cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 In A Nutshell

I won't bore you with long-winded stories from this year. Here's the skinny on 2012:

January-We traveled to Texas to be with family, including rallying around my sister who was about to begin chemotherapy.
February-We celebrated the union of my sis-in-law to her husband.
March-We found out we were pregnant with our sweet Jubilee.
April-We traveled to Nebraska to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Timothy's grandma.
May-We sold our house and moved into a home provided by God via dear friends.
June-We traveled to Texas to celebrate our niece's big tenth birthday and also keep rallying around my big sis (who later kicked cancer to the curb!).
July-My mom had a shiny new pacemaker installed.
August-We celebrated eleven years of marriage, and it keeps getting better!
September-The calendar is chock-full of visits with family and friends.
October-Mikayla had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Disneyland with her cousins, uncle (who was on leave from deployment) and grandparents.
November-We welcomed our fourth daughter, and last biological child, into our home.
December-The beauty of celebrating this season with ones we love, and missing those who cannot be near.

The one word God gave me for 2012 was "intentional". I'm not sure where that fit in with the above highlights. I'm not sure where it fit in between appointments to see the midwife, dentist, and piano lessons. I'm not sure where it fit in birthday parties and gatherings with friends and missionaries. I'm not convinced that I learned to be intentional. I'm a work in progress, to be sure.

God's word for me for 2013 is "preparation". For what, I have no clue. I can speculate, but nothing more. I feel slightly conspiratorial and awe-filled, like the moment Beaver tells the Pevensie children, "Aslan is on the move."

Whatever is in store, I pray we have grown from 2012 and stand in expectation of God's movement in 2013.

Happy New Year,

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Year Of Our Lord

If you could see my feet right now, you'd know they are cold. Why are they cold, you ask? Because my family has blessed our socks clean off! 2012 will be henceforth known as The Year of the Dolls and iPads.* Our daughters received not one, but two unique and precious dolls this year, each resembling them.** My husband and I BOTH received iPads!***


I don't even have to share. 

Shush. Just let me be a little bit selfish about it.

Now we can FaceTime each other across the dining room table. Not that we've done that. However, if we had done something so silly I would inform you that there is a fantastic stadium-like echo effect. 

I had better wrap this up before you think I've completely taken leave of my senses. Between wonderful time with family (near and far), Christmas celebrations, and precious house guests (okay, and an iPad high), I find myself hard-pressed (and pressed for time) to write something heavy and thought provoking at the moment, so here's my reminder to myself and to you: Had I received nothing but coal, I'd still want to remember (and celebrate) that every Christmas truly is The Year of Our Lord, who came once as a helpless baby and will return again as the Absolute King. 

Until He Comes Again,

*I will also refer to this as The Year of the Popcorn, due to an overabundance of homemade gourmet popcorn strewn across my kitchen counter. 
**This is extra exciting for multi-racial families.
***This is extra exciting because they're iPads. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Be Thyself Our King Of Peace

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Let it be so, Emmanuel.

May We Be Changed This Christmas Season,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Four Is The Magic Number

Apparently we've crossed the threshold of socially acceptable family size. Three kids was pushing it, but four is utterly ridiculous. Other utterly ridiculous families, help me out here. Do people start telling your kids what to do because they assume you're not paying attention? I'm trying to figure out if people think I'm too sleep-deprived with a newborn to notice where my children are, or if I obviously have my hands too full to adequately watch all my children out in public.

On more than one occasion, I have had (well-intentioned) people "help" me corral my children. If they had needed corralling, I suppose I would have been appreciative, but instead I told them to bugger off "Thank you, but my children know the boundaries." So far, they haven't looked too confident in my assertion. 

So, to all well-meaning do-gooders out there, may I make a few suggestions?

If I'm crying in the middle of the grocery store, I could use your help. 

If my child is crying in the middle of the grocery store and I am eye-level with her addressing the problem, I don't need your help.

If I have a crazy look in my eyes and am playing in traffic, I need your help.

If my two year-old has a crazy look in her eyes and is jumping along the sidewalk in front of Target, she is being a two year-old and doesn't need to be "pulled to safety". 

If my nine year-old momentarily needs my attention, and the other three have disappeared, they've been kidnapped and I need your help.

If I am facing my nine year-old while my other children are a foot away, I do not need you to keep an eye on them until I am facing them again.

If my newborn is crying and I'm about to join her, a compassionate gesture is nice.

If my newborn is crying and I'm about to join her, a lecture on birth control is not nice.

If one of my children has gone to the (highly visible) playground a couple minutes ahead of the others, and a masked man grabs her on the run, please call the police while her daddy rescues her.

If one of my children has gone to the playground ahead of the others, and you aren't sure she's ours, before calling the police, feel free to ask us if she is ours instead of walking right past us to quiz our child on "where is mommy?". Also, feel free to believe her when she is clearly pointing to me, as we are the only other people at the park.*

If you see my oldest offering my youngest a pacifier or rocking her, an encouraging word about her being a great big sister, is sweet.

If you see my oldest helping her siblings, it is not so sweet to assume that my oldest has it rough and is required to help raise her sisters. Over-the-top sympathetic comments about "Mama needing your help" suggest I'm in over my head and need to quit before I end up costing tax payers millions in food stamps.**

Whether my children are standing calmly at my side or acting like monkeys, there is no need to tell me my hands are full. I don't tell you that your hands look sadly empty. It's annoying and I don't know a single large family that appreciates this comment.

Whether my children are standing calmly by my side or acting like monkeys, know that I am blessed beyond measure and wouldn't trade my monkeys for the world's greatest fortunes.

Time To Turn Heads Go Grocery Shopping,


P.S. No, she did not actually call the police, because I confronted her on the playground and worked waaaay too hard convincing her that all the children on the playground were, in fact, mine. With phone still in hand, she warily returned to her car and kept a close eye on us for several more minutes before driving away. SWAT didn't show up, so I assume she was eventually satisfied that I was telling the truth. 

*I know skin color played into this particular event. Chocolate children can belong to vanilla mamas. I know it's confusing. 

**Do I ask Mikayla to help? Yes. Am I sucking her childhood right out of her? No. She is receiving on-the-job training in motherhood, and I believe her character is the better for it.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

I Am Beautiful

Once upon a time there was a moley little girl who was oblivious to her freckles and moles. There was a little boy in her grade-school classroom who was not so oblivious. One day he walked by her desk and in utter repulsion pointed to one of her moles and said (in a not so library-appropriate voice) "Ewwwww! What is that?!?" 

I was mortified. The whole class (which was actually two classes in one classroom-double the embarrassment) turned to see what was disgusting enough to elicit such a response from a grade-school boy.  

Thank you very much.

Believe it or not, I was self-conscious in my own skin until halfway through high school. Now it seems ludicrous to have let one comment impact me so thoroughly, but we all know how strongly the spoken word can pierce us straight to the heart (especially a physical appearance comment aimed at a girl on the verge of puberty). If anyone else ever made a negative comment regarding my moley-ness, I sincerely have no recollection of it. 

I don't remember the process of overcoming my insecurity.* I just remember adopting my mantra, "God's holy and He made me moley". Catchy isn't it? I should have t-shirts printed. Here's the rub: Moley mamas make moley kids. We're one big, happy, moley family (better print a passel of those shirts). Lest you think Sophia is exempt, she has a couple of small moles and possibly a touch of what might be Vitiligo. Does God know how to knit families together or what? 

I desire for each of my girls to exude confidence in who they are - body, mind and soul. The problem is that my brand of beauty doesn't match up with mainstream beauty. Just the other day I stumbled across an article offering at-home remedies to cure moles. The reason? They are ugly. How do I combat such nonsense? 

We intentionally celebrate our uniqueness and it looks something like this:

We count our moles for fun (I still outnumber the girls). This doubles as a great way to check for irregularities.

We get to laugh when someone (*cough*Mikayla*cough*) excitedly announces a new mole only to discover it is a blob of melted chocolate.
We get to play connect the dots and create our own body constellations.
We get to tickle moles in armpits and on collarbones. 
If ever we dress up as Mexican food for Halloween, we've got the tortilla look covered.
We can laugh when Sophia says she thought one of my moles was a turtle.**

I hope my girls can look to me as an example of someone who is self-assured despite having average looks. Mamas, we need to silence our thoughts when we are looking in the mirror. Little ears hear your self-inflicted criticism, and will mimic your behavior until they believe it about themselves. Whether we feel like supermodels or not, it's time to consider how our view of ourselves is affecting our daughters. Mamas of boys, you are not exempt. Boys need to learn to respect women, and it starts long before they are men. A mama who puts her looks down is encoding this behavior to her son. 

Whether it's a muffin top, crooked teeth, permanent scars, a zit on the end of the nose or just a bad hair day, let's instill confidence in our daughters by recognizing and valuing our own beauty. 

You owe it to a moley little fourth grade girl.

You Are Beautiful,


P.S. I bet you never thought you'd read the word "moley" so many times in one blog post.

*Sorry to those who were hoping for a 12-step program to overcome melanin insecurities.

**Seriously happened, folks. I have no explanation.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where Was Jesus?

My heart breaks for these families. There is an irreparable hole in the lives of scores of families today. There is never a good time for such evil, but Christmas is an especially shattering time of year for such a senseless atrocity. A random blogger, saying they're praying for these families seems paltry, but just in case someone connected to this calamity is reading this, I'm so sorry for your loss and you are in my prayers.

In the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, blame is being slung all over the place. It's the gun's fault! It's the school's fault! It's the local government's fault! It's Adam Lanza's parents' fault! It's some counselor-somewhere-who-once-had-a-conversation-with-Adam's fault! 

May I make a suggestion?

It's Jesus' fault. 

Bold (and slightly sacrilegious) statement.

The Lanza family obviously had some struggles. Where was Jesus when their marriage failed? Why didn't Jesus reach out to them and dig deep into their hurting lives? How is it that Jesus was too busy to befriend a young man described as being "a little bit different"?* Didn't He think this family was worth His time and attention? I mean, sure it can be messy to truly invest in others, but think about how much brighter Friday, December 14th would have been had Jesus shown some compassion, friendship and love to this family. Maybe all Adam needed was just someone who could offer professional help. Maybe all Nancy needed was the support of other women who understood how difficult it is to be a single mom.

We are called to be Jesus' hands and feet. The blame is ours. We have failed yet again. I understand that every potential intervention may not have halted Friday's tragedy. We still should have been the hands and feet of Christ for the sake of the gospel. It's not just about reaching out to the families reeling from loss. It's also about reaching out to the people who seem "a little bit different". It's too late to rewind this piece of history, but it's not to late to rewrite the next chapter. However, our motivation cannot be that of self-preservation. Our motivation must be Christ and Christ alone. We don't get messy in people's lives in order to avoid tragedies in this life (although there is value in that). We get messy in people's lives in order to avoid the greatest tragedy: A life apart from God. 

Praying For Unquenchable Boldness,

*According to an ABC interview with Barbara Frey. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eraser Challenge

Every December approximately a bazillion blogs and articles crop up, instructing us in the finer ways of slowing down and enjoying the Christmas season. My inbox is flooded with well-meaning advice. As a blogger, I was feeling left out, so I figured why not make it a bazillion and one? 

Here's my simple two-step process:
1. Grab an eraser.
2. Apply it to your calendar.


We are seriously over-thinking this. If you have too much going on in December, then finding time alone, taking a bubble bath, or shopping online is not going to solve the problem. Eliminating engagements on the calendar is. 

I promise you that not attending all three cookie exchanges will be OK. It seems every small group (Sunday School, MOPS, business, school, etc) feels obligated to have a Christmas party. Here's a novel idea: Don't. There are eleven other months in the year. Try one of those on for size. I think you'll find that group parties actually can occur outside of December. 

"Christmas" and "stress" are two words that should not go together with such familiar regularity. This season, go bold! Take a bubble bath because you have time, not because you need Calgon to take you away. 

Here's To Blank Spaces On The Calendar,


P.S. An insane December is indicative of an over-committed schedule all the live-long year. Carry the Eraser Challenge into January. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

I'm Just A Mom

Dear Acquaintance I Ran Into At The Market,

It was so good to see you! I'm happy for you and thrilled to see you using your talents so successfully. You've always had a "go-get-'em" spirit and I'm glad to note that hasn't changed.

I couldn't help but notice that as we chatted, you repeatedly referred to me as "just a stay-at-home mom." Usually people misspeak once and immediately start backpedaling, saying something like "Not that what you're doing isn't important. I just meant you're not employed somewhere. You have the toughest job on the planet!" Your lack of backpedaling spoke volumes. I was left with the distinct impression that you thought yourself better than I and that I was somehow wasting my purpose by staying home. I hope you will indulge me while I prove you wrong share my heart for a moment.

I'm not a fan of those stay-at-home mom salary comparisons. You know the ones: If a stay-at-home mom got paid for all the different hats she wears, she'd be raking in half a million dollars annually. Nurse, counselor, taxi driver, cook, seamstress, launderer, coach, and whathaveyou. I think it belittles the years of training and schooling some of these professions require. However, just because you can't put a price tag on my job doesn't diminish it's worth.

I may not be an RN, but I have the privilege of praying with my children when one of them is hurt and administering band-aids as well as love. I may not be a counselor, but I have the Wonderful Counselor in my corner every time I address a tear-stained face and a hurting heart. When we climb in our van, you would think we're the von Trapp family.* We sing it up often, and I don't care if anyone thinks it's cheesy. It's not always convenient, but I'm doing the best I can to train my girls to manage their own homes someday (whether they choose to work or stay at home, have children or never marry!). My daughters will know what a roux is and how to make one. Every meal isn't a culinary masterpiece, but every meal is an opportunity to connect as a family around the table. They will be able to sew a button on a shirt and remove stains from their clothes, because I have invested in their home education. That's more than a professional could ever hope to offer them.

Every morning I wake up to precious faces inches from mine, eager to discover the promises of a new day. The best alarm clocks in the world can't hold a candle to that. Every night before bed, kisses adorn my face while little arms wrap around my neck. That's light years better than the best make-up and designer jewelry money can buy.

I may not truly have the toughest job on the planet, but I believe I have one of the most important jobs in our society (regardless of whether I work outside the home or not). The moral, spiritual, professional and emotional success of the next generation is fundamentally dependent on the hard work of parenting them now. Intentional parenting is hard work and can leave me exhausted at the end of the day (or by happy hour). But it's a good kind of exhausted and a day well spent.

So, acquaintance, You may have it all together. I'd rather have my kids all together with me.
You may be trendy and sexy. For a season, I'll keep my postpartum flabbies and nursing-friendly shirts.**
You may be filthy-rich. We don't have a six-figure income or drive a luxury vehicle. We don't have the biggest house on the block or live in the ritziest neighborhood. I shop at Goodwill and Savers. Our birthday and Christmas budget is always small.

Despite all of this, I can't help but think I'm richer than you.***

Blessed To Be Just A Stay-At-Home Mom,

P.S. Wasn't it nice of me to refrain from going postpartum crazy on you? You're welcome.

*Minus the matching lederhosen and ability to sing on key.
**Besides the fact that my girls get to see me taking care of my body and working to get into shape again.
***After all, my off-brand bag from Ross and your Louis Vuitton handbag are both equally capable of holding diapers and spit rags.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Home Births and Midwives and Doulas Oh My!

OK, here's the deal: Some people like reading birth stories and some people think it's weird to share those details on the World Wide Web.

I'm in the latter camp.

However, home births are a question (as well as an eyebrow) raiser. So, in order to satisfy the curiosity of several readers, I'll set aside my qualms and share (some of) the details. Gentlemen, this serves as your warning. Read at your own risk.*

Let me break it down for you:
8-ish pm: Contractions began (and lasted all night)
6-ish am: Called Midwife and Doula
1:21 pm: Le Bebe makes grand entrance weighing 7 lbs, 13 oz and measuring 20" long.

Let me begin by saying, were I to have more biological children, I would not hesitate to have another home birth. I would call up my midwife so fast it would make your head spin. Let me also say that I had never seriously entertained the notion of having a doula present, but after having one VOLUNTEER her time, I would empty my little piggy bank to have her present for another birth. Of course, all of this is a moot point, unless God has an ace up His sleeve.

Fine, I'll quit stalling.

Due to contractions all night, I was already fairly exhausted when Carol and Laura arrived. I had given up trying to sleep by 2:00 am and timed contractions from then until I woke up my husband around 6:00 am.

This promised to be a long day. 

Carol began checking vitals and was a little concerned about Jubilee's heart rate. Her main concern was the umbilical cord and it's propensity to wrap around wee necks. Her calm demeanor took away every fear that I would normally associate with such a risk.** One of the things I was most excited about was the opportunity to labor and give birth in the water. If heart rates are uncooperative, this isn't an option. Thankfully, Jubilee decided to behave.

Unfortunately, my body didn't behave. Alas, the water was wonderful, but it stalled my labor and I had to get out or stay pregnant forever. I sat on a birthing stool (those aren't nearly as comfortable as birthing tubs) and eventually moved to the bed. I was not dilating in a timely manner and my strength was fading faster than labor was progressing. Carol had to help me dilate to a ten. Whoo-Whee, is that ever a hoot! Sign me up for that never. By the time serious pushing needed to happen, I was feeling a little rebellious and trying to figure out a way around pushing (apparently options are limited). I have never pushed so long, sweat so much or been left so hoarse as with this birth. God has a way of infusing us with just enough strength to go the distance. As I saw Carol pulling on Jubilee's noggin, I knew I just needed to muster up one more superwoman push.

I didn't, but God did. Seriously.

So, to summarize:

-Home births are amazing and I highly recommend you give it a whirl if you are able. I have never had serious postpartum depression-just the usual weepiness for a spell. I have not had one single rough emotional day. Not one. I can only credit that to being home and not under fluorescent lights, being poked and probed every two hours. Jubilee and I had the benefit of fresh air and sunshine from Day One. We didn't have to farm our kids out to friends, and they got to meet their newest sister moments after she was born. No one whisked Jubilee away to wash her. She didn't need a warmer. I did the warming. She was never separated from us. What a blessing!

-Midwives are amazing. No need to get defensive about why the world needs doctors and hospitals. Standard western medicine definitely serves a great purpose. However, it's not the end all, be all answer to everything. We have two children who were born in the hospital with an ObGyn. It just simply does not compare with the attention and care received from Carol. From the very first meeting, I felt that my midwife was invested in my pregnancy and delivery. Everything was explained to me. I wasn't made to feel like a convicted criminal for choosing to opt out of standard tests and procedures. (Can I get an "amen"?!?)

-Doulas are amazing. Having a doula present for our birth was unscripted. Just a couple days before Jubilee's arrival, Laura asked me if she could attend our home birth for the learning experience, but I think I learned more than she did! I admit, I didn't really "get it". I didn't understand the purpose and scope of a doula. I had chatted with Laura about her calling, but it's kind of like describing a show on Broadway; you really need to see it for yourself. Any attempts to explain it fall flat.  Basically, a doula does whatever needs doing. She is there to assist with the birthing (although I couldn't talk her into trading places with me), support the mom and dad, take care of older siblings, mop up vomit, hold a fan up to the flushed face of a tired mama. Whatever.

-Water births are amazing. OK, so even though I didn't have the joy of completing my labor/delivery in the water, I'm still sold on the benefits. It's worth it. Just invest in a few extra towels...

Lest anyone think Timothy was smoking cigars with the menfolk...He was boiling water (how cliche), applying counter-pressure, putting cool washcloths on my forehead, supporting my weight during contractions and being my all-around rock star husband, just as he was during the pregnancy and still is as he  tenderly cradles his newest daughter so I can catch a few more Z's.

Also, I was blessed to have my mama present. Hers was no easy task. She spent several days corralling, entertaining and feeding the children. All the while running hither and to for my needs. Cinderella had it good in comparison!

To answer a few common questions:

Did your girls watch?
We tried to talk Mikayla into catching Jubilee (anyone who knows Mikayla knows that there isn't enough money in the world...) They were in and out of the room throughout the labor. We left their level of involvement completely up to them. At times they helped comfort me, and when things got intense they were more than happy to stand outside the door and peek in periodically. We did have them exit for the placenta and other post-delivery fun.

Isn't there a huge mess to clean up afterward?
We're not pioneering it here. We took full advantage of modern conveniences such as garbage bags and plastic sheeting. Now, I didn't get drawn for clean-up duty, but it seemed to be a cinch.

What if something goes wrong?
These are midwives, not cavemen. They are well equipped to handle emergencies and know when transport to the hospital is in the best interest of mother and/or baby.

What do you do with stuff like the placenta? 
It's yours. You can do whatever you want with it. I put mine in a jar of formaldehyde to use as a table centerpiece.

Just kidding. I gifted it to someone.

Not kidding.***

So, there all you birth story junkies have it. Our birth story as told by moi.

Reveling In The Miracle Of Life,

P.S. In case you missed their links, go check out Carol and Laura's websites. If you live in the area and are pregnant or planning on being in the family way, call them both.

Also, I'm pretty sure this is the best way to use a birthing stool.

*And to think just the other day, a very kind gentleman encouraged me to keep on writing. The joke is on him today!
**It turns out, the umbilical cord was exactly where it was supposed to be and probably just got pinched between shoulders and pelvis...stuff.
***People on our Christmas list can relax. The recipient knows it was gifted to them. Otherwise, I would win "Lousiest Friend of the Year" award.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Moments Versus Milestones

I'd like to introduce you to our newest family member.
This is our sweet Jubilee!

She was born last month, healthy and dearly loved. Even if the former weren't a reality, the latter would still hold true. We all are quite smitten with this wee bundle.

There's something unique in knowing you're facing your last pregnancy, last labor, last delivery, last newborn, last...everything. I was very intentional throughout this pregnancy to savor every moment possible.* I even tried to soak in the miracle of labor and delivery.**

In the first few days of Jubilee's life, her sisters wanted to hold her non-stop. They were just as taken with how precious life is. After being asked for the umpteenth time, I told my oldest there would be plenty of days to hold her. Her answer resonated with me in a very tangible way. She said, "Yes, but not when she's this little." I looked my nine year-old in the eyes, and had to admit she was right. Have nine years really gone by since I was first made a mama? With Mikayla everything was new (shout out to all firstborns!) and it was so easy to get caught up in the milestones. I feel like I spent more time waiting in anticipation of what she would do next than truly reveling in what she was currently doing. Jubilee has already taught me an invaluable lesson:

Savor the moments, not the milestones.

There will always be new milestones, new achievements, new goals. Just don't let the moments go unnoticed. Moments are the stuff of life. I doubt Mikayla will be truly impressed that I cataloged her first smile. To be honest, I don't really care if anyone knows when she first sat up on her own. I want each of my children to know they are loved. I want the love of their family and their God to be firmly etched on their hearts and visible in their lives. That simply cannot be accomplished through baby books and a bazillion pictures. It can only be accomplished in the moments.***

I'm learning what a gift it is to be surprised by the milestones. Instead of pushing our oldest to learn to ride her bicycle without training wheels, she surprised us by figuring it out herself. There were no tears and no frustrations; just good old fashioned joy in the moment. The first tooth will pop out eventually (as will the rest of them). I will get around to taking a picture of their toothless smiles, but first we're going to celebrate those little steps toward growing up.

So, it is with joy (and a tad bit of nostalgia) that I look into this new chapter of life. I'm hanging up my maternity clothes and challenging myself to savor each precious, fleeting moment.

Each beautiful moment...

Overwhelmed With Blessings,

P.S. This was the last maternity shirt I wore. How fitting!****

*Yes, even the nausea and middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.
**Yeah, that one was a little bit tougher. More on that later (for those who care to read that kind of stuff).
***Don't get me wrong. Baby books are fantastic, and I love doing them for my girls. But they take a big, fat back seat to actually spending time with my girls.
****Aaaand thankfully it doesn't fit anymore.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Something For Everyone To Do

I feel like I've hit you hard this month. The global orphan crisis is formidable to look squarely in the face. Thank you for trudging through the ugliness of it with me. I'm convinced there is a no more accurate portrayal of God's love for us than adoption. In my absolute wretchedness, God picked me up, cleaned the filth off of me, gave me garments fit for a daughter of the King and called me His own. Can I not go and do likewise for the "least of these"?

This looks different for each person. There are a good number of ways to get involved in caring for the orphan:

1. Sponsor a child. Think of this as orphan prevention.*

2. Similarly, financial giving to sponsorship organizations helps families fight poverty, which is a leading motivation for giving a child up for adoption in Third World nations.
3. Shop! Especially this time of year, you're already shopping for gifts. Make it count. Purchase gifts that benefit African women, adoption fundraising, etc.**
4. Become a Guardian or Prayer Warrior for children on websites like Reese's Rainbow.
5. Advocate for orphans on social media sites.
6. Volunteer to help families who are fundraising for an adoption.
7. Give financially to adopting families and/or donate towards adoption grants.***
8. Recognize the unique challenges kinship adoptive families face (it's not easy being raised by your grandparents/aunts/uncles, and for them to raise their grand kids/nieces/nephews). It can be highly isolating for these families. Their stories are almost always tragic. Regard them just as you would any other adoptive family. They need your support!
9. Become foster certified to offer respite for foster families.****
10. Speaking of foster families, boy do they have a doozy of a job! Here are a couple of ways to assist foster families:
     A. Upon placement, meals can be a godsend, because they are running like crazy the first week (getting kiddos enrolled in school, therapy and counseling appointments set up, doctor's appointments, etc.). They also may need some clothes for their new kids, depending on what they already have in their stash.
     B. Upon reunification (or any other reason for leaving the foster family's home), support the family during their "regrouping" time. If there are other kids in the home, keep in mind, they just lost a sibling.
     C. Also, keep in mind that other kids already established in the home (either biological or prior adoptions) may or may not be thrilled with their new sibling(s). Be sensitive in assuming they are on board. (Thank you, Melissa, for bringing this to my attention).
     D. PRAYER!!!!!
11. Mentor foster children. Kids in group homes are not getting the one-on-one time they desperately crave.
12. Become foster parents.
14. How can you help foster kids and adopted children? I've already thrown out quite a few things to do (or not do), but here are a couple quick reminders:
     A. PRAYER!!!!
     B. Use discretion when talking with the parents. This may come as a surprise, but not all foster and adopted kids are deaf. They can hear your insensitive inquiries. Asking if their "real" parents died of AIDS, or are in jail, or did drugs is not cool.
     C. Along the same lines, these are children we are talking about, not fish in a fishbowl. Unless they are auditioning for American Idol, they probably don't want all the attention.

So there you go. Just a small list of possibilities. I urge you to not glibly skip over numbers 9-13. It's easy to assume those toughies are for someone else. But maybe. just maybe, one of those numbers is piercing your soul.

Thanks for walking through this challenging month with me.



P.S. A big, fat "Thank you" to Tiffany for sharing her Pinterest board with me. And for Lesley sharing her heart for foster care! You ladies rock my world. 

*Compassion International and World Vision are two great sponsorship organizations.

**Everything from Pampered Chef, Etsy, necklaces, coffee, etc. Check out my friend's Pinterest board. It's a veritable smorgasbord of amazingness, including fair trade options and opportunities galore to bless those in need and assist adoptive families in their fundraising.  
***Show Hope is just one of several reputable grant organizations. Just promise me you'll research the organization first. We don't want to pad the wallets of scammers.
****It's only necessary to become certified if you are going to babysit for an extended amount of time (ie. a weekend). Offering your friends an evening out without the kiddos (hint, hint) does NOT require certification.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Day My Heart Broke

We were standing outside an orphanage, waiting for the drivers to unload our donations. I stood by like a helpless American while they hefted huge boxes down from the tops of their vans. A nearby window was open and there's nothing like a group of ferengis* to draw a crowd. In mere moments, the window was crowded to capacity with little arms straining to reach us. Their noses were drippy, their clothes were dingy and their eyes held unreserved, unwavering hope. They all said the same haunting word over and over.

Ah-by-ay, ah-by-ay, ah-by-ay...

Daddy? Daddy? Daddy? 

Are you my daddy?

As hard as it was to leave Sophia behind, it was bitterly more heartbreaking to leave these children. Sophia had a family. She was desired, loved and cherished. I was coming back for her. No one was coming for these children. Despite this horrible truth, their hope remained undimmed during our entire visit at their orphanage.

I firmly believe there are people reading these words, knowing God is telling you it's time. Your family is missing someone around the dinner table. Your movie nights need another child snuggled next to you on the couch. There's one more stocking to add to the mantel.

And somewhere there is a child waiting for you to be their ah-by-ay and eh-my-ay.**

Irreparably Broken For The Better,

P.S. I want to address ways other than adoption to help the orphan, but first will you please, please, please with a cherry on top spend earnest time in prayer, seeking God's heart for your family and keeping an open mind?

*Amharic for "non-black foreigner".
**It's probably obvious, but Amharic for "daddy" and "mama".

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Long before Sophia came home, God gave me a beautiful glimpse of His desire for the orphan.

Allow me to take you along for the ride.

Imagine a Ukranian orphanage being converted to a church. Why? Because an entire church in the U.S. adopted every single orphan in that miserable facility.

Imagine a Guatemalan village growing strong families. Why? Because a church in the U.S. sponsored all their kids through Compassion International or World Vision

Imagine an Ethiopian mother who doesn't have to choose between a death sentence for her baby and placing that child in the arms of a stranger who will replace her as Mama. Why? Because churches are providing micro loans to single mothers, equipping them with life skills and materials to provide for their children.

Imagine older children, and those with "special needs" being embraced into families all across the nation. Why? Because churches are fostering an environment that says, "We aren't afraid to dream big, take risks, and live dangerously for the sake of the gospel."*

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep
oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

Imagine talking to a social worker who just cannot believe the sheer volume of mentors and foster parents lining up to fill a gaping hole in the life of a hurting teenager. Why? Because pulpits across America are preaching it loud and clear:

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause
of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17

Imagine visiting a website like only to see a banner scrolling across the top that reads, "There are no children available for adoption at this time. Please fill out the form below to be put on our wait list." Why? Because the Church became ignited with a passion to address the orphan crisis in their own backyard.

Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the
oppressed and the destitute.
Psalm 82:3

Imagine all of God's precious children being tucked into beds at night, cheered for during a soccer game, or comforted when their first crush ignores them.

Once our eyes are opened we can’t pretend we don’t know what to
do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows that we
know and holds us responsible to act.
Proverbs 24:12

Thank You For Imagining With Me,

*AKA, "Can't touch this, Satan. My God's got my back."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Obstacles Schmobstacles

The obstacles in adoption tend to paralyze waaaaay too many people. I truly understand how intimidating the process can be. I also know how incredibly rewarding it is.

Below are, what I consider to be, the most common arguments thrown down, and my honest, non-snarky responses.

I'm not called to adoption.
This one is tough, because the majority of the people who say this have spent diddly time praying, seeking God's will, receiving wise counsel and truly considering why they aren't "called" to adopt. That said, I do not believe that every Christian should adopt. I also don't view adoptive Christian families as spiritually superior. Trust me, we're just as screwed up as the rest of the families in the pews on Sunday. Every single Christian is not necessarily ordained to adopt, but every single Christian is absolutely-without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt called to care for the orphan. It's a default setting (more on this later).

I always wanted to adopt.
I'm sure that's of comfort to the child who said "I always wanted a family" and never got one. Harsh, I know, but the faces of countless street children demand I speak up.

Adoption is so expensive.
My God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. I've heard enough stories of miraculous provision to know that nothing is impossible! In addition, there are roughly a bazillion resources available for funding an adoption.

The process takes too long.
Oftentimes they have waited just as long, if not longer. Millions of these beloved children of God have languished in orphanages for YEARS. This should not be.

We don't have the space in our home.
I guarantee you do. If you have room in your heart, you can make room in your house. We don't need a separate play room for all of our children's toys. We can add on a room. We can move into a larger home. We can make do with less so a child can have so much more.

I don't think I could love a child that isn't biologically mine.
While a valid concern, there are resources galore to help with this. Most adoptive families work hard to foster strong bonds and healthy attachment. With this comes a fierce love that is stronger than mere genetics.

I don't want to end up with a "messed up" kid.
Then don't have kids at all.*

We would only be open to infants, because we want to avoid the "issues" older orphans have.
I hear what you're saying, and once upon a time I echoed that sentiment. However, trauma is trauma no matter the age. Some of the worst effects of attachment and bonding trauma occur before the age of two, which means the infant you want to adopt is not a blank slate. He/She is still at risk of attachment issues down the road. Adopting an infant is not the "safe" route.**

I want to adopt, but my spouse isn't on board.
Pray and don't stop. Most of the time, it's the wife who wants to adopt and the husband who isn't so hot on the idea. Pushing the issue can create serious resentment. Wives, bring it to God, and don't nag. Husbands, there is just about nothing sexier than a man who steps up to embrace the fatherless. We ladies go weak in the knees.***

Take It Into Consideration,

*Where is the guarantee that all biological kids will turn out perfectly? I must have missed that page in the manual.
**Dr. Karyn Purvis is a wealth of information on the topic.
***Not even kidding.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

...Don't say anything at all.

Humor is practically a requirement in the world of adoption.

Things People Say:

She's so lucky.
We're both blessed to have each other.

Where is her real mom?
I'm not imaginary. 

Does she speak English?
Nope. We're closet Amharic speakers.

Why didn't you adopt from the U.S.?
They were fresh out of orphans.*

Now that you've adopted, I bet you'll get pregnant!
It's not a fertility treatment.**

I always wanted to adopt.
Crickets chirping
What a nice story.

She's so cute. I don't know how someone could give her away.
Because all major life decisions are based on appearances.

Your birth mom loved you so much. That's why she gave you away.
Thanks for giving my kid a complex about parental love.

She's going to be a track star!***
Yesterday she ran into a wall.

Does she get along with your other kids?
Like sisters.

I think it's great that you adopted when you could just have your own.
They are all my own. I promise none of them are loaners.

Where did you get her?
Three words: Blue Light Special.

Now you, at least, know what not to say to adoptive families.

Laugh a Little,

*I jest. Every family arrives at this decision for different and personal reasons.
**For the record, we were trying to conceive our latest peanut. However, if you're saying this to someone who struggles with infertility, don't be surprised if you get punched in the face.
***The stereotypes vary depending on what country your child is from. Because everyone knows that all Africans are fast runners, all Asians are mathematical geniuses and all Russians are alcoholics. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Journey to Sophia: Part Two

Let's see...Oh yeah! I left you all sobbing uncontrollably from our touching video. 

If you missed Part One, it's kind of a big deal, so go back and read it. 

Let me start by saying that every adoption story begins with gut-wrenching loss and grief.* This concept became painfully tangible to me when it came time to leave the transition home with Sophia. Ethiopians are not given to displays of strong emotions (at least not in public). To face a room full of nannies who had known my child more intimately and for a longer period of time was humbling. To observe their tearful goodbyes was crushing. The only thing I could do was offer my sincerest appreciation for the role they played in my daughter's life. "Thank you" was not enough, but it was all I had to offer. 

As painful as this was for the nannies, there was, and is, another woman who grieves more deeply. She loved this child first. Her arms will be empty tonight, while mine are overflowing with the blessings of children. Sophia and her birth mama both suffered traumatic loss just a few months into Sophia's life. A loss that each of them will undoubtedly grapple with for a lifetime. There is a part of Sophia that can never be adopted. A part of her will always belong to another mama, another country and another culture. To top it all off, every fiber of that was ripped from her when she and I stepped onto the airplane. The cabin door sealed, shutting out everything familiar. 

Yes. Every adoption story comes at a steep emotional cost. 

Here's where the plot really thickens. Refill your coffee, stretch your legs and then come back.

I'll spare you the flight details, but I will say this: If you are traveling internationally and see a woman on the verge of sleep-deprived hysteria, carrying a child who is leaking poop, your sympathy (and some baby wipes) will go a considerable distance to restoring a smidgen of sanity for that woman. She has a long road ahead of her.

The airport is where all the magic happens. You are greeted by signs, balloons, flowers, teddy bears, your own cheering section, and enough camera flashes to feel like the paparazzi have found you out. Everyone at the gate knows what's going down and a lump forms in the throats of onlookers and passerbyers. It's a "Dear Diary" moment. Everyone feels good for giving you a proper welcoming, but they have no idea what else to do. 

After the airport is light years more crucial than those few minutes in the airport. 

While we truly appreciated the support shown at the airport, I felt completely misunderstood and alienated in the following weeks. While I wanted nothing more than to cocoon in our home and focus on attachment and bonding, circumstances outside of my control dictated otherwise. I felt forced to go out in public, when it was least desirable to do so. Well-meaning people would say things like, "This is so precious." or "You just fit together so beautifully."or "Look at how happy she is with you!" It took every bit of fortitude I could muster to plaster on a fake smile and say "Thank you". No meal deliveries had been set up. Two friends independently brought us enough food to last a few meals and one young woman did some grocery shopping for us. They are all lucky I didn't turn into a sobbing puddle of gratefulness. Our phone remained silent. No one asked how they could help or how they could pray for us. 

I won't belabor this point, but I want to make it crystal clear that Post Adoption Depression is real and very sticky. Sticky because it is a big question mark to those outside the adoption community. Everyone understands Postpartum Depression. We identitfy the hormonal changes as the major culprit. Considering the lack of hormonal changes taking place in an adoption, struggling newly adoptive parents just seem mental and needy. There's a sense that others are thinking, "You made your bed. Now lie in it." You chose this path. Ouch.

So here's what I have to say to families who are waiting to bring home an adopted child (or children):

1. Rest in the Lord's timing. I know it's agonizing, but savor this season and use it prepare your heart for the tough months to follow. Saturate yourself with God's word.

2. Devise your "after the airport" plan, and stick to your guns. You will not be popular. You can always relax the plan as you reevaluate. Yes. You will miss out on things. Events will come and go on your calendar. So be it.

3. Set up a strong support system. Do not be shy about telling people ahead of time what you will need. Encourage close friends, family and pastors to educate themselves on the unique challenges adoptive families face. There are excellent resources available that you can pass along to your support network. Get to know adoptive families. Most of us are more than willing to answer your questions and address your concerns with transparency. Ask someone to be in charge of setting up meals. It doesn't matter whether you are bringing home a baby or a fourteen year-old, you will appreciate this gesture!  

4. Lastly (and unfortunately), be prepared for criticism. A lot of people don't understand the delicate thread holding your family together right now. In our case, most people didn't seem to understand that a one year-old is not a "blank slate".** It didn't compute that she couldn't be held by everyone or go in the church nursery. Again, stick to your guns. It'll be worth it in the long run.

To friends and family of a future adoptive couple:

Don't wait until the airport to declare your support. Walk the long journey with them. Let them know ahead of time that you want to help them during the tough first months. Respect the boundaries they lay out. Call them to ask what they need. Don't wait for them to call you. Remember that they won't always be this needy-it's only a season. Let them vent and say demented things without passing judgement on them.

One of the best conversations I had during the rocky first weeks was with a friend who caught me at a vulnerable moment. I confessed my attitude and admitted to sounding like a deranged woman. Her response was heaven-sent. She told me nothing I could have said would have sounded crazy. I clung to that small measure of acceptance. Every adoptive family needs that caliber friend.

Adoptive families, what did I miss?

Striving for Transparency,


*I know this doesn't fit nicely into adoption reality tv shows. POP! Now that your bubble is burst, we can continue.

**More on this later. Consider it a cliffhanger.