on a date, yet I also instinctively knew I didn't ever want to be married to someone who couldn't love me at every weight I might ever be.  Things with him obviously (and thankfully) didn't work out.  Yet the reality of only being liked at a certain weight has stuck with me all these years later.

Even when I graduated as Valedictorian, it wasn't good enough.  Because my class was the last class before they changed the handbook, which stated that anyone with a 4.0 GPA was Valedictorian.  I achieved that.  But so did 10 others.  Yes, there were 11 of us that year.  And from there on out, the handbook read "The highest GPA".  Even in achieving what very few could, it wasn't good enough.  We were a joke.  "11 of you.  Hahahaha.  You're not the Valedictorian.  You're just one of many."

Even at the top, I wasn't good enough.

The reality is that while these were in high school, things like this still happen.

Like when you bicker about whose way of loading the dishwasher is correct.

Or when you're handed the pink slip at work and have to go home and tell your family you lost your job.

Or when your husband walks out.

When people say "Oh, you're *just* a stay-at-home mom? Don't you have 2 college degrees?"

Or when you feel like you're missing out on everything with your kids because you're working two jobs to make ends meet.

Or when your pillow is wet from crying yourself to sleep because you don't think you'll ever compare or measure up.

When you feel left out, uninvited and are being talked about.

When you're passed over on the job you were hoping to get.

When your weight yoyos back and forth like an olympic skier going up and down the hills and you don't want to leave the house because not only can you never compare to the tan, perfectly ripped, chiseled, scantily clad models, you can't even compete with who you were a year ago.

When you stumble across the evidence of your spouse's indiscretions and are left devastated and heartbroken.

When you fall into the comparison trap and feel like your income, house, car, and wardrobe don't meet the standards of everyone else.

When your kids are bickering and fighting with each other and your house feels more like a war zone than a safehaven.

The thoughts soon follow:

"I'll never be good enough."  "Well maybe I'll just try harder.  I'll do ___, ____, and ____ and then I'll prove once and for all that I'm good enough."

And the problem with this mentality is that not only is it destructive and putting too much focus on other people and circumstances making us happy, but it often flows over into our relationship with Christ.

This has been true for me.

So many instances of not feeling good enough have led me to believe that I'm not good enough for Christ either.  And the reality of that is, I'm not.  None of us are (Rom. 3:10).  But the danger is in when I begin feeling like I can work my way into better graces.  The "fixer" in me says "Get to work."  That if I'm more patient and gentle He'll somehow love me more.  If I can be more successful and give more.  If I can pray harder and dig deeper in His Word then maybe I'll have more faith and He'll somehow reward me with feeling accepted.  If I wouldn't have ever been depressed.  If I can become more disciplined and self controlled then maybe, just maybe......

And friends, He's showing me the futility of this.

Because really, that's what it is.  Futile.

There is NOTHING, absolutely nothing I can do that could ever make Him love and accept me anymore than He already has.

I am loved.

And I'm not just loved, I am loved by the Creator of the world.  The One who knit me together in my mother's womb, intricately weaving me piece by piece into who I am (Psalm 139:13).  The One who came to rescue and draw me to Himself.

You see, He loved me when I was unlovable.  He loved me before I was even born, knowing full and well all the horrible things I would think and say and do....all the times I wouldn't be good enough....all the times I would cry in the car, trying to pull myself together before I arrived where I was going.  He foreknew all of these instances, that I would struggle with accepting and receiving Love.  He knew ahead of time that trust would be hard for me and life would only deal me blows that made it harder.  And friends.....He came anyway.

He loved me while I was still a sinner (Rom. 5:8).  I didn't have to do anything to prove myself or that I'm good enough (Eph. 2:8-9).  I was simply enough because I was His.... am His.

And He's been breaking my knees until I will bow to this realization and understanding.  Forcing me  into situations that require me to rely on Him and trust Him and see how good He is.  And oh how He's constantly showing me this over and over and over until my heart will bend to it.

I've recently been listening to Selah's new song, Broken Ladders.  It reminds me that we so often think we have to reach and rise for all these things that will never bring us true happiness, that will never prove that we're good enough.  Because you know, He never asked us to do that.  He didn't ask us to be a certain way for Him to love us.  He simply has asked for our hearts and obedience.

And day by day, I'm learning this truth.

I'll never be good enough.  And that's perfectly okay because I am loved more than I could ever know just.the.way.I.am.

His.



Friday, January 27, 2017

When Your "Yes" Costs You Something (And it Will)

As Christians, I believe God calls each of us to something.  Oftentimes, multiple somethings.

And I'm becoming more and more aware that nearly always our callings require something of us.  They're not usually things that keep us comfortable or from sacrificing things that are hard to give up.  If we take a close look at the Bible, it's full of verses telling us that we're going to have to daily die to ourselves (Luke 9:23, I Cor. 15:31), to take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 10:38, Mark 8:34) and that we're going to face trials (I Peter 5:10, James 1:2, John 16:33, Rom. 8:18).

Our "yes" will always come with trials.

Truth be told,  saying "yes" to adoption has cost us a lot. And not in a financial sense, yet in ways that have been much more costly and sacrificial.

You see, adoption is hard.  I don't know very many people that will tell you it's easy (albeit, I do know a select few).

Yet God is constantly reminding me that He hasn't called us to an easy life.  He's simply called us to follow Him.

For us, we had talked about adoption since we were dating.  I had always had a desire to adopt a little girl from China.  We had talked about wanting 4 kids; having 3 and adopting the 4th.  So when we had 2 girls and 1 boy the logical choice was to adopt a boy.  After researching and discovering how costly private and international adoptions are, we decided to adopt through the foster care system.

Even that process is long and arduous.  There's nothing easy about it.  The paperwork.  The background checks. The classes and trainings.  The waiting.  Oh the waiting.  The home visits.  Interviews.  Having your kids interviewed (and subsequently being humiliated by their off the wall answers).  The inspections and rules upon rules, the covered trash cans and electrical outlets, and more smoke detectors than a fire house has on hand and emergency escape routes posted and well, you get the point.

I wish I could say that was the hardest part for me.

Oh how I wish I could say that.

But that's not my story.  And my "Yes" cost me so much more.

From the day we brought him home, we were met with opposition from well intentioned people, and well, some not-so-well intentioned.  You hear people talk about caring for a child from a hard past and truthfully, you think, "Eh, not me.  He's so little, I mean, just 15 months old.  We've got this."

No.  No we didn't.  We battled him on eating what was provided since he thought his diet should consist of Orange crush, mac and cheese, and strawberry ice cream....or jarred baby food they were still spoon feeding him.... at 15 months old.  We had to teach him how to use a fork and spoon, to sit up correctly since he'd been placed in a walker and left for no telling how long and then was put to bed at 5:30 pm with a bottle of milk.  We had to work tirelessly with him on not holding food in his mouth.  On trusting that we will always provide for him.  He cried and cried if I asked him to go play while I was cooking, fearful he wouldn't be fed.  He would inhale his sippy cup, gasping for air trying to drink it down as fast as he could.  He'd eat like a little piglet, lest it wouldn't still be there minutes later.  He'd eat to the point he'd vomit from overeating.  He simply lacked trust.  He lacked the faith in us that we wouldn't ever let him go hungry.  And it was heartbreaking.  If you haven't been there it's hard to explain watching this.  And I'd be lying if I didn't say it was also frustrating at times because we were doing everything we possibly could for him.

So when people wanted to feed him.... No.  Absolutely, positively no.  If he couldn't trust that we would provide for him then we certainly didn't want or need him seeking that out from other people, which he did often.  We went so far as to not even allow our parents and siblings to give him food.  One of us would always give him his plate.  And we were so thankful for their understanding.

But how they understood, others did not.  And I wish that those people understood all the battles we faced early on.  Yet that wasn't how our story unfolded.  We were talked about.  We were shamed (on Facebook of all things).  Meetings were held (yes, seriously over us asking for him not to be fed) and feelings were hurt because we refused to back down on what was best for our son.

This is the life of adoptive parents.  Going against stream because it's what your child needs.  And as his momma, I will gladly do that despite the backlash we receive.

Amidst my battles I was keenly aware of the chatter behind my back.  I remember telling Mark one night that I knew this particular group was talking about me.  He dismissed it as a combination of me looking into things and because of the depression I was dealing with; which really, I can't blame him.  So when a brave individual later came to me, seeking forgiveness for not standing up for me within that group, I had heard all I needed to hear.... had confirmed what I already knew but had hoped wasn't so.

I wish I could say that was the worst of it, but it wasn't.

We battled people from the outside on a lot of things, but if I'm being honest, the biggest battle I faced was within myself.  I hate this part of my story.  And by hate, I mean utterly in every way possible despise it.  I choke back tears and sobs every time I think about it.  It's hard.  It's ugly.  But it's also part of who I am and what's brought me to the place I am now. I've written about it in part in this post as well as this one but have battled sharing much more than that, and that's really probably a gross understatement.  I've said no to God a lot because I think my story is ugly.  Yet He's been speaking to me, working on my pride in order to get me to a point of sharing the hard truths of some of the things I faced.  And so I'm braving the waters a bit more, trusting that He'll somehow use it for His glory.  Oh how I pray that my struggles will not have been in vain.

You see, parenting a child from a hard place is.... well, hard.  And as if that isn't enough, add to it that I had zero bond with Chi when he came into our home and the fact that we were the 5th home he'd been in only complicated his ability to bond with people.  The excessive whining (hello toddler years), the battling people who didn't have a clue, the watching our other kids trying to adapt and struggling..... it all began to wear on me.

Combine that with a medication that I was unaware caused depression and suicidal thoughts and the perfect storm began brewing.

I went downhill quickly.

I wondered what on Earth we had gotten ourselves into.  It felt like it would never get better, like he would never trust us, like people would never step outside of their tiny boxes and care enough to walk in our shoes....to try to understand what we were dealing with, like I would never have more than a surface level bond with him.

Every day was a struggle.

I woke up thinking "Oh God.  OH GOD!  We really did do this.  I can't do it.  I just can't.  He deserves so much better than me."  "Why!!!??  Why can't I feel something besides frustration for him?"  "I want so desperately for this to be better.  Please, God. Please make this better. You have to make this better."  "If you can't make this better, then please give me the courage and bravery to do what's best for him, even if that's not being with us."

Every day.

Multiple times throughout the day.

And God always said "You're the one."

I'd be lying if I said this didn't make me angry.  I wanted my "Yes" to not cost me so much, to be easy.  And this has been anything but easy.

I wanted to feel connected to him, but didn't.  Therefore all the normal things he would do as a two year old exponentially frustrated me more than they should have.

It felt like the worst carnival ride in history that would never end.

Yet deep down I knew this was our path.  And I knew that God would see us through it, even on the days I really struggled to believe that.

The depression worsened.  The thoughts began to come.  I say thoughts, but really they were lies from the enemy....and I believed them.  Every single one of them.

I was worthless.... as a wife and certainly as a mom.  My family was better off without me.  Why bother even trying anymore?

One day I remember yelling at the top of my lungs at Mark.  I blamed God.  I blamed him.  I blamed myself for ever thinking I could do this.  I was simply mad and depressed and irrational.  Oh how I was irrational.  I was crying so much that he could barely understand me.  I wanted to leave...had to leave.  He could have the kids because they needed someone strong, someone who could guide them and see them through life because I clearly wasn't that person.  They deserved better.  So much better.  And me leaving and letting him move on would be the only opportunity for them to have the life they deserved.  Hear me when I say my love for Mark and our kids is unmatched and unwavering, yet this is the nature of lies from the pit of Hell.  And every fiber of my being believed those lies.  I packed a bag and we literally fought over the bag, Mark pulling it from my hands saying "You can't leave.  It's going to be okay.  It's going to be okay.  It's going to be okay."  I walked out the door without the bag, him on my heels jumping in the car beside me, refusing to let me walk away from my family.

I still can't type that without the tears flowing.  The depths to which I had fallen... it's utterly heartbreaking.  The reality of what I was willing to give up because I had believed the lies.

And Mark.  Oh, my sweet sweet Mark.  When I wanted to give up, he fought for the both of us.  And the beauty and grace in that is something that I'll never forget.

I had made it through another day, but not without still believing the lies.  I just didn't have any fight left in me.

The thoughts continued.  I wished for death.  I prayed that God would just take me Home.  And when He didn't answer me, I began contemplating how I could take matters into my own hands.

With every beat of my heart, I wish this wasn't my story.

I wish I could tell you it was easy.  That I immediately fell in love with him and we bonded right away.  That I've never been depressed and certainly not suicidal.  And gracious, certainly not over the sweetest little two year old.

But this is my story.

And God has redeemed it.

I want you to read that last sentence again.  God has redeemed it.

No matter what your story is, He can redeem it sweet friends.

He walked alongside me, reminding me of His truths and promises.  He'd give me days where I began to think "Maybe, just maybe I can do this."  Then He prompted me to look at the side effects of the medicine I was on, which led to me stopping it immediately and subsequently the depression and thoughts leaving with it.  And He saw us through the ultimate betrayal of someone sending in a letter saying I didn't love Chi.  As I've briefly written about before, the letter was full of lies, complete with saying I wouldn't get up in the middle of the night when he'd cry.  Imagine the betrayal and pain we felt.  Imagine someone saying you won't get up in the middle of the night when your child is crying, even though your child sleeps through the night and has never gotten up (still hasn't).  Imagine having the baby monitor turned to high so you could hear him just in case he did.  Imagine your older son sharing a room with him knowing that he'd be awoken too should Chi be crying in the middle of the night.  So perhaps then, you can imagine our hurt.  The shock.  The questions and wondering why someone not only could tell such lies but why on earth they would.  There are some questions that we'll likely never have an answer to. Yet God can and has redeemed all of this.

What's hard for me is that I can look at my story and somehow begin to believe another lie..... that this person was warranted in sending the letter.  But here's the truth:

Telling lies is never warranted.

Gossip and backbiting is never acceptable.

And most of all, despite all of my struggles, loving Chi was never in question, only my questioning myself and abilities to be the mom to him that he needed.  I loved him so much that I was willing to admit defeat so that he could have better.  But God never offered that as a choice, He only consistently spoke to my heart "You are enough, my daughter.  You're enough for him."

Over the past several months I've thought about that sacrificial love.  I've thought about his birth mom and how she signed away her rights.  Now, maybe she didn't care.  Maybe she didn't want to deal with his health issues.  Maybe she thought "Hey, I can have more.  I'll just let him go and hopefully have one with less health problems."  Maybe.  BUT, maybe, just maybe she thought "I can't give him the life he needs.  And I love him so much that I'm signing my rights away to give him a chance at something better.  I won't fight this because he needs someone who can fight for him better than I can."

The sacrificial love of a mother made me a mother to yet another.

The resemblance of our willingness to sacrifice for his greater good is not lost on me.  Two mommas wanting the best for the same son.

I began asking God to bond us together, to make our hearts beat as one.  And He faithfully has been answering that prayer day by day.

The stubbornness I've had over the past 18 months, the utter brokenness.... Him bringing me to my knees.  Nay, breaking my knees until I would bend to His will, it has made me who I am today.

He used what most see as a negative... my stubbornness, and helped me use it for His honor and glory.  For fighting my way out and refusing to stay where I was.  For being willing to fight for our son and for myself to be just the mom he needs.

He helped me realize that just how it wasn't Chi's fault that I didn't carry him and have a bond with him, that you know, it wasn't my fault either.  But He could still work through us to bring about something marvelous and bind us together in ways I never could have fathomed.

And that's just what He's doing.

Because you know my prayer that He'd make our hearts beat as one?

One day last week as I was holding him close, rocking him in his room, it occurred to me that due to a rare condition where his heart is on the right side of his chest, our hearts always line up and beat together.

Each time I hold him, each time I reach out to love him more and more, our hearts beat together.

That realization moved me to tears then, just as it does now.

God had heard and answered in miraculous ways.

I'd like to say there's not still work to be done, but really, with parenting there's always more to do, regardless of if you factor in adoption or not.  But what I can say is that he trusts us so much now that we're constantly having to tell him to hurry up and eat because he knows it'll be there and takes his ever-loving-time eating.  ;)  He eats about any and everything.  I'm moving past all the frustrations and we're having fun together reading and playing, snuggling and doing all the things I had hoped we'd do with ease.

And you know what that means?

We're bonding.

God is binding us together.  He's so helped me that I can't even remember what life was like before we had him nor can I imagine ever not having him with us.

Yes, there are days that are hard, but even the hardest of days is nothing compared to what I've gone through.  And I'm so thankful.  Oh so very thankful.

I say all of that to say this:

I don't know what your "Yes" is.

I don't know what it's going to cost you, and it will cost you something.  But I know, without a shadow of a doubt, when you stay inside His will, He'll see you through each and every step, regardless of what it costs.  He'll give your eyes new sight that allow you to see His hand in and through it all.

Our yes has cost us a lot.  Truth is, our yes still costs us in the form of running to appointments every week and particularly with his upcoming health needs this spring and summer.

But he's worth it.

You saying yes to what God is calling you to will always be worth it.

You may be called to witness to someone at work.  To become a foster parent.  To adopt.  To become a missionary.  You may be called into the ministry.  You may be called to start a new outreach.  You may be called to any number of things that may cost you something if you say Yes.

Might I encourage you?

Do it anyway.

To think that our yes can be used for eternity.... gracious, it doesn't get much better than that.

Allow Him to use you.  Say Yes.  And then trust the Father's hand.

Because saying Yes to the Father is never easy, but it's always, ALWAYS worth it.