Monday, September 19, 2016

Nowhere Else to Be

I have always been a fairly confident person, but motherhood has rocked me in all the ways that exist.  Never before in my life have I felt so entirely unsure of the decisions I am making on a daily basis. And really, all I do is make decisions about the tiny people who live in my house. All.Day.Long. To be doing that in a deep pool of uncertainty has been tough on me.

But one decision that I know I need to make is to slow down and just BE THERE with my kids. I come from a family of achievers. We are bottom line, get it done people. You know the saying, “Those who say it can’t be done need to get out of the way of those who are doing it.”? That might be a family mantra. I love to accomplish and then move on. I thrive on change in that way. I love the idea of finishing something and starting something else.

And so motherhood has tripped me up here, too.

There is so much sameness. So much routine. SO MUCH REPETITION. So much.

And it’s good, right? Because that’s what kids need. They need routine and structure and sameness in order to feel safe and secure. Something I DESPERATELY want for both of my children.

But it pulls at me.

This again? That same question again? Home in time for naps again? Playing hide and seek with you hiding in the exact same spot again? Rocking and rocking and rocking and rocking. And then tomorrow....again.

I was having an anxious moment a few weeks ago while trying to get Asher girl down for her nap. It was taking roughly a million years, and I had this moment of overwhelming anxiety thinking, “She needs to fall asleep so I can go.” And then it hit me.


I have literally nowhere else to be.

My job is to be her mom. To give her all the love and time I have so that she feels safe and cared for.

When I have played eight thousand rounds of hide and seek with Bradley hiding behind his bedroom door every single time and he wants to go for round eight thousand and one... WHY NOT? Sure it’s exhausting to me, but he is loving it. Cracking up laughing every time I find him like it’s the best thing we have ever done together.

And so in this way. the Lord is using motherhood to humble me, to cause me to self sacrifice, to put someone else’s needs and wants above my own. And it is time well spent. So often I hear other moms say something along the lines of, “What is the point of it all?” or “I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything.” And I am the first to admit that I have had these same thoughts; I’m right there with you. The transition out of the classroom and into full time mommy land left me dealing with a serious crisis of self. So when I start to feel that way, I try to remind myself that what I am doing right now is providing my kids with a rock solid foundation from which they can build an extraordinary life. My kids need to know that I not just in their corner, but that I am going to stay there for as long as it takes. That kind of security builds self-confidence.

Now, I am not saying that I never make time for myself. You will find us at the YMCA every single day, with the kids in the child watch and me pretending I’m Shakira in Zumba or training for the Tour de France in spin class. That’s so important. I can’t be a good mom or a good wife or a good anything if I don’t take care of me, too.

But what I am realizing is that being a mom is seriously hard. It requires a lot of self-sacrifice that no one ever sees. And that can be a real blow to the old ego.

So, I am hoping to work on shifting my perspective to be able to see all that God is doing in the life of my family through this decision to stay home with my kids full time. I want my kids to see Jesus in me and know that He is the reason our family is the way it is. I want to point my kids to the Gospel every single day so that they can see how completely dependent on Christ we all must be. I want them to know the Lord from childhood, for there to not be a day they can remember without Jesus. It’s a tall order, and I know I will need the grace of Jesus Christ to come anywhere close to filling it.

With love,

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Say Something

I haven’t been able to write much since Asher’s birth. The reality of two kids has hit like a freight train (super awesome, really cute, rewarding freight train), and I am left exhausted at the end of each day with so much to say and share but no energy left to do it. I made a pledge to myself the other day that I would start making time for writing again after Bradley’s birthday later this month. He will be two, and Asher will be four months. Surely by then I will have a few moments in the day to call my own. Right??

But then this week happened, and I cannot make it to Bradley’s birthday without speaking. Without saying something. At so many moments in recent years, I have wanted to write about this, but I have shied away. Lord knows there have been countless opportunities. But I am nervous to write about it. I feel (because I am) completely unqualified. But I have to at least try.

Because there is so much that needs to not only be said, but heard. And not just heard but listened to, chewed on, wrestled with and taken to heart.

This week, we have seen two more black men lose their lives at the hands of police in what appears to have been egregious use of excessive force.

As a human being, this saddens me. As a Christ follower, this breaks my heart. And as the mother of a brown-skinned boy, this terrifies me beyond words.

You see, right now Bradley is this adorable, smiley, squishy almost two year old. He is precious and eager to love this around him. We can’t go anywhere without someone telling me how beautiful he is. And I agree. But one day, he will be 16; he will be 30. He will be a grown black man in a country with a tilted perception of him.

Years ago I attended a class at an adoption conference called “What African American Moms Want You to Know About Raising Black Children.” It was one of the most eye opening hours of my life. But the thing that has stuck with me the most was said at the very beginning. The woman moderating the class began by introducing herself, and then she said something I will never forget.

“I know you look at your baby and you think ‘Oh, my little Ethiopian baby’ or ‘Oh, my little Congolese baby,’ but I want you know that when the rest of the world looks at your baby, they think ‘That child is black.’”

Those words sank deep down into my heart. I knew they were important, crucial to us attempting to parent outside of our race. But what did they really mean?

Honestly, at the time, I had no real, tangible idea. Why? Because I am white. I never have to think about my race. I never have to worry about how people in positions of authority will view me because of my fair skin and freckles.

That is my privilege as a white person.

This was made abundantly clear to me one day when I was driving home. From 2010-2014, Adam and I lived in a part of Birmingham known as East Lake. East Lake is a predominantly African American community filled with people from all walks of life. Birmingham as a whole is still very much trying to regain her feet following the Civil Rights movement, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this dear community that still holds a special place in our hearts.

One day I was cutting through the back part of our neighborhood on my way home when I came to a four way stop filled with police officers and detectives. I thought there must have been a raid of some kind. But as I rolled to a stop, a detective approached my car and asked for my license and registration. I asked what was going on; he told me it was a warrant stop.

I gladly handed over my license and my insurance card (remember, he asked for my vehicle registration). The detective looked at my license and asked if I lived in the neighborhood. I told him yes, and he seemed surprised. He then laughingly asked me if I had killed anyone lately. I responded, “Not today!” He laughed, returned my documents and waved me through. As I drove through the intersection, I noticed that every other driver was made to get out of his or her car. These cars were searched and licenses were run. And then I noticed something else. Every single other person at that stop had brown skin.

I, the only white person on the scene, was waved through without incident. Without even giving the correct pieces of documentation to the detective who stopped me.

I pulled into our driveway a few moments later and just sat in a state of disbelief. In a powerful way, I had just been confronted by my own privilege. My whiteness had bought me a pass to not only get through that stop without being searched but to be allowed to joke with the detective without ANY fear of being misunderstood.

That, friends, is white privilege. It is real.

And as I write this, I look at my precious, brown-skinned Ethiopian on the baby monitor, asleep and completely oblivious to all that is happening today. I look at my son, who has already suffered so much loss, and I know that his life will be different than mine. Harder. His experiences, not only with law enforcement, but likely with teachers and even parents of his friends. I know that my daughter will enjoy advantages that will likely be denied to my son. Where is the justice in that?

I imagine Bradley at 16, driving home from a football game or a party and being stopped for speeding or rolling through a stop sign or failing to use his turn signal. In that moment, my white privilege will not extend to him. What if, in that moment, he reaches into his pocket to get his phone to call me to tell me what happened? That officer, who has every right to pull him over if he is breaking the law, will not see my son as an Ethiopian who was adopted by white parents. He will simply be a young black man. And what I am seeing in the news these days makes that reality a terrifying one.

Please know that I am in no way anti-police. I am so thankful that we live in a nation that provides law enforcement, that our police officers do not have to be bribed to do their jobs, that the VAST and overwhelming majority of our officers strive for justice as best as they can.

And while what we are seeing in the media right now is racial bias from law enforcement, it is absolutely everywhere. It is in our schools, our neighborhoods, our churches. When my husband was a teenager, he and his black friend were turned away from a church event. I have heard educators talk about leaving certain teaching positions because “the blacks” were moving in. Yeah, you read that right. Racism is not dead.

But it is not enough for me to feel fear just because my son is African. My deep sadness comes from the reality that each human being on the face of the earth was made in the image of God and yet we continue to classify one another, even if we do it subconsciously. We bear the image of the most high God, and yet we battle for superiority. We label and buy into the systemic belief that one race not only could but should rise above others and that those who belong to that class are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. While those who belong to the minority are assumed to be one certain way from the start. As a Christ follower, I simply cannot accept that. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us that there is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, no man nor woman under Christ. I believe with all of my heart that God created our differences and most certainly celebrates them, as they reflect unique aspects of His own character.

So what I want to ask here is for us all to take a long hard look at ourselves, at our perceptions and preconceived notions. I want us to be willing to admit that things need to change. Being white is not bad, and I fear that so much of the defensiveness and push back we see from the white community is somehow rooted in the belief that things like #blacklivesmatter somehow mean that whiteness is wrong. It isn’t. That if you are white, you should be ashamed of your whiteness. You shouldn’t. All races and ethnicities were designed and created by God. Each one is beautiful in its own way. What we all need to work on is actually seeing and believing that.

There is so much more I need to work through and process, and I hope that I can do that here again soon.

With deep love,

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,

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