AND AND AND...

It’s been hard. All of it. It’s been tense and difficult and full and beautiful and and and…There’s a lot to it-it being this life we’ve chosen to accept with open arms as it was thrusted onto our laps.

Since having our second daughter, there’s been this emotional fragility in me that I’m not used to. Yes, I’ve always been sensitive, especially to things people would say about the boys or our loss, but with T, there’s this whole new layer of the void of my birth mom. She always told me what a terrible child I was, and my biggest fear is being anything like her-but there’s moments in the overwhelm or having two under two where my breathing cuts short and my mind goes dark that the record starts spinning You are just. like. her.

These are the moments I have to sit and remind myself: I am a foster child too. 

I have an incredible family that’s stepped in to fill that cap-but there’s sixteen years of damage to, even after years of therapy and working the ish out, still explore and balm. 

My husband treads carefully. There are days of sweet exhaustion, where we go to bed facing each other and saying, Man…we do good. We are proud of the life we’ve chosen. Saying no was never an option in our minds, but when we have people remind us that it was truly a choice to say yes, we sit back and let God pat us on the back and say, Kids, you’ve done good. Keep at it. 

And then there are days like today, where we wake up early for an eight hour trauma informed parenting class that feels pointless because, honestly, we’ve been trauma informed parents for over five years, and yes, maybe we never sat through a class but, social services, you’re too late-our time is precious and I think an eight hour date or therapy session with my man would do a hell of a lot more good than watching you, paid and childless you, tell me how the state requires you to talk about this and to show me with your eyes that you don’t really care. And if I have to hear one more person tell me what a saint my husband is for marrying someone with “so much…..’stuff’” I think I might lose the tiny grip I have on it all. 

And maybe I’m wrong. Hopefully I’ll be surprised and proved wrong. I’m open to it. But man, I’m pooped. I’m tired and processing and dealing with layers and layers and layers of stuff. And loving on two girls and undoing years of heartache for three boys. And trying to cook Thanksgiving and budget Christmas and keep my houseclean and and and

And I remember, I’m a foster child too. And my heart has been injured too. And we’re all in this together. My husband didn’t swoop away my “baggage” as some have called it. He saw me with my hands (willingly) in the mud, and sat beside me and shoved his hands next to mine. We’re in it together. And we’re in it for good. And we’re learning and in process and and and…

This is our journey and we’re proud of it. But s***…we need a vacation, ya’ll. 

Sitting in the Saturday

We were sitting at our kitchen table and something hit me-

Pain is key on the route to redemption. 

I can’t remember who or what we were talking about specifically; I can’t remember what ache we were reminiscing on…But it was this cool wave of insight and realization that came over me all at once, not in a overwhelming drowning sort of way, but, more like a gentle ocean breeze. One I said it to him, I stopped. And blinked. And let the truth of that statement permeate my own heart. 

R.E.D.E.M.P.T.I.O.N. -it’s always at the top of our list, instagram and facebook profiles, the height of the worship service…it’s what we like to focus on first because, let’s be honest, it feels great. I am redeemed. I am loved. I am restored. I am new. Yes! Yes. Truth. 

But what if we took a minute to sit in the Saturday (yes, the day between Good Friday, when Jesus died, and Sunday, where Christ was raised) instead of building a bridge, skipping the day of feeling the loss’ weight…

Because, the truth is, the joy we experience with the morning is a followup to the dark night we felt. 

We are adopted because we were once orphans. Fatherless, motherless, dirty, lost, with nothing. 

We are able to experience the joy of foster parenting and adoption because there are parents out there who would rather kiss their addictions than their kids goodnight. 

We are able to lift our hands in worship, because Christ-perfect, precious Christ-died a violent and painful death to suffer in our place. 

We are able to rejoice at our hearts’ healing in a Gentle but Firm Father’s hands, because they were once shattered by careless hands. 

The very very best things in life are preluded by pain-the ones that leave a significant mark on our hearts, souls, very being bear a dim reflection of what preceded the joy of the experience. Don’t forget to acknowledge the ache, and thank it, for making the joy as sweet as it is. 

I looked at him, my husband, the one who I’ve probably hurt more times than I care to count, the one who I’ve experienced joy beyond measure, with all tears and laughter that come with both emotions, and we swallowed and sat in that truth like the children we are. Then sat at our table and finished our apple pie and tea, and went to be grateful for all that’s been provided and restored in our own lives and hearts through the various pains and circumstances we’ve faced over three years of marriage and the course of our lives. 

And we turned off the lights, and rested our eyes, and said thanks to God for the Saturdays we’ve faced, that have made the restoration just that much more beautiful. 

Church, Jesus, Transitions and Me

We’ve been in a constant state of transition since we were dating. It started in October 2014 when the attorney came out of the courtroom, on a Tuesday, to inform me that the boys would be reunified that Friday. No TDM (team decision meeting), no time to process, and no explanation. It just wasn’t bad enough, was their reason. 

Will and I got engaged two months later, then married six months after that, pregnant two weeks after-all the while being in full time  ministry, together…but separate. Our wedding was a bittersweet celebration. There was great joy and it was quite the party (to say the least). We danced and ate and worshipped, but we also invited people into a delicate side of the story-Will sang our vows “You, me and the other three” torecognize and honor that two VIPs were missing that day. We hadn’t seen them in nearly three months at that point. 

On our honeymoon, we made a last minute detour to Santa Cruz. We walked to the boardwalk and sat and cried watching the rides and mommies and daddies holding giddy, wiggly hands because we missed our little lost boys in that moment too much. 

In the midst of these moments of sheer pain and anguish, people…well intentioned people…made comments like This is time for you and Will to be married and enjoy the newlywed life, like they forgot that we still had a teen in our home and two little boys in our hearts, everywhere with us. They forgot that our newlywed life would never be a normal newlywed life because it was marked and started on a racetrack with grief. And there were moments of sheer bliss. Yes yes indeed, but man oh man was there grief, too. 

When we found out we were pregnant, there was well…first, a feeling of “wait, what..” We didn’t even think it was possible that fast! Followed by joy, followed by months of grief. Hard grief-and when times were light, times were light; like when we found out Scout was, indeed, our precious Scout, and when we got to see her dancing and making herself comfortable on the ultrasounds, and as we watched my belly grow to hold her a little longer. But in between all the bigger days, there were the normal days where tears were my food and my pillow was soaked and Will was lost at how to comfort me because I had lost a piece of me-two pieces of me were stolen, and I didn’t know if they would ever come back or not but somehow, my grief was my form of hope. The book was left open. And then we had Scout and we would laugh in the car thinking of the ways our Cubs would react to her growing, how we longed for them to meet her, to see her to know her, and gratitude and sorrow co-existed with each and every breath of each and every day. 

And, in the midst of all this, ministry. Full time ministry. And newly married, way too newly married. We felt like we were constantly lost in a break of a wave-where the white foam blinds you and you can’t feel up from down until the sand scratches your eyes or skin. We were tumbling and fighting and missing each other because I was feeling missed. My grief, that was a reality for me everyday, was a burden, a thing deeply misunderstood, a weakness, or a conversation starter for some. And my husband was caught in the middle of defending the church he loved and the wife he chose. And I was caught in the middle of feeling pushed to “put [my]self out there” by well-meaning people,and feeling called by God to hold myself back and let me feel. There was a sacred invitation in that time to hold onto the hope that only grief can offer, but, unfortunately, people didn’t know how to handle it, and I didn’t know how to express it and the two combined collided-needs weren’t met and hearts were disappointed, and all the while, I’m trying to figure out this whole “Pastor’s Wife Life” thing, and just not fitting in anywhere. 

There were so many moments of “man, I wish they knew me before the boys. I was so whole before this happened,” -have you ever felt that way? The wish that people just knew you at your prime, before the pain or the cancer or the death or trauma…if they only knew how capable and strong you once were, right? But, the truth is, when the event hits that you think will completely shatter and break you, the one that stops your heart and makes you weak…it’s the key to being human, the key to your ministry, and the key to you becoming more fully you and more fully available to sit with people in their own grief and hope breathing pattern and say, I know. And it’s ok, without the need to fix or wrap or dismiss. 

And something happened. I realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, like I thought I was, and that there were people who wanted to walk with us, and a final straw came where I looked at Will and said, “I can’t. I’m done,” and he said “Okay, I get it now.” And that was the moment where we decided to stop battling each other and choose to latch hands, move forward together…finally, together…and to walk tall into the wave break, rather than letting the whitewash rule over us. We’ve stepped out, and we’ve dipped our toes in the water of transition, and learned from the times we’ve let the transition break us and other relationships, and have accepted the ways we’ve let it shape us. And we’ve taken a step back and thanked the pain for teaching us, and thanked the battle wounds for scarring us and showing us what we and others desperately need and are looking for, and have stepped into our new normal. We’ve kissed transition goodnight for the time being and have renamed it, rather, reclaimed it, for what it truly is: a moment to catch your breath before redemption, a moment to experience deep calling out-a new branch of life and learning in our relationship with God, and an opportunity to learn how to love people in their seasons of ache and wonder and confusion-when all they can see is the water and all they can feel is the scratching of the sand. 

“The way of wisdom is about more than simply obtaining new information. It is about living as part of a community where we gladly regard one another as valuable.” She Reads Truth

What It’s Like to Be  a MISTER on Mother’s Day

Because…one more Mother’s Day post can’t hurt. 

It’s a messy day for lots of reasons. It’s a painful day for some, a celebration for many-and awkward for most. Do you talk about it from the pulpit? Do you ignore it’s existence? What the heck do we do with this day. 

I’ve written and read my fair share of opinions, but there’s this overlooked population of people, caretakers, that tends to get forgotten in general, but especially on this day: The Misters. 

Now, let me explain what a Mister is. A Mister is a term of endearment given to me by Young Buck, my oldest of three little brothers. my brothers (Young Bug, Cub, Tiny Cub) were put into my care four years ago, after being removed from our bio mom by CPS. It was a necessary removal for their safety and well being. One day, my Young Buck looked at me and said, You’re my Mister-my mom and my sister. 

I’ve lived and loved this title everyday since. 

Foster parenting is complicated in general. You’re caretaker, you’re mom, but sometimes you’re viewed (or told by Social Services like me) as a glorified babysitter. You fall in love, but are living in fear of your heart being ripped from your chest because one court date and it could all be over. All the hours of rides and therapy and cuddles and kisses could be taken in a snap…But reunification, if done truly truly truly in the benefit of the child (which, in my opinion, is a rare find) can be a beautiful and good and holy thing. 

Now, add another layer to it. 

Imagine with me, that the person who has caused the baby or child you took home from the hospital, or had dropped off at your doorstep with one shoe and clothes on his back, or that was so severely underweight he looked like he hadn’t eaten in weeks when placed in your home, was abused and/or neglected by the same person who abused or neglected you. 

You know their patterns. You can hear the stories from your fostered babes and see the drunken slurs and angry rants and feel the slap. The sting is one you actually know, you can’t even imagine because you just know. 

And, for the sake of the child, you separate yourself and your experience because it’s not about you. This time, it’s about them, and their healing and their growing up to be strong, capable people. And oh you get the joy to do that because, hopefully, someone did that for you too. 

As a Mister, you get pegged in court as an angry orphan, trying to get back at your bio mom for all the pain she’s caused by taking her kids. You’re voiceless and tied down from all but screaming, YOU DON’T GET IT. I have nothing but compassion for my abuser. Nothing but compassion and sadness. But I cannot and will not stopped fighting for these kids to have the best life because that’s what I promised to do. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? 

Yep, as a foster parent, you promise to do everything you can to fight for the wellbeing of the child. “It’s your job to fight,” they’ll tell you. Unless you’re a Mister. If you speak up and fight, oh it could shed you in a poor poor light. 

Because the history there is ugly. Even if you’ve been redeemed and rescued. You have a Mom, a new Mom who’s taught you and gave you away at your wedding day and you’ve been a mom to a precious precious babe and you’re healthy and thriving and all that goes in between, as a Mister, your voice is a hard one to hear, because courts don’t like complicated, Darling. And bio-mom’s patterns are the same as ten years ago, and if you bring this to light, well, girl, you’re just a little too “attached” they think. 

As a Mister, on Mother’s Day, people sheepishly smile and say “Happy Mother’s Day?” and some respond great by saying you do good and I see you with a card and a cupcake at your door. Some people ignore it, or ask you how your “first” mother’s day is after you have a bio-babe, forgetting the fact that you have a 17 year old who you buy milk for and go to every game is with you, too. Or, some, just say nothing. And honestly…there’s no right answer. Because this day is messy and hard. Because, all the while, as a Mister, you’re grieving that fact that your mom, the one your heart aches to call “mommy” and hug, is incapable of loving you, of seeing you, of saying, Girl, you do good, because she’s accepted a toxin’s temptation over ever loving you. 

So, do me a favor this Mother’s Day-not for me, but for all the Mister’s and Survivors and sisters out there, will you? Remember that this day is complicated. And it deserves to be treated with care and delicate hands. There’s no right way, there’s no easy prayer, but there is God-given qualities like empathy and a simple touch that can make all the difference. Everyone has a story with Motherhood-whether with their own mom or in growing into becoming a mom, and those fragile hearts have to be handled with care. It’s not a perfectly kept and wrapped day or phrase that can heal all-but I think with the wisdom God promises, and a pause before speaking, and the recognition that yes, even your story has broken and shattered pieces (so don’t try to fix others’ pain…embrace it) and grace, abundant grace, we can start the healing process together in recognizing that we are all walking this journey with a sacred limp. 

Mother’s Day for a Mister is messy, as it is for many other women and mommies and sisters and friends-it deserves to be carried with delicate hands and careful phrases. It’s a day to remember and grieve the loss of a childhood you never had, or the loss of a child. It’s a day to grieve the loss of the mom you loved, or who just could never love you for whatever reason. It’s a day to grieve the waiting, the loss, and the surrender you are continually called to give. 

And it’s a day to celebrate the Mom who stepped in and said, “I’ll be that for you,” and the Cubs brought to your doorstep. And the little blessings in between to remind you that you’re still breathing and thriving in the midst of the grieving. That’s you’re fully alive and you’re going to make it, because there’s beauty and strength and courage in the dust and grit. And this is just the beginning. 

Stay Wild, Sweet Child (Scout is ONE)

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I took great pride in thinking I would never be one of “those moms…”

You know…the ones who cared deeply about their babe’s first birthday; who spend ridiculous amounts of money on an event that their baby would never recall at bedtime pillow talks…Nope, not me. I don’t care. Look how much I don’t care.

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But…I was wrong. As the day approached, the vision became more and more clear, and the dream, the excitement, the anticipation of the day became more and more real. I had turned into a mom that cared about my baby’s first birthday party.

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And I feel zero shame about it. This day was beautiful and filled with so much love and grace and the testimony of community (as has become a common theme in our story). It all came together 15 minutes before the guests arrived; I pitched the vision, and gave friends the trust and free reign to go and be wild in their creative selves, because, truth be told, our girl is wild and free and all that you would guess with that curly hair and saucy side smile…and we believe she will be an agent of freedom and healing for others-inviting them to just be their creative and beautiful selves and run in sweet freedom in the direction their hearts’ (with the Spirit’s prompting) calls.

Be Wild, Sweet Child.

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This is our prayer for you, Girl, as we grow tired quickly chasing you around and around, and as we delight in you daily with your sweet and tender and external sunshine-bursts of joy. Oh, stay wild, sweet child, as you listen and hear and wait and go after His call. Heartache will come, and waiting will tempt you to quit and curl up, but Sweet Child, we’ll cry and wait and pray with you as you endure. And we’ll be behind you to pick you up, kiss the wounds and hold you tight…then pat you on the behind, as if to say, c’mon girl, there’s more life to see.  

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STAY WILD, SWEET CHILD, as people and systems and culture tells you, “fit this mold, fit that, and hey, this one too…you’ve gotta keep up…” because, sweet, sweet child-you can only be caught up by the walls you put around yourself-no one else can contain you. So don’t let those fools fool you. If you hear a Wild Roar inside you, and if you’ve sat and listened and prayed…oh Girl…GO. Run fast and free and flip the bird at those who tell you to slow down and conform, because Sass and Beauty and Grace can all exist in one small package.

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And please, Sweet Sister, remind me of these words, and remind me of these prayers that I’ve prayed: But Mama, you prayed for me to be fearless. But Mama you prayed for me to be brave and strong. But Mama, God is saying, ‘Go, Girl. Go go go. I am with you always,’ so I have to fly!

And I’ll say and remember how right you are as you let my hand go to follow the bigger picture. We’ll pray for you and watch you fly with some knee scrapes along the way, and I’ll always keep the kettle warm for tea with you.

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Oh Sweet, Sweet Child…the love we carry for you is heavy and fiery and passionate and strong. But the Love of God…oh Girl(!)…now that’s a relentless kind we cannot match in our human existence.

Thank you thank you thank you Jesus for making me Scout’s Mama. This is just the beginning.

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Photos by Valerie Denise
Fauna+Critter Sketches and terrariums by Nichol Duenes of A Vintage Cloud Shop
Cupcakes+Fauna Cookies by Family
Florals by friends (Natascha, Baylie, Val)
Set up day of by friends (Terry+Nichol)

This Complicated Joy.

Loss. It’s a real thing, believe it or not. Everyone has experienced it-from a baby losing their favorite toy at the park, to a child losing a tooth, to a teen losing a grandparent, to a death, divorce, abandonment, betrayal-we have this in common. We have all experienced loss and death in some capacity. Some people run from the reality, some can’t get out of bed, and others rise out of the dust of their loss with a new roar. 

Two weeks ago, we received a call that we had been waiting for for two years. I knew the call would come again-at least, a part of me hoped it would, another part of me dreaded it because it meant something terrible had happened to the kids my heart has claimed as its own. The call that says, Sally this is CPS. We have your brothers. 

We started the process of getting our home approved and background checked within the half hour, and five hours later, we picked up our cubs from a room stuffed with kids waiting to be picked up, all different ages-infant to preteen. In the midst of all the hustle of getting our boys back, I feel like the memory goes into slow motion as I still see the nameless faces of the kids and babies just waiting to be hugged, held, or have spit up wiped off their faces, amongst the television and pull out couches that surrounded them. 

We were reunited with our cubs, and brought them into a new home with Scout in our room, and their room transformed into a boys room in a matter of minutes (because some great friends strapped their baby to their chest and said, yep we’ll be there). 

A lot of people have been asking how the past two weeks have been; are you so happy? has been the most common question. And yes, we are. But it’s complicated. 

Because, honestly? I look at them and I grieve that there are two years of lost time. The baby I weaned from the bottle has grown into a Little Cub who wants to play soccer and the fiery seven year old has turned into a preteen and I’ve lost time. We have all lost sacred time with them. 

And I’m angry. I’m angry that I was told, a little less than two years ago, that it just wasn’t bad enough of a case to keep them from the one who wrecks their spirits, hearts, and bodies. The one who drags them up stairs and calls them unrepeatable names. The court, Orange County Juvenile Court, the judge, the system…They said it just wasn’t all that bad. 

But Will and I see the consequences front and center of “just not bad enough” in our home now. We see what the trauma of fear o punishment can do to a little boy who used to be spirited and silly and loud, and what verbal abuse could do to a once strong willed, wise guy. It shreds them. It brings them to a point of losing who they are in the midst of being told how lowly their own mom thinks of them. 

We are praying for a miracle here, folks. We don’t share this to tear anyone down, but to share the reality of the problem. These issues are real, and they should make you uncomfortable, uneasy, and sad, because they are not intended by the Maker of Heaven. God never intended his children to be abused. God never intended for Orphans to exist (yes…there are indeed Orphans in Orange County whether they admit it or not). And these facts, if you have a taste of God’s goodness in your heart, his justice, kindness, and mercy, should make you angry and desire change. We are asking you to pray for this with us. We want this chapter of the storm and devastation to end for our Cubs. 

So yes, like the verse says, Hope Deferred makes the heart sick, but a Desire Fulfilled is a Tree of Life (Proverbs 13:12)…there is a desire that has been fulfilled here. Will and I have never felt so complete and sure of the fact that not only are we doing exactly what we were always meant to do, but we’re experiencing a glimpse of refreshment, feeling like this is the way life was always meant to be. There’s beauty in that. Our house is full, and so are our hearts. 

But it’s a complicated joy because we had to welcome in all the pain that came with the reunite. All the trauma, all the lost years with our Little Lost Boys. It’s a complicated joy, but we’re so glad to be in it. 

His Success is My Success

Last week, my husband and I watched the American Idol Farewell Season premiere, and something happened that made us cringe.

Yes, there was a fair share of bad auditions, but these (honestly) make me shrill with delight. What really charred our appetite was an audition featuring a husband and wife, individual contestants, who happened go into their audition at the same time, with their baby girl. The wife sang, got told she was good…but just not good enough, and that her baby was distractingly cute. The husband got put through the next round…To make it more painful, after the wife was rejected, she held the baby and watched the judges ooh and ahh at her husband’s talent, literally inches away.

As if this wasn’t heart wrenching and awkward enough, what followed made my husband and I go to bed tossing and turning. In a candid, yet skillfully captured, moment, the wife is in tears, and she turns to (and on) her husband and says “I’ve never been good enough…I watch you follow your dreams…” through her sobs.

My husband and I looked at each other and back at the screen and made a series of grunts and groans and “AGHS” -it was literally painful for us to watch…

And the main reason is because it was way too familiar.

It hit so close to home for us. We’ve had that conversation. I’ve shed those tears. Will’s looked at me with the same surprise at the pain. We both resonated with the wife who just felt shattered, and had compassion on the husband who had no idea what he was doing could cause such pain.

We walked upstairs and Will said shyly, I just can’t stop thinking about that couple. It literally stung our hearts for a solid amount of time.

I knew marrying a pastor had it’s share of trials and joys: lack of privacy, unwarranted exposure, late nights and a full time (unpaid) job for me. But I never could have imagined the sense of competition I would face.

No…I don’t want to steal Will’s electric guitar and be the star of the show. I don’t want to be a worship leader aside from with my husband. But there were months when I would get stopped in the grocery store, or calls at work (when I worked at the same church as Will) where people would ask me if I knew the worship leader, because he’s just so darn talented. 

And, just to clear the air, I totally agree, my husband is hot and talented and humble as all get go. But I just had begun to hear so much about him, and nothing about me, the wife who stayed in a city she never wanted to live in, who sacrificed time with her husband, time as a family, and time for herself in the name of ministry, the wife who stays home and works hard to create a refuge for her family, and for the rotating door of guests…And I felt lost in the midst of the Costco runs and late night meetings. 

So…we fought. Multiple times. About the same thing. We often didn’t know it was about the same thing, but the same hurt came up every time…I gave (insert career, ministry, comfort, vacation) up for you. I never wanted this. I am more than this.

In the midst of wanting to be noticed, I lost my focus that should have rested on being my husband’s best friend. 

So, when we see this displayed to America across the screen in our living room, fighting everything in us not to jump off the couch and shut it off in aching discomfort, we recognized all kinds of feelings we’ve been working through. Will knowing what it’s like to be the husband who just didn’t know, but also being able to look at the wife with complete compassion, because, after holding and fighting and entering the hard conversations, he is starting to get what it’s like on the other side, too.

And him knowing, now (after lots of “conversations”) how necessary it is for me to hear my frustrations are warranted, that I’m seen first by God, and second by him, and that he’s grateful and proud has made all the difference for us. Will’s success is my success. And he doesn’t carry my passions lightly.

His dreams are my dreams, but he encourages me to pursue my own, apart from worship with him, because there’s a necessity for us to see each other, hear each other, and feel each other cheering. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint, and so are dreams. What an honor to be in a lifetime job to be someone’s cheerleader, coach, or shoulder, and to root each other on in the pursuit of the big and small things. 

In a time where social media has the ability to temporarily, and superficially, fill the heart’s “notice me!” cry, it’s too easy to get caught up in the search for our own significance. My significance rests in my servanthood-to my husband, my children, my job, and church. I don’t need extra merit or a name tag because I know my biggest fan is waiting for me at home, to hold my hand as I rest easy in bed. I don’t need the approval of man, because the approval of man is trumped by the approval of God, and I have that stamp sealed on my heart. 

And we’re still in process. Sometimes, a lot of times, the great green monster makes it’s way-one instagram picture, one conversation, one rejection can get me spiraling-but there’s grace in the growing. And Jesus promises that he’s just not finished with us yet. Believe it.  

How We Fight for Health in Our Marriage (with all that junk in our trunk)

Our marriage is far from perfect (are you surprised? I certainly hope not!). We argue, disagree, I’m selfish, so is Will. I’ve said it many times: Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard you guys, for anyone.

Specifically, today I am talking to those lucky few with stories of massive redemption. People who were once identified as orphans, now forever chosen; those with a history of hardship, a messy past, a sticky story…What about those who have experienced the realness of Christ as a result of their pain, before being married? Marriage is hard for anyone, but there’s some significant and unique circumstances that come up when you come from a broken home. 

Here’s how Will and I have made intentional choices to fight for health in our marriage, when we both come from our own version of crap-central (yes, I said that): 

1. We go to counseling.

We have gone to therapy since the beginning of our engagement. Nothing was wrong. We weren’t even really fighting. We just knew our circumstances were different than most new married couples (because of me fostering as a single for so long) and that our stories required some unpacking. Nothing could have prepared us for the amount of things we’ve worked through in our two years in therapy. I cannot recommend it enough. For anyone. Place the stigmas to rest and realize, if you are going to step into therapy, it’s probably because you’re the healthy one in the storm and you are able to step out whole. The things Will and I have discovered about ourselves and each other, the ways we’ve learned to communicate, I can’t vouch for it enough…We’ve been able to heal together, and that’s special. 

2. We let each other cry. 

So. many. tears. There have been nights where the bills are piling or Will’s job is just hard to navigate (for both of us) and we just cry. I listen to Will say that it’s hard. I agree. And I listen. And then, in other circumstances, he does the same. We don’t try to fix. We don’t try to lecture. We just say, “Yup. This sucks. I’m so sorry honey,” and let the other just feel whatever they need to feel. And sometimes, I have to remind him, “please, stop talking, and just listen.” And guess what his reaction is? “Thank you for telling me. I’m sorry.”

3. We get mad for each other. 

Even when I’m wrong, I sometimes just need to hear Will say he’s upset on my behalf. That he is on my side, and that he is for me; that he’s going to march up to that person who made me sad and give them a piece of his mind. 

This took time. And counsel. Will had to learn that he’s on my team now, and all his other loyalties (except to God, of course) were secondary. We went through a rough season of him defending and reasoning, “yea, but babe…a, b, c, d.” And me shutting down in response. What we learned was, after having a mom that was not only not a defender of me, but out to literally destroy me, that I just needed to know Will was on my side, even when I was just venting. And I do the same for him. 

I, on the other hand, am actually really good at this, in a really bad way…I’m his number one fan and number one protector. If you try to hurt him, take advantage of him, or dishonor him in anyway, you should watch out. And you will hear from me. It’s something I like to call “little dog syndrome.” 

4. We separate what’s “me” and what’s “them.” 

What I mean by this is, if Will comes home, and I’m snappy and not wanting to talk, he usually knows it’s not something he did, but it’s something happening outside of our control. Whether it was a rough day with the baby or a holiday that reminds me of losing the boys is approaching, I’ll probably start complaining about the need to clean the house. And Will’s response? He invites me to rest, to get alone time, and does something to alleviate the stress, like do the dishes. Even if my behavior raises anxiety in him he talks himself down and reminds himself, first, that this isn’t necessarily about him. This is me, and my junk, and I’m still a baby in trying to work through it all. 

I am not in any way saying it’s good to take out our stuff on our spouses. I am, however, coming from the perspective of a woman who grow up in a destructive home, and unless you’ve been there, you can never understand the impact it has on all your marriages, but most of all your marriage. It’s inevitable that things come up, and sometimes the “thing” is too hard to utter. As I learn to communicate what’s going on in the midst of my analysis paralysis, he reminds himself of what’s actually happening, and where this is coming from. This is where fight, flight, or freeze comes into play, and when it is absolutely necessary to know what your partner’s MO is. 

6. We laugh and pray together. 

Sometimes, we just bust out in laughter in the middle of our biggest fights. It’s usually because we realize we (eh…I’m) just fighting out of stubbornness. We could be in the middle of a fight, and in the next moment I have tears rolling down my cheeks from laughing so hard. Just because marriage is hard doesn’t mean it’s not fun! Gosh, if I could remember these early days as full of laughter, that’s a win in my books. 

I would love to tell you we pray after every fight. That we pray together every night and every morning and before we get intimate or…you get the idea. But we don’t. Not always. A lot of times, it’s me waiting for him to take ownership as the pastor of our home, or it’s him not even thinking about prayer and me feeling too vulnerable to take the one step deeper. But when we say it out loud, I think we should pray, or can you pray for me, we make it count. Even when we’re not “feeling it” or spiritually wiped out, we do it and it is an engrained reminder for the next time, when we are spiraling and having that what the heck is going on kind of week. God is faithful to remind us, gently, that we’ve forgotten our first love (Him) and let other things (even good things: church, kids, each other) steal our focus. He reels us back in and reminds us that He is our home, and nothing is more powerful than when we come to Him united. 

Last night, when Will and I were watching Modern Family, we were intrigued by this quote: “Why do we choose partners so different from ourselves? It’s not fate or chance or clichés like ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.’” “We choose our partners because they represent the unfinished business from our childhood.”

There is so much unfinished business, whether it be pain or joy, that stems from our childhood. It’s necessary to work through, and it’s a lifetime of learning; but I love that I get to do it together. 

We hear a lot of times that people marry someone because they bring out the best in them. I tell people I knew Will was the one for me, because he gave me freedom to be my worst with him. Those shattered pieces I had so delicately glued together came crashing down, reminding me that I’m not finished yet…and won’t be until heaven. 

The Hardest Lesson I Will Ever Face...

“If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high. Look it squarely in the eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’ Then, repeat to yourself the most comforting words of all, ‘This too will pass.’ -Ann Landers

Most of you have heard my story, or at least, heard bits and pieces of it. It’s marked by pain, redemption, more pain, then more redemption…a whole lot of grace and beautification. It’s a process of renewal and a process of becoming (becoming what? I guess we will see). 

Because of this story-no matter how much beauty I’ve found in the struggle, in the dirt and adoption and breaking ground, I’m desperate to preserve My Girl from those same aches. I’ve made unrealistic commitments in my heart about what mommying will look like from me, all the fun we’ll have together and all the evil I’ll protect her from. We’ll run through the fields and frolic together where no injures can touch us! We’ll be free! 

But (obviously) life isn’t that “free.” There are aches and pains that hit suddenly. There are traumas even those with the best-of-lives face. We’ve all heard the stories that can swell the tellers eyes with tears instantly, no matter how blessed they are. 

There will be pains I will not be able to prevent. No bandaid can fix, no kisses can heal. It is inevitable, in the forces of this world, that pain will strike swiftly, and it will be complicated and she will carry it on her own. 

This has been a record-playing thought in my mama brain this week (not original…we’ve watched Inside Out almost four times): there will be pains I can’t protect her from. 

My happy-go-lucky, free spirit girl will cry secret tears in the bathroom. She will see and hear things about herself she won’t like, and she will have secret imposing lies and battles she thinks she’s lost. 

And Jesus will call me to wait. 

As much as I want to rescue, I will be called to wait, and let the struggle grow her and mold her and shape her not into who I want her to be, but who Christ has called her to be. 

And my heart will (it already is) crying out to the Lord, asking if I could just take those aches for her. Can I just carry them for her, Lord? Because I can handle them. I can handle my own tears. Hers? Oh no, Lord. I can’t do that. 

And the Lord reminds me of the ache he faced when He let Christ hang on the tree–for my sake. For her sake. So that these secret tears won’t be in vain, but for His glory, and he good. For the sake of the world and the legacy she’ll leave. 

My role is to teach her the hardest lesson I’ll ever know-to live in the struggle well. To know it’s ok to be sad, and it’s alright to be mad. Just know the beauty will come from the struggle if not today then in eternity when we’ll watch the Great Tale unfold in ways we never thought possible. 

In my helplessness to heal her wounds, I will teach her that we are never truly helpless, but helped by a God who offers His strong hand to hold and hang onto, no matter how weak our grip. 

In my brokenness in seeing her breaking, I will teach her to linger and let the process be, no only for herself but for those around her. To take a step forward and say “it’s ok to be sad today.” 

In my relinquishing of control (oh sweet, sweet, control…how i love thee…let me count the ways…)-I will teach My Girl the sweetness of surrender and release. 

And in that sweet release, we will learn together to receive. 

There are many many lessons to be learned and taught that will be impossible to do on my own. But my intention is to rely on Christ as I learn, to relinquish, then share what I’ve learned in the process; embracing this blessed mess, and admitting I don’t have it together, all figured out, and letting the waves of Mercy teach My Girl what needs to be taught so that the struggle will not remain as just so, but will grow into a beautiful time in her unfolding story. 

photos by Valerie Denise

BUT, I am not a victim.

Something has been irking me lately. It’s this feeling every time someone asks about the boys, or how our “situation” is, or if we see them…Something pangs my insides and hits me like vinegar on an open wound. 

Overtime, we’ve seen a lot of our relationships shift; some even deteriorate. My brokenness in this season (this two year long so far season) is still very gaping; some days I feel whole again, like nothing can steal the lightness of life from me again; others, and most, I feel like I am sinking in quicksand. 

But, as I go through my process, and live out my story, I’ve noticed something that I think may be the root of my irk-

I am not a victim. 

But a lot of times, I am treated or seen as such. There’s this confusion and complication that comes with my story (it has the same feel as the “I’m my own grandpa” song, but it’s more like I was my brothers’ mother even though we were all birthed from the same woman). People want to know the hows and whys (was your mom just unfit? –was the most recent of probes with a new meet and greet). I try to explain the but Jesus part of it: yes, but God told me months before to get ready girl, something big is coming. yes, but Jesus is more real than the pain, and he says he’ll sit with me as I cry–will you? 

I often leave conversations with people about the boys feeling defeated and depressed. And, I realize more than anyone this is a complicated situation, and there’s no right thing to say. But what I want to get across is this truth: 

I am not a victim. 

Because, yes, the pain is very real-but Oh in that pain, how all the more real is the beauty? SOMETHING springs forth in our desert places. I have to believe that SOMETHING will grow from this heartache situation. 

And I say this not to get more tender glances or comments of understanding-I don’t share my story on social media and through writing because I want people to feel bad for me-but I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe there’s someone out there who is feeling the way I do? Carrying the pain of a little lost boy or girl-or any kind of loss. And they too can find comfort in someone saying out loud: this pain sucks and the recovery is a confusing hot mess. But we are not alone in it. 

So, yes. My mother was unfit, and the boys’ placement was an emergency. I stood up to say yes, of course to fostering them. And, in all honesty, I would have said the same thing if they were not my brothers (contrary to popular belief) because my heart races for the care of the orphan. There is a need, and a lack of people willing to step out and say yes. 

I was not a victim of my circumstances. I was empowered to do hard and holy things by an all powerful, all knowing Savior who saw me from the creation of time. He mapped out my story for me long before that call came through in the middle of the night, and He sees it for what it is all the way through the end. 

I am not a victim. 

This was just the way God had set out for me to serve His purpose of stepping in for the orphan. Yes, I thought it was going to involve moving to the most dangerous countries and kicking down doors to rescue trafficked women, but God had something different (way freaking different) planned for me that involved having my eyes opened to the irrefutable flaws of the Orange County Department of Children and Families services. Now I am walking with the knowledge of the flaws, and since I am aware, I am responsible to do something. 

WE ARE NOT VICTIMS OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. 

We are not to be pitied or pushed aside because we say yes to hard and holy things! No. We (whoever you are, whatever your story may be) are alive and strong and able to step into your call; and should be free to do without others’ dismissal because of your rough patch life. We are more than that. We are more than capable, and we are more than conquerers.  

The Challenge We Accept

I’ve said this before, and if you talk to me, follow me on Instagram, or read my blog…you will hear it again, “Marriage is not for the faint of heart.” 

Nay, marriage is a hard hard hard battle for the brave. It’s a constant battle of the wills, toughening of the soul, and reminder that, darn it, we just aren’t quite Home yet, and we are (I am) in desperate need of One I can call my Savior. 

This week was one of those I’m on my knees, Lord kind of weeks.

One of those weeks where I looked at my wounded soldier, my husband, the one I had wounded with my own words, and say we must remember that we are the not enemies. The Enemy is our Enemy. 

The one I have stood facing, promising forever and promising faithfulness and camaraderie has been a victim of my poisonous, exhausted, stabbing tongue.  

Yes friends…we too (the pastors, the Kims) have those weeks. 

And when I finally had time to rest from the battle (the battle with, not against, my spouse), and bring the conflict in my heart out to the Light, this scary-good prayer came like breath: Grow me as a wife. All the areas I need to grow in to become the wife you designed me to be, grow me, God. I accept the challenge.

You see, there are many times where I’ve tried to fit a picture I’ve seen of what a wife should look like…Tammy Taylor is my perfect picture of a wife (you can laugh, but if you’ve seen FNL, don’t lie about your admiration. I will call you out so fast). If only I were like Tammy where I could express my frustration with that cute little Southern charm and a whip of that killer hair, and still make that bbq happen with a big grin on my face…If only I could be more like Tammy Taylor. 

But Will didn’t marry Tammy…and Tammy is fictional. Will married me, and there are pieces of me that he needs. And there may even be broken pieces of mine that he (my Will) needs to see healed, because that’s how I will become more of the wife God designed me to be. 

Because, in beautiful honesty, my brokenness is what sets me a part. And my brokenness is a unique gift I bring into my marriage, if I allow God’s healing hand to do his work in it. 

And the scary-good prayer of accepting the challenge to grow, this is a challenge towards commitment, honoring my husband above myself, and trusting in God to grow my husband into the man HE’s designed him to be…not the mold of a man I plan to shove him into.

This is the challenge I’ve accepted: I want to become more of the wife God intended me, no one else, to be. I want to grow grow grow and cultivate a home of healing for my husband and our big kid and our baby. I want to walk in the knowledge that I am a woman, a wife, restored in so many ways, because my God is the God who makes the withered hand straight and the little girl arise. 

My God is the God who presents challenges that are worthy of walking through with heads held high and arms outstretched. 

His work will never be completed on this side of heaven, but my prayer is that in 50 years I can look to my left and see my husband’s big ol’ (toothless) smile, knowing that, through all the shattered glass, we are trying our hardest and working our tails off to be Christ to each other. 

Here’s to forever growing, my one sweet Will. 

I am no more a mom than you...

I am no more a mom than you. 

Being pregnant is a strange phenomenon-it suddenly gives people the freedom to share their opinions on your body, how you carry, if you look too small or too big…and advice on how to care for an infant, your marriage, your house, your body…

Being pregnant has been an interesting experience for us, because, although I’ve never been pregnant or mommy-ed a newborn, I’ve been a mommy. I’ve cradled a wimpering one year old into the wee hours of the morning, knocked down fevers, loaded my car with three little (big) boys to take to and from school, to and from football, to and from baseball, speech therapy, friends’ birthdays. I’ve faced that exhaustion of overrunning but knowing I can’t stop because there’s no one that can take my place-not as a superhero complex, but, just as the reality of raising three boys on your own. You, and you alone, are their everything. 

I’ve laid on the floor next to one boy as he melts with a tantrum, yelling about a jacket, but my mommy-heart telling me there’s something deeper, way deeper, happening here. 

I’ve grounded and taken off doors (well, now, that would be we, since I’ve become my husband’s bride), because of grades and choices that need someone to say “enough…” because we believe he is worth it. 

I’ve cuddled and cradled and sang and danced after hours of work, exhausted, because the giggles and toddler ramblings are just…the best. 

But I’ve also experienced the deep stab wound of people saying “Yea…but you don’t really know, you’ll never really know until it’s your own." 

These are my own. 

They are my own. 

I know birthpains, maybe differently than you–but I know them in the sense of enduring trial and heartache and holding on when I felt like giving up so many times. I understand the endurance that bears joy on the other side (John 16). 

I understanding nurturing, and giving my body to a child in constant need, maybe differently than you–but I know what it’s like to have six arms tugging at your only two, and losing sleep for so many reasons, missing out on dates and fun…because you’re needed. And I can’t shape the deep anguish that resides in my heart, my stomach, every day, as a nursing mother who leaks at the sound of her babe’s cry (Isaiah 49:15).

People have told me I don’t, I can’t understand what being a mommy feels like until I experience these physiological changes. They’re wrong on so many levels, to so many people. 

I am no more a mother than you, because I’m incubating this sweet babe in my body. I feel blessed, and honored, and in total wonder and awe, but I’m no more a mother than any other forms of mommies just because my baby is growing in me. I am no more a mommy today than I was when I answered that call from the police at 3am almost three years ago.

I am no more a mommy to this Babe than I’ve been to my three Little Lost Boys–this is a new experience in some small ways, but not in the amount of heart it takes to mother, momma, mommy. 

I am no more a momma than you–this is what I need to hear. I am no longer a momma today than I was three years ago. 

And I was no less a momma the day we said goodbye to our precious boys. 

Even though I carry this babe in me, I am no more a momma than you…

you who choose to stand in the gaps, fostering, giving up much of yourself to love someone who hasn’t seen true love before, so they push. Your mommying is not in vain. 

you who have adopted, loving someone different than you in color or size or eyes or hair, getting questions about your choice. 

you who chose the hard road of waiting, or in vitro, or any fertility treatments. You are a mommy, even in your waiting. 

you who are single, and using these years to open arms wide across the nations, or maybe in your own backyard. Your hugs are making a difference. 

And to all the different kinds of mommies–who birth or auntie or foster or adopt–we have different stories, different backgrounds, different understandings, but it’s not a comparison trap. How the enemy would love to separate and entangle us into different categories. It is rather an area to learn and serve and celebrate the diversity as we strive towards a single goal: to raise up and love on the babes entrusted to us by God’s hands. 

An Old Newsletter

We have a small stack of newsletters that were sent to specific readers during the time we had the boys, and immediately after the reunification. This is one of them: 

—————————————-

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
Psalm 46:5

The boys have developed a new love for Peter Pan since we visited Disneyland last week. The day after court, we surprised them with a day at the Happiest Place on Earth. Floyd saw the parade for the first time, and that’s where he made his real life encounter with, the one and only, Peter Pan. I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face as I watched his eyes grow wider and wider by the second as he waved and yelled out for Peter. When Peter noticed him, Floyd bashfully rested his cheek on my shirt and then gave me a kiss-it was his way of saying “Did you see that, Mama Sally? He saw me. He saw me!”

I saw the same wonder in his eyes this morning when he noticed me in his preschool class. I volunteer every Thursday, tracing, cutting, helping kids put glitter on glue, and, I know this is a safe place, so I will say the totally unexpected: my intention in volunteering is to see my Floyd.

It’s ok to gasp if you need to.

Like Miriam watching Moses float down the Nile, I’m keeping my eyes on those boys through the reeds.

He was lying on the floor working on a puzzle when I walked in. He looked up, then looked back down. And, in a moment, he realized what he almost missed. He looked back up and ran towards me with his eyes lit up the same way they did as we watched the parade pass by. He stroked my face and whispered “Mama…mama…” as I weeped.

And, just like the parade had to continue passing by, we had to say our sweet goodbyes. And, just like Peter Pan reminds to the children to always believe in “hope, trust, and pixie dust…” I whispered to him over and over again “be strong and courageous, Jesus is always always with you. Be strong and courageous, Jesus is always always with you…”

And, with the same disheartened question of why the parade had to come to an end, the wonder shrunk from his face, and he got his mat for story time. And I left to a normal [but not my normal] routine.

The days leading up to the exchange, we invested in this new love for Peter Pan. At Disneyland, immediately after the parade, we rode the Peter Pan ride. The next night, we watched Return to Neverland. And the next night, we watched Hook.

I realized now why the boys loved this story from every angle. You see, they are the main character. They are the Lost Boys, desperate for a Wendy to tell the stories, to cuddle them, to simply love them and love them simply. It doesn’t take extravagant gifts and theories to love a child. All it takes is a little hope, trust, and pixie dust […or fun]. Watching them watching Pan in their torn up footies, hands under chin, eyes wide in wonder made me understand…they are my Little Lost Boys. Somehow, this fantasy from every angle gets them in ways that counselors and friends just simply can’t.

At bedtime I asked my Little Lost boys what they learned from Hook:

“Good ALWAYS defeats evil!”

“Always be yourself.”

“Make the most of your time.”

“The good boys ALWAYS beat the bad guys…”

Yes, son, yes! Yes! A million times: yes. You got it. And store those truths in your heart. Remember when all hope was lost, and all we had were the words of Wendy “Hook will never win”? Remember? We know all along, no matter what happens along the journey, that Pan holds the victory.

Oh but Pan is not perfect. And even he got captured and hurt a time or two. But our Jesus? Oh my Little Lost Boys, the victory is His. And the inheritance, the treasure, is yours. And Scripture tells me and you that that is something that can never tarnish or taken.

Oh Someday Babe.

Oh Someday Babe

I can’t describe the ways you’ve imposed on my heart, especially in the last few months. Even though we carry this one April Babe, flesh of our flesh, created by us…you are a desire that we just. can’t. shake. 

You are not a plan B or a second act. You were a thought in our minds and a pursuit of our hearts before we found out about the shift in our trails; up to the day we saw those two blue lines on three different sticks (it was a surprise) you were at the top of our minds…

Oh One Day Babe

I don’t know where you are today, if you’re even born or yet to be. But I know, believe, and pray without ceasing that you are ours to fight for. 

And we won’t be perfect (ask our adopted brother-son)–oh but Babe, you’ll be loved. No matter if you look like us or far different, in whatever package you come in, we can’t wait to fill in the snuggles and kisses where someone once couldn’t. 

Oh Someday Babe…someday you will be ours to love and ours to keep, and that one day, we will see you and know that you are for us–and we will be all for you. The gap is wide and the trenches are dirty…we’ve known the path that ends in heartbreak all too well, but you’re worth it. Every minute and every tear that we can shed so you don’t have to anymore…you’re worth it. 

Oh Someday, One Day Babe, we wait for you already in love with you. 

Oh Girl, [you can say no]

Oh Girl…

I was a lot like you once, desperate for attention and affection and all that’s natural and good-but not knowing how or where or when to get it. So I made my own path to receive-Oh Girl, our own path can be full of mud and muck and left over slops. 

You can still say no. 

Whether your standing, sitting, or lying on that bed. Whether your dressed in Sunday’s best or that night-time too-short skirt…Oh Girl, you can still say no. 

And if he says “yes, yes, c'mon yes, this is how I’ll know you love me; don’t you love me?”

Run for the hills. Because true love is so much more than secrets and shame that follows the next morning…True Love is a man that says, “I’ll wait for you in every way." 

We’ve heard the metaphors–tape doesn’t stick after it goes around the circle, a flower crumbled can never be the same…we’ve heard what sex (outside of commitment, marriage, true love) does to us as girls…too many purity talks for my taste…but have you heard that there’s One who requires nothing of you yet offers you all the love you’ve been searching for? No Sunday in bed can quench that thirst, Girl. No touch of a smelly, protein filled jock can solve distance with your dad or heal hurt from your mom.

Oh Girl, you’ve heard it, you know it: you need Him. The One who formed your heart and holds it in its delicate place. 

He knows you. He knows your story. He sees you in the quiet places. 

And, although the Giver is worthy of our adoration, more than the gift…Oh Girl, He’s got good things coming for you-trust me, I’ve seen it first hand.

Trust me: true love is the one who spends Wednesday morning with you paying bills, laughing about life and future and failed dreams, after six months of marriage. 

true love is the man that holds your hand after 35, 45, 55 years of sleeping next to you [and only you]

true love is the man who runs to Yogurtland at midnight because your pregnant body demands it…fiercely. 

and true love is the young guy standing across from you on a Saturday night, promising his life for you, promising to take all the bullets and arrows you throw or that come towards you, for you. 

And, Oh Girl, none of this starts with a text of "show me more,” or “our secret." 

That True Love Guy is out there, but you gotta wait wait wait Girl, and it. is. hard. But when he appears…Oh there are no secrets to be kept because he will be proud of you, and proud to share you with his world. 

You can still. say. no. No matter how close you are to giving in, no matter how many times you’ve said yes. No matter what’s been taken from you ages or days ago [without your permission]. Today: You can still say no.

Wishes for our daughter

You are our greatest surprise in so many ways-

Your dad and I are so in love with you already, we have thoughts and prayers and talk to you, and about you, often-you are always on our mind.

Here are our hopes and thoughts and dreams for you as you grow-

1. First, and foundational: you are so loved by your Daddy. Beloved, is the right word for you, baby girl. This is an imperative place to start because it will navigate through so much of your life without you even realizing it. Your Daddy is so in love with you–when he found out you were coming, his face instantly lit up, and he looked at me with a giant smile and said “Girl! It’s a girl!” He talks to you every day, and takes care of me so I can continue to take care of you. Oh Little Girl, you are loved loved loved by a good, strong, steady man. 

2. Your parents are justice seekers, world shakers, and goofballs. We will embarrass you in many ways-whether with our dancing or with rants about injustice…we will be your biggest cheerleaders in all things, but especially the things that count: being brave with your life, loving people well, and pursuing big dreams. You will (hopefully) have a brother or sister one day that didn’t come from mommy’s belly, because we see that as a necessary non-negotiable. You will probably hear us talk about issues in the world we long to face and solve. You will hear us pray and weep for the lost and broken, and you will see us get our hands dirty. We ask you to jump in with us. This is why we chose your name, Scout-a justice seeker, who asked the hard questions to the world when something wasn’t right. And the best part? She learned it from her Daddy. We want to teach you in this way.

3. Baby Girl, I need you to know something: at night, when you make your appearance, I quiet my mind and heart and just rest my hands where you show, and weep thanks (you were my greatest answered prayer besides the boys and your daddy) and I want to do that in all moments with you-when we play peek-a-boo, then hide-and-seek, and those precious (but few) moments where as a teen you let me in. My hope is to embrace those moments with you, and sit with you whether you hide or show-my love for you is constant. 

4. We prayed for you to come–you specifically. When we found out we were expecting, of course we were happy with whichever God gave us; but in my quiet spaces with him, I asked for you because I knew you offer something special to each of us, a new adventure and gentleness to our lives, our hearts, our family. You will make a necessary difference in our lives, and that is a gift. 

5. Baby Girl, Bravely Be You. This is my prayer for you every day. I ask the Lord to give you a strength in knowing who you are, and to be brave with that. Many voices and people will try to tell you to change and be a different you-they will try to tweak you and pressure you to fit into something-Oh, our prayer for those moments is that you know who you are before making any choices. You don’t have to fit their status. Dance to your own drum. The world needs more girls who know themselves and their hearts well, and who walk boldly in that.

And there are many lessons you’ll have to face alone, where I’ll have to sit back and watch you grunt and struggle, from putting on your sweater the wrong way to the hardship of first heartbreaks, my heart is aching with you because I know the struggle is real, but moreso…I know the struggle is necessary. 

Baby Girl, we can’t wait to meet you. We weep with gratitude that God chose us to be your mommy and daddy. Scout: our first explorer. Our little adventurer, and our newest journey. See you in April. 

With Endless Love, 

Mommy and Daddy. 

what It feels like one year later: reflections on saying goodbye to our boys.

It hits me at least once a day-It has become a familiar feeling, a consistent companion. It is a rush of emotions followed by tears-It is a feeling of having my hands tied behind my back and my chest suffocated by a cement slab. It comes consistently, but it comes quickly and unexpectedly. 

It. 

If you’re a mom, or have been a mom, you know the sound of your baby’s cry (and I use baby loosely-by baby, I mean your child no matter what age). There’s the angry, selfish wail of want, the wimper and whine of discomfort, and exhausted, almost drunk howl of a tired body, heart, soul…then there’s It. It is the cry of pure, innocent sadness. That heart-wrenching little weep of injustice, a scraped knee, a hurting heart.

It rings forever in my ears, like an alarm clock to my grief. I hear It when I’m driving, Floyd’s little heartbreak cry. There were many tears in our house-because that’s just what happens when there are toddlers and teens and in-betweens around. The memory that sticks in my mind of Floyd’s hallow, heart-ache weep is a time where his friend (a toddler a little younger than him) bit a hole into his new special toy. The face, the melt, the gasp, something that seems so little has burned a permanent hole in my heart and mind. It was the first time I saw such a little guy feel such big things-he didn’t retaliate, he didn’t hit, he just looked in pure terror and came to me with tears I could have drowned in.

I still drowned in. 

And I held him, and I rocked him and kissed his dirt-stained cheeks. I let him feel and I felt with him. 

But now, I’m haunted with the sound and the stomach-drop feeling of him crying-THAT cry. And I’m helpless. I can’t do anything, say anything, kiss anywhere, hug-nothing. Who is telling him he’s going to be ok? Who is telling him it’s ok to hurt and fear and feel? Who is meeting him on his knees and teaching him how to get back up? Who is with him? Just, with him. 

October 17th will be the one year anniversary of the boys’ reunification. Since then, we’ve gotten married, we’ve moved (and brought all the boys’ stuff and all of our hope with us). I’ve laid in bed next to my new husband and have wept, I’ve driven and wept, I’ve sat here, in front of this computer, and wept. We’ve experienced anger, injustice, and fought until I realized that the ropes tied around my wrists are made of something stronger than polyester and twine. It’s a bondage over a territory that can’t be broken today. We said goodbye to the boys a year ago, and haven’t seen them for close to four months. No goodbye, no communication, no closure or sense of hope–just a gaping wound left behind and fears that are impossible to sooth. 

So maybe now, I am the one with the falling tears, and heartbreaking, wounded soldier cry (my God knows each of my cries). And our family can’t release hope because we know the world our boys live in is one without safety on all levels. 

This is the ache of the foster world-this is the ache of the system. This is also the call (just because it seems impossibly hard does not mean we aren’t called deeper into it). 

And although my sorrow lasts through the nights, still, one year later, many nights-each morning, I open the blinds of our room to rays of hope. And I rest in the rays, and I let myself soak in them, and I let my thoughts flow for the day from those intrusive rays-

the hope doesn’t determine or negate the grief’s existence, but it does define purpose and reason (when I fear there is none) to get up and walk another day.