Thursday, April 7, 2016

Beauty from Ashes

Tomorrow marks three weeks since our sweet Asher girl made her grand entrance into the world. To say that the last three weeks have stretched me would be an understatement of Biblical proportions. Suddenly being a mom of two and having a newborn for the first time have both rocked my tiny world. Where did all of the sleep go? When is it coming back?

But truly, the last few weeks have been some of the most sacred of my life.

To hold my tiny baby girl, to be the one who has been meeting her needs from day one has been an incredible gift. To watch Bradley slowly open himself up to her and love her in his toddler way has made me so proud of him. To see him try his best to work through this tough transition after so little time home... well, that has both broken and mended my heart.

I am, once again, watching our family change, and in that change, the Lord’s hand is so clearly evident. Our family is a miracle. Both of our children “shouldn’t” be with us. Yet here they are. Both miracles in completely different but oh so similar ways.

There was a moment in Ethiopia. We had just climbed the stairs that led to Bradley’s room on our very first day. We were about to meet our son. I had never been so nervous in my entire life. As I turned to my left, I saw just the back of his head and then his face. And I had one thought.

“He’s real.”

He wasn’t a picture any more. He was a real baby boy in my arms. He was mine. It was such a powerful feeling, one I was quite unprepared for after a sleepless flight over the Atlantic. But I was suddenly overwhelmed by the reality of Bradley, and through that, the reality of God’s unwavering faithfulness. I will never forget the details of that day.

And three weeks ago, after one last push, when my head collapsed on the pillow as Asher finally came into the world, the delivery nurse said, “No, no. Look at her.” And I picked my head back up and saw my daughter in the doctor’s hands. I had just one thought.

“She’s real.”

She wasn’t a wish or a prayer any more. She wasn’t a grainy, black and white ultrasound image. She was my daughter, and she was right there. Then they gave her to me, and I was holding her. Holding my daughter. What a beautiful moment. I will never forget it.

It was exactly like meeting Bradley for the first time. Both of these children, suddenly real and definitely mine.

And in that, I was instantly reminded of God’s goodness. That He builds families in His own beautiful ways. I saw and recognized that my children are the answers to a thousand desperate prayers.

God has given me true beauty from ashes.

Right before we walked out the door to go to the hospital. 
This verse stayed in our entryway for the last three weeks leading up to Asher’s birthday. 
A constant reminder of God’s faithfulness. 

With love,

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Catching Up with Asher

I have done a monumentally terrible job of documenting our journey toward Asher joining our family. There has been so much to take in since we found out about our very unexpected blessing. And I have found myself struggling to process it all int he midst of adjusting to becoming a mom for the first time. I guess there is a reason biology doesn’t let us have two kids just eight months apart! Still, this is the path the Lord has laid out for our family, and so I know it is good. And now, with her due date just one week away, I am going to try to get in a couple of posts to catch up on the things I have not been able to write down.

Experiencing pregnancy has been an incredible thing. To feel this little life grow and move and now, especially, to think about being the one to physically bring her into the world is so overwhelming. I have marveled at God’s creative genius more in the last eight months than I ever have before. There is a human being with a soul inside my body. What in the world?

And now we are about a week away from meeting this person, this person who has been with me every single second of the last nine months, and I find myself feeling quite the mixture of excitement and anxiety. I’m so excited to meet her and to be a mom in this way, too. But I’m nervous about it happening so soon on the heels of Bradley joining our family. I feel wholly and completely unprepared. We had YEARS of preparation for Bradley and just eight VERY DISTRACTED months for Asher.

I have a feeling that this is going to be another one of those seasons in which the Lord in constantly reminding me that I need Him desperately. I can already feel the temptation to saddle up and do it on my own building within me, and I know I need to dial that down and rest fully on God. It appears that the Lord knows I like to rely on myself, and, therefore, has to put me in positions where I simply cannot do it on my own.

There is more I want to share, but the Bradley Bear is up from his nap. Hoping to write more soon.

With love,

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Real Struggle

When Bradley first came home, we flung ourselves headfirst into survival mode. Like any new parents. We were trying to figure this little boy out and learning how to practically be mom and dad while still being husband and wife and Adam and Baylor. Somewhere in the chaos, I let my daily time with the Lord drop off a cliff. It was embarrassingly easy to allow. There was SO MUCH filling every single waking and sleeping moment of the day and night. I kid you not. My dreams were about Bradley not sleeping. And somewhere in there, I stopped making God a priority.

It can be such an easy thing to do, I think primarily because the rest of the world screams for our attention, and God asks for it. Our children and homes and jobs demand our focus, and the Lord asks us to choose Him first.

Sadly, for me, I allowed this to go on for some time, and in recent weeks I have found myself REALLY feeling the consequence of that choice. Because let’s be honest... It was a choice. I chose to rely on myself instead of God Almighty. Not the wisest decision I’ve made.

So now I am in a place where I am trying to figure out how to mom with Jesus at the helm, how to meet Bradley’s (and soon Asher’s, needs while still recognizing my own DEEP need for Christ each and every day.

Here’s where we are:

We are listening to a LOT of worship music in our house right now, especially during breakfast and lunch. This is really helping me keep my heart and mind focused on Christ. I have found that what my ears hear is what my mind thinks about.

I have also, at Adam’s suggestion, downloaded the First 5 app by Proverbs 31 Ministries. It’s a daily devotional that takes about five minutes. You set the alarm in the app for when you want to do it, and when it goes off, the app takes over your phone for five minutes, only allowing you to access your devotional. I am really enjoying it so far. The idea is that it’s the first five minutes of your day, but  I have mine set to go off during nap time, as that is the most consistent thing in our day right now.

I am also looking into a She Reads Truth study, but I haven’t quite landed on one yet.

Hopefully, these things, in combination with my BSF study, will help me overcome the very real struggle of balancing time. Even now, there are so many things I want to do: spend time with Bradley, write, exercise, talk with Adam in the evenings, be with God each day, SLEEP. All of these things pull at me, and I MUST do a better job of organizing and prioritizing.

What about you? What are the things that vie for your attention? How do you carve out time for the Lord each and every day? It is the most worthwhile thing we can do.

With love,

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Whose Kingdom?

One thing I have really been enjoying this year is my first Bible Study Fellowship class. We are studying the book of Revelation, and it is INTENSE. I have loved having an in-depth study of such a complex book and have really enjoyed sharing with and learning from a diverse group of women. 

Spending so much time in Revelation has been both awe-inspiring and sobering. The raw power of God on display in such a vivid way is incredible. His grace and mercy truly exceed our ability to describe them. And His wrath is holy and righteous. The scene that unfolds in the cosmos is huge and terrifying. 

For me, it is easy to think of myself as an insignificant figure in God’s Kingdom. Yes, He loves me, but how much impact and/or influence do I really have? Does the course of my life have a role in the cosmic battle that will ultimately play out when God defeats Satan once and for all? For the sake of avoiding the feeling of responsibility, I like to tell myself no. 

But that’s really not the case. Each of our lives does matter. We do play a role. And I was struck afresh with this reality at the end of the lecture portion of Bible study last night. Our teaching leader posed a question to us. 

“Whose kingdom are you advancing?” 

It’s a powerful question to consider because there are only two options. God’s or Satan’s. That’s it. Each day I have the opportunity to advance God’s kingdom and point others to Him... or not. It’s hard to think of my life in terms this absolute, but it is reality. All of creation is moving toward this day, this moment, when God’s power and glory will be on full display and there will be no doubt that He is absolutely Lord of all. Am I living in such a way as to point people to Him now? Are you? Or are we just keeping our heads down and trying not to stir the pot, lest we offend anyone? 

If I’m honest, then I have to tell you that, more often than not, I fall into the second category. And I admit that much to my own shame. 

Reading about and studying the judgment that I know is coming, I somehow manage to keep the truth quiet, when I should actually be sharing with everyone I know. 

I had this huge epiphany last night that when I am not activity advancing God’s kingdom, I am actually advancing Satan’s. I do it by doing nothing. It’s so sly, so subtle. But that is what he does. He deceives with almost-truths, and I fall for it. By not saying anything, by not pointing people to Christ, I am allowing Satan to keep the blinders on people whom God loves. 

Who on earth do I think I am? How can I keep silent? 

And so I am praying that God gives me the courage to always look to Christ, to always give Him the glory and honor, to always speak His truth and love. 

And I’ll be honest. There is a part of me that is not even sure what this will actually look like. I spend 95% of my time with an 18 month old. While I love him deeply, our conversations are not yet theologically profound. But I can do much better modeling Christ’s love for him on a daily basis. I can talk to him about Jesus because even though he can’t understand me now, I am praying that he will not be able to remember a time when he did not know Jesus. So why not start now? 

What about you? What are the ways you can intentionally advance God’s kingdom in your life? In your circles of influence? Consider the question and come up with a real answer, not a theoretical one. And if you have an awesome idea, please share with me. I love a good, practical idea. 

With deep love, 

Monday, January 11, 2016

It Matters

I have been a mom for less than six months. Not long. So I don’t claim to have any sage advice or wisdom to impart, but God plopped something in my lap today that I feel most compelled to share.

If you have small children and you are anything like me, then perhaps there have been moments when you question if what you are doing day in and day out really matters. Maybe you wonder if your kids are watching you and actually learning anything from you, or if all of the teaching and modeling you do all day is just pointless. Allow me to reassure you. What you are doing matters, and your kids are learning more from you than you realize.

This morning was tough. We had been riding the high of a truly beautiful weekend with my dad in town and then a gathering of friends and family for Bradley’s dedication. Bradley had a wonderful time playing with his grandfather and namesake. And then he was the center of attention at his dedication yesterday (at least until he fell asleep). We had a wonderful time. But as we sometimes experience after a big weekend, Bradley was a little agitated today.

It started out in the kitchen when we got home from the grocery store. I was unloading everything, which he doesn’t like because I am not able to be completely focused on him. So he began opening all of the drawers in our kitchen and pulling everything out. Dishes, tupperware, baking pans. All of it. And then he started throwing them across the kitchen and screaming. As he is doing this, I am trying to figure out how to install the child locks on our kitchen cabinets and drawers. Apparently, my lack of engineering degree is a major obstacle now that I have a toddler. Between the screaming and the epically failed lock assembly (not to mention my raging third trimester hormones), I am rapidly approaching the edge of the cliff.

Right around this time, my darling husband facetimes us from work just to say hi.

Well, wasn’t he in for a surprise!

Baby shrieking. Wife near tears.

As he almost always can, he talks me of the ledge and promises to figure out the child locks tonight while I am at Bible study.

During our conversation, I start B’s lunch. The sight and smell of food ignite a frenzy.

At this point, all I want is to get the food on the table so he can eat and I can put him down for his nap and then go cry in my closet.

I get him into his chair and get our plates on the table. I set his in front of him and say, “Here you go.”

My child {mere moments before screaming his head off} stops, looks at his plate, looks at me and holds out his hand for me to take and say the blessing before he will even touch his food. I am stopped in my tracks.

Mother of the year over here was ready for forgo the blessing today to get him to fill his mouth with food to stop the screaming.

We have been modeling holding hands to pray for a while now. We put his plate on the table, but out of his reach, and usually he gets so frustrated with food so close that it’s a battle to get through the prayer. But today, he stopped me with his plate right in front of him to bless our food. Now, I know he does not fully understand what we are doing when we pray before we eat, but he knows that there is something our family does at the table before we touch our food.

So I stopped and prayed for us and for our food. I thanked God for my son. And that is something I was so ready to miss in the midst of my frustration.

Today I was reminded that I am the primary example of God’s love and grace in the life of my son, that if I do not model Christ for him, then I am not loving him the best I can. I was reminded that toddlers are hard, and that I cannot parent one without Jesus. I was reminded that the small things I do in front of Bradley can have a huge impact on the man he ultimately becomes.

So maybe you are frustrated today, or maybe you will be tomorrow, and you will be tempted to skip those little things because they don’t seem to matter anyway. They matter. You matter. It matters.

With love,

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Year, New Goals, Lots of New

Oh my stars. The end of the year completely got away from me. I have so many things I want to share just swirling around in my head, and I always have the very best intentions to sit down and write, but I am just so darn tired. No more! In 2016, my goal is to write at least once a week. You’ll notice we made it all the way to Thursday before I sat down to write this week, so perhaps my goal is a bit lofty, but I’m going for it.

I’m working on a post about Bradley’s first Christmas home (it was awesome, by the way), but I want to focus on the year ahead today.

So much has changed since January 2015. Last year, we were still riding the high form receiving our referral phone call and hearing that we were FINALLY parents. We were working through final paperwork and starting to dream about meeting our boy. It was a time full of joyous anticipation and aching longing to have him home.

January of this year comes with its own brand new set of circumstances and emotions. Being Bradley’s mom has rocked my world. I love him so deeply, and at least once a day I find myself staring at him in COMPLETE AND UTTER DISBELIEF. He is here. He lives in my house. Within all of that, I have been stretched to the very limits of my being. God is using this boy to refine me in ways I did not know existed. Parenting a child from a hard place has been more difficult, draining, rewarding (basically more everything) than I ever imagined possible.

And then we have little Miss Asher joining us in less than three months time. Ummm...what? That reality is dawning fast and hard. Her life has humbled me beyond words. God has gifted us beyond what we could have imagined, in a way that we were so certain would never happen for us. That I get to carry her into this world... Well, that is something for which I do not have words. We are so excited to meet and know this little girl. At the same time, as I watch Bradley grow and change and weave into our family, I find myself wondering what will happen when she is born. It scares me. I want to be a good mom to both of them, and I am painfully aware of how not equipped I am for that.

In those moments, God reminds me that my lack of ability is precisely why I find myself in this situation. Where I am weak, He is strong. It is my prayer and hope that God will be glorified through my weakness and inabilities. That His strength and goodness will be magnified. Adam and I always say that we want our life to point back to Christ, and I am excited to see how God helps us do this in the next chapter.

In a rather vulnerable conversation with some dear friends of mine this week, I shared some of my struggles with being a new mom, places I feel like I fall short time and again. And one of my VERY wise friends shared a thought that has been bouncing around in my brain since she said it. God knew I would fall short and fail in all of these different ways, and He gave me Bradley anyway. He made me Bradley’s mom anyway. What an incredible thought. I just love that. It helps me to know that I can rest and find my strength in Christ, my identity in Christ.

So that is my big prayer heading into 2016. That I would return to the Lord in a fresh way. That I would go to Him first in all things.

There is a LOT coming our way to test me in this. And that does make me nervous. But I am ready to see the Lord move yet again in my life and in my heart. I used to joke that if we ever completed our adoption from Ethiopia, I couldn’t imagine what would occupy my mind all day, every day. I guess now I know.

With love,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Photo Catch Up

It’s been so tough to have time to sit down and write lately. Our little Bradley Bear has become so BUSY. He is into every little thing, and it’s so fun to watch him explore and learn how things work. He is growing like crazy, and it is taking basically all of my energy to keep up with him.
 We’ve been getting our Christmas shopping done. 

 Putting up our Christmas tree. 
 Getting all kinds of new teeth! 
 Looking adorable while sleeping. 
 Spending LOTS of time at the library. 
 Exploring the McWane Center
 He loooooves the water! 
 And all the fishies! 
 And he’s been getting lots of time in with his daddy. 
 Family photos! 

 And leaving his mom with zero personal space whenever possible. 
 Someone has grown SEVEN INCHES in height since coming home! 
Probably because he loves to eat. A lot. 

And our most exciting news is that Bradley Bear started WALKING last week! 

Little Asher is doing well, too. She is moving around all the time, which is awesome and quite reassuring. All doctor appointments have gone well, and we are getting ready to meet our sweet girl in just three months. Yikes! 

There is a lot I have to write about, and I’m hoping to have some time leading up to Christmas to get it down. For now, though, all of t these cute pictures will have to suffice! 

With love, 
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