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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year...

There's a new year hovering.  And lots of new things, seasons, revelations, ups, and downs are hovering, too.  It's been on my mind a lot lately.  It's weighed heavily on my heart.  I guess because I'm ready for it.  I'm just ready.  That's all there is to it.

2013 has been a good year. It's also been a tough year.  But new is coming, and new is good to me.

Even with all of it's hard moments, though, I would like to end 2013 seeing the good, and even seeing the good in the bad...
"For today will bring tomorrow, and the once familiar sorrow will turn and testify to yesterday..." -Andrew Ehrenzeller

Selah officially became a toddler, in every sense of the word.  It's been my most challenging parenting year so far.  But still, nothing can prepare you for the joys of raising a child, because Lord knows there are so many.  It's been a beautiful thing to watch her grow, learn, and explore.  Her personality is one of my favorite things in life, and I praise Jesus for trusting me to be 'Momma' to such a joy-FULL little girl.

I can't help but see the beauty and healing it's brought to my life to watch this child - who I did not give birth to - grow into a little human that is so much like me in many ways.  I take it as God's sweet way of showing me that I'm not missing out on anything, although I feel like the world tries to tell me that I am sometimes.
"You've never felt those kicks and hiccups from within?  I'm so sorry," says the world.
"You've never felt those kicks and hiccups from within.  That's only a little part of it," says The Lord.

And somehow, that brings me comfort.

I do look forward to easier days as a mom.  And as a mom who still longs.  But I look forward with the hope and faith that where God has provided so many times before, He is faithful to provide again.  Easier days are coming, but I don't want to miss out on the now, either.  And I don't want to miss out on the miracle of what I have right now because I can't take my eyes off of a miracle that I don't have right now.
Of course there is joy in the easy days.  But Dear Lord in Heaven above, I know there is joy in the hard days, too:  in the sickness, the constant discipline, 2-year-old independence, cabin fever, teething, extreme volume, constant mess, and Daniel Tiger reruns.  I'm learning quickly, on this journey of being a parent, that 'a year' might sound like a long time, but it goes by faster and faster every 365 days.  I'm heeding those warnings from nearly every passer-by who tells me to cherish it...  because I'm watching my baby girl grow up right before my very eyes.
And soon, she's not going to need me to take care of her anymore.  
She's not going to want me to comfort her when she doesn't feel good.  
I'm not going to be able to twirl her beautiful curls everyday, 
and dress her up, 
and listen to her tell me how glad she is at the end of every day.  
And I am going to miss it with every ounce of my being.  
I love her so much.

So when I think of her and the fact that tomorrow will be January 1, 2014, I just look forward to another year spent being her momma.  I just want to slow things down even more, and really soak the moments with her up.  And the biggest thing?
Hear me out:  
I want to still give thanks for the redemption that is adoption, but I kind of want to talk a little less about it.  I just want to celebrate the fact that she is my daughter, not my adopted daughter.  I want to use 2014 to really nurture this to become HER story to tell.  Maybe that doesn't make much sense to whoever is reading this, but I've felt it on my heart that 
the more we hear ourselves, and the more our kids hear us speak the word "adoption", they begin to feel like the adopted one first, and a son/daughter second.  
And I just want her to feel like my daughter.  Period.  Because that's who she is.  She's not, and will never be my adopted daughter.
We will always be adoption advocates.  But I don't want our journey to become "us", if you know what I mean.  I just want "us" to be family...Not "the family who adopted".

So here's to making it through, successfully, another year of being a mom...and looking ahead to another year of fun, love, and transformation with the beautiful girl who makes me a mom.

Oh and let's not forget the cancer.  2013 had to end itself with a doozie.  It's something I don't speak publicly about very often, because a daughter who has been without her daddy for the latter portion of her adult years has a hard time talking about it while she's trying so hard to choke the anger down.  But anger doesn't respect time.  And at some point, we all face something that shakes us to life again... Something that says, "let it go, and just love...before it's too late."

That came for me in October when my Dad was hospitalized for Pneumonia.  No big deal, right?  That's what we thought, too, until doctors decided to drop the bomb that there was a very large mass leading into one of his lungs.  Everything happened so fast - tests, biopsies, pathology reports, consultations, PET scans - and before we knew it, we were hearing the awful words:

Malignant. Carcinoid. Limited Stage. Inoperable.

And before I knew it, I was faced with more than just a bummer cancer diagnosis.  I was faced with a decision:  
Do I hang onto to every missed birthday and every hurt feeling?  
Or do I extend the grace and forgiveness that I've been given, and step up to the plate and be the daughter he needs me to be?

I chose the latter.  Not because I'm a saint or hero.  But because it's the right thing to do.  It's what forgiveness does.  It's what love does.  It's what family does.

So the past two months I have been by his side for every appointment and every treatment, which by the way, has consisted of a super aggressive regimen of chemotherapy and radiation.  And it has not been easy in the slightest.  I've watched it wreak havoc on finances, day-to-day health, physical strength, and emotions.  And as a child, it's one of the toughest experiences I've gone through yet watching my Dad fight cancer.

Cancer is nasty.
It destroys, and tosses and turns everything around.
It scatters and makes chaos.
It drains, scares, and scars.
It just takes.  and takes.  and takes.
It forces grown, competent, intelligent men with lifelong ox-like strength to their knees at the sound of what they're about to face for care and treatment.
It threatens to steal manly pride at the possibility of needing a spouse or children to provide when he's always been a provider.  
Cancer curses.
And lies... and preys.
And it often captures the faith and hope of souls.  souls who see each and every evil spot that appear on screens, and in the hands and pointed fingers of doctors who bear the news.
It comes to kill.
And it brings with it darkness.

But the fight and the will of the one fighting is stronger than any of that.  So much stronger.  THAT is what I've seen.  And it's made me proud to be by his side.
And you know?  The fight isn't over.  He's winning.  That's what we believe.

And still, even with all of it's nastiness that cancer has brought, we've been blessed.  


Before the diagnosis in November, I hadn't seen my dad since the previous Christmas.  Not once.  Hadn't even spoken.  It was like a cancer, honestly... the anger that was festering.  But through all of this, I've been blessed to spend more time with him than I have in years before.  Not under the best circumstances, granted, but circumstances don't matter when you're loving life and people through the eyes of Jesus.  The circumstances don't matter one bit.  It's time together.  And it's been beautiful.  And it's healed more than any uttered "I'm sorry" could heal.

I don't ever look forward to his next round of treatment, but I do always look forward to seeing him through his next round.  I look forward to the victory he's gaining through this fight.  
And I look forward to the next memory we'll make, 
the next conversation we'll have, 
the next cup of coffee I'll grab for him, 
and the next meal I get to make for him... 
because honestly, it's time together that I'm not so sure we would have had if there had been no cancer.

So when I think of him, and the fact that tomorrow will be January 1, 2014, I look forward to watching him defeat this disease.  And I look forward to the closeness our relationship will have gained through it.  And no matter what the outcome, we'll both cherish the time we have had together, I know.


2013, as great as it was, has often times left me feeling very alone in the friendship department.  I have friends, and some really great ones at that, but unfortunately I have to admit that the majority of those friendships exist primarily on Facebook, or even more sadly, behind the screen of my phone.  Text messaging.  
I hate that that's what it's come to.  And I hate that I've been so okay with it for so long.  It's not the way it's supposed to be.  But alas, there are reasons why.  Life is just crazy.  There's not enough time in the day.  Hardships.  Reasons.  But all the more reason to need each other, right?

Jeremy and I went to dinner recently with another couple - something extremely rare for us - and when we left, I couldn't help but feel emotional.  It just meant that much.  I felt it that deeply... that someone else could sit across from us and say so vulnerably, "There's no agenda here. We just need friends..."   And I nearly lost it in that moment over my bowl of chicken tortilla soup, because the desire? the longing?  is that so do we.  Dear Jesus, so do we.

It's a daily struggle for me to lay down the thought that I'm only a good "seasonal friend".  Good for a season, but then people move on.  Good for when there are really good things happening, or good for when there are really awful things happening.  But not for those seasons when there's really not a whole lot going on.  
That's the way it's always been.  And my heart's been broken time and time again after watching the distance creep it's way in, until both parties just don't feel like it's worth it anymore.

But I declare, and I desperately pray that 2014 will be different.  It is going to be the year of friendship.  Real, intimate, close friendship.  
The doors of my home will be open, and there will be room at my dining room table for those like me who just need people to enjoy this life with...people like me who just need friends to share the ups and the downs with... For goodness sake... people like me who just need a friend to do the mundane with.
Not in a "women's-bible-study-once-a-month-meeting" kind of way.  
But rather, a "my-life-is-an-absolute-mess-and-use-your-key-and-just-come-on-in-and-help-me-put-the-pieces-back-together" kind of way.  
Everyday friends.
Less texting.
Less Facebook.
And more face-to-face.
Much more.
So that security in having a confidant can be built.
So that a sense of belonging can envelope.
So that things can be shared.  Blessings can be shared.  Burdens can be shared.
And loneliness can be a thing of the past.

So when I think of the new depths for friendship, and the fact that January 1, 2014 will happen in just 10 short minutes, I look forward to the richness life is about to gain.  I look forward to living life with others in a deeper, more intentional way.  It's time for life-long friends.


Welcome, new year.  It really is going to be a happy one.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weird questions...


  1. Lately, I've been presented with some perplexing questions. *Which has prompted this.* And if you know me at all, I'm not particularly quick on my feet in the response department. I get nervous with people, and nervous with vulnerability, and it takes me time to really figure out how to say what I really want to say.  More often than not, I walk away from a conversation with those regretful feelings of what I should've said.  And it stinks. Because sometimes, hard honest questions deserve a hard, honest answer... And while I do have that honest ability in me, I'm just not that eloquent, well-spoken person who can make your knees buckle when you talk to them.. the kind of person who can produce in you a heart-gripping response because of the depth and beauty of what comes out of their mouth upon the question mark leaving your questioning lips.
  2. Every once in a while, though, you'll ask me about something I'm super passionate about... And with that, I can respond with a ferocity that has been brewing for as long as the topic at hand has been on my heart.  
  3. Phrasing is important.  And it is my humble opinion that we should practice being more aware of the way we phrase things.  You'll see why in a minute.
  4. If you are a man, and a stranger to her, don't follow a young lady out of a building late at night to ask her a personal question.  She might be holding her keys all Edward Scissor-Hands style behind her back.  

 With that being said...

One of the top questions I'm presented with regarding our adoption?  
"When are you gonna have kids of your own?"
*Hold on. Pause. Bow your head with me*... Forgive them, Father, for they don't know what the heck they're saying.
Ok.  Un-pause.  Why do so many people say this?!  Excuse me?  "Kids of my own"?  Last time I checked, she calls me 'mom', she calls my husband 'dad'.  She has our last name.  She is my own.  That's all she will ever be.  But I know what you meant.  What you MEANT to say was, "When are you gonna have BIOLOGICAL children?"  So why don't we start saying that instead?  Because the literal meaning of they way you phrased your question suggests that biology means more.  And it doesn't.  Phrasing people, watch your phrasing!  Because when my kid is five, and she's sitting in the grocery cart when you pop off at the mouth with your poor choice of words, I'm gonna let you explain to her that you really didn't mean it that way.  And believe me, that's not a conversation you want to have to have with a child.  K?  Thanks.

And while we're on it, let's throw in some other examples.  We'll just call this segment
Adoption Conversation Etiquette

  • "Where did you get him/her from?"
Again with the phrasing, people.  It's just not an appropriate way to ask.  If the parents haven't already specified, and it is that important to you, try it this way:  "Did you adopt domestically or internationally?"  Nine times out of ten, the parent(s) answer will tell you everything you need to know.  But phrasing it inappropriately just sounds like you think it's the equivalent to buying a pet or something.

  • "Are you gonna tell them they are adopted?"
First of all, that is none of your business.  Second of all, I genuinely hope and pray that we are moving away from this secretive type of handling of adoption.  And what I'm learning from raising my little girl, is that it is less about having this one huge moment of sitting her down to drop the adoption bomb on her when my husband and I deem right, and way more about raising her up with the knowledge of 

1.) who she is in Christ
2.) where and who she comes from
3.) her story, and encouraging her to take ownership of that.
It is NOT something to be ashamed of, and it does NOT define her.  

  • "How much did you pay for her?"
Umm, again with the ignorant phrasing.  You should know better.  But also, unless you're asking because
1.) You are seriously inquiring for the sake of beginning your own adoption process, or
2.) You need to know how much to make a check out for...

I'm not going to entertain your question.  It's a done deal.


Which leads me to part B of the question above.
WHEN am I gonna have biological children?

Man, as many times as I've been asked this, I'd have to be imprisoned if I let anger get the best of me each time someone posed this question during a moment of pregnancy-desperation!  It happens
A. LOT.  
I mean, the question begins with "When?" As if it's assumed that we're just like holding out or something.  Is that what people think?  Oh man! I wish! 

But the answer doesn't change:  I. DO. NOT. KNOW.  
Then I get the same sympathetic look of sadness and a quiet, "Aww."  
And look.  It's sweet.  Thank God that people care.  The fact is, I'd LOVE to find out today that I'm pregnant.  But after almost five years of 
....I have come to one conclusion...

God is good.
And even if I never see a positive pregnancy test while I'm here on this earth?
God is still good.
I am blessed. 
And I will wait on Him as long as it takes.
And I trust Him with this.

"...If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." 
Daniel 3:17-18

I know what God is capable of.  I know what He can do.  And we believe that He will.  But even if He doesn't.  In the event that He doesn't.  EVEN IF...  It doesn't change the sovereignty of WHO HE IS.  It doesn't change the POWER of who He is in our lives.  And it doesn't change our want to pursue Him for who He is, and not for what He can give us.  It's His story, here.  Not mine.  Not my husband's.  Not my womb's story.  Not infertility's story.  
The Lord's story.  Blessed be His name.


And in regards to the stranger man running after the young girl?  That did happen.  This past Thursday night as I was leaving church.  And really, I don't mean to throw him under the bus, because although it creeped me out at first, he really was a nice guy with a genuine question... But I held my keys tightly, because you just never know.  And I highly doubt he will read this, but in the event that he does, I do offer a slight apology:  for stereotyping/profiling, and for slowly inching my way to my vehicle as I vaguely answered your question.  Sorry sir.

So yeah, it was a Thursday night, and I had just finished leading worship with some of my friends, and it had been a powerful night.  So this guy comes after me out in the parking lot, and he says,
"I really enjoyed tonight.  Thank you.  You seem really sincere when you worship."
I wasn't sure exactly how to take that, other than to just say, "Aww, thanks!"  After all, I do try to always be sincere in it.  No one wants a worship leader who is putting on an act!

"If you don't mind me asking, is there something you're seeking when you're worshipping?" he asked.
"I'm not sure I understand. Are you asking if me seeking something is the reason/basis for my worship?   Aren't we all seeking something?" I replied.
"Well, I mean, is there something you're after?" He asked back.
At this point, we were lingering, it was cold, I wanted to get home so I could tuck my baby in for bedtime.

"Yeah.  I'm after a lot.  I'm after the heart of God.  I'm after his voice, guidance, and seeking His will for my life.  I'm seeking healing for myself, and for people in my life.  But if you're asking if that is WHY I worship?  Then the answer is no.  I worship God because He is worthy of that.  Because I was created, by Him, to worship Him.  I worship Him because it's the only thing that makes sense to me when nothing else does.  It puts me back in the rightly position of 'little person in the light and presence of a mighty King. A Savior.  A creator.  Sovereign. Holy.' And I am none of that.  So I worship the One who is.... Was that your question?"

"Yep.  Awesome.  Have a good night," he said.  And he walked away.  

And on the way home, I found myself confused... and kind of offended.  Like how dare he question my motives?  He doesn't know me! And he even said I seem sincere!  Am I missing something here??  *I even added a couple finger snaps and eye rolls in there.*  I even told my husband when I got home, "You are NOT going to believe this guy! Ugh!"  And I held onto that pestered feeling for a few days.  

But like He always gently does, God swooped in yet again, and turned my finger, and pointed it directly at me.  That guy and his questions, my answers?  They weren't for him.  They were for me.

It's been a rough time lately for my family.  There's been cancer, and financial struggles, and car troubles, and house issues, and parenting struggles, and loneliness, and school, and lots of work, and sickness, and more... And in that, it is way too easy to forget the real reason for why I get behind that microphone and sing my heart out.  
Going through so much trial, sometimes it's all we can see.  And we go and we do our thing, and we tell ourselves that our hearts are right, but then God sends a messenger...and the messenger asks "really annoying questions"...and then we give our answers, and we realize that God is speaking.  And we're just frustrated because we don't want to admit that we've got it all wrong.  But He's lovingly reminding us to reposition. To get back to the real heart of it.  To stop making it about this "ask and receive" event.  
Because yes, He wants to give. He DOES give.  But that's not what worshipping Him is about.  And as soon as it becomes about that, we've stepped out of line...turning the focus on ourselves, worshipping ourselves...worshipping our circumstances...

He is more.  So much more than that.  And I'm not so annoyed by that strange man anymore.  Thankful, actually.
I'll take that reminder.  Daily if necessary.
He is God.  Sovereign and Holy.  And I am but a little person in the light and presence of a Mighty King.