Meet Fris-boop and Boop-itcher

When I was little, the closest thing I had to a security object was a furry platypus I named “Googles.” (This was before Google the website, you guys.) Every day, my SWAT team dad would have Googles experiencing some sort of torture when I got home from school – hanging from a string in my closet. Closed in the laundry room double doors. Smashed into the piano bench seat. I’ve shared this, through laughter, with people, and rather than laughing with me, they looked very disturbed. I guess you had to be there.

When my firstborn, Ever, was one and a half, she bonded with “Boop” – a then-pink, now matted grayish-mauve stuffed lamb. Dewy took to a little fluffy dog she named, “Dee,” but the family calls Dee, “Dewy’s Boop.”

You see, because of Boop’s amazingness, Boop is no longer just a name, but has become a species. I have several friends who have casually mentioned to me that their child needed to go get his or her “boop.” It’s really catching on. Trust me.

So, we bought some boop options for Joy before we went to China to go get her. A Chinese doll. A fluffy dog. A bunny.

Come to find out, Joy hates dolls. It’s a deep hatred. As soon as she is presented any type of soft, fluffy and/or doll-shaped thing, she immediately swats it away from her person. “Get that Boop out of my face.”

Instead, she has formed a bond with a miniature pink frisbee she got from the prize box at our dentist and a small blue pitcher.

Meet Fris-boop and Boop-itcher – the objects that give Joy security. These objects never leave her hands. Ever.

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Today marks one month since we brought our Joy home from Tianjin. Six weeks ago, she couldn’t crawl, walk, or communicate in any way. No pointing, no copying us, no sounds, no nothing.

Today, she’s walking all over the house. She’s up and down the stairs. She signs for “ice cream” after every meal. When she drops something, she signs to ask for “help.” Goodness gracious. And with this hearing aid strapped to a headband that Vanderbilt sent us home with, she can hear! If you call her Ya Zhu, she won’t look up, but she lights up like a little star when she hears us say, “Joy!” I lost count of how many ASL signs she knows and uses after thirty. Guys, she’s the sweetest.

But she doesn’t feel secure.

She doesn’t yet realize what it means to be a daughter. What it means to have a home. What it means to be family. She still panics about food. She toy hoards. She clings to her boops because she’s still confused. She still fears we will go away. I know it by what her face does when I get out of the car and take the 4-second walk to her side to get her out. I see her relax with relief when she realizes that I’m going to pick her up and hold her yet again.

She’s happy. She’s growing. She’s thriving. But, she’s still insecure.

And it hurts my heart to see. And yet I know so many people, myself included, who cling to blue pitchers and pink frisbees for security, because we don’t fully understand what it means to be a son or daughter. To have a home. To be in God’s forever family.

It feels silly that I still battle insecurity, but I do. I so often find myself wiping mascara off my face again, re-explaining to my big one, again, that Mommy’s identity is in what Jesus did for her, not what she accomplished today.

It’s such a gift to have lived with Jesus long enough to know what it means to be His kid. To be able to run into His arms. To know that He’s always coming to get me out of my carseat. 🙂 To know that I don’t need a third snack or a Boop-itcher or a Fris-boop because I have all I need in Him.

Our family is nuts right now. We laugh a lot. We cry a lot. There is a lot of dancing and diapers and tickling. The days are long and sweet and messy. And I know the tears and the messes aren’t for nothing. The tears and the messes are lessons to my daughters and review lessons to me – that our security can’t be found in money or relationships or frisbees. We are God’s kids, so we can laugh with empty hands.

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Home and Safe and Loved

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The moment we got Joy

It’s hard to find words to describe the moment. When this person you’ve never met gets dropped in your lap. She’s not a trusting newborn who fits into the crook of your arm with ease, like she’s been taking up residence inside your body for most of a year.

It’s different.

She’s a stranger. She’s lived a life. When she should have been fed, she was not. When she should have been held, she was suffering alone. When she should have been rocked and carried and touched, she was left in a crib for so long that her head is, and always will be, misshapen.

When she gets handed over, she doesn’t look into your eyes and know that you are about to shelter her and love her and provide for her. She looks past your eyes. She leans away. She hits you in the face.

She’s stiff. She’s sad. She’s scared.

It’s a moment I thought we trained for like marathon runners. We read the required books. We watched the required videos. We filled out the required forms. We did our stretches. None of this was a surprise in my head. But, it was a shock to my heart.

Pride is such a sneaky thing.

I glided through the adoption process high on my faith. God proved Himself trustworthy every day – through the amazing generosity of friends and strangers who helped provide what we needed to make this happen, through the almost-eerie opening of doors that led us to this specific little girl, through intimate moments with the Lord, speaking to my soul through His Word, as if He were right in the room with me.

I trusted Him. I know I did. But, somewhere in there, I started trusting me.

During our training, we learned about how difficult it would be in China. We learned about attachment and how hard it would be for the child, and how hard it could be, even for us. But, I would be fine. I knew I’d be fine. I mean, look at what God had done! I wouldn’t struggle. I’ve lost count of how many people I told, before getting on that plane, “Even if the details of this adoption end up a worst-case-scenario, I’m not afraid. God has been so faithful, how can I not trust whatever He has for us in this?”

And I meant it. I wasn’t afraid. I knew things could be tough and I knew God could be trusted. I was as prepared as I thought I could be.

But, then I got to China.

And I was handed this girl.

This starving, severely developmentally delayed, fearful, flailing, tiny deaf girl. I felt so much compassion for her, but I didn’t feel ready.

And suddenly, I didn’t feel okay.

I’d done the training, but truthfully, I hadn’t really believed that the training applied to me. I’d subtly listened to the lie that I’m strong enough. I’m better. More equipped for this than the “weaker” parents from the training who struggled.

My pride and judgement from the past few months was instantly exposed to me, but repentance wasn’t my first idea. Rather, my first ideas were isolation (ignoring texts from my friends) and despair.

We looked at Joy and saw what we thought might be a worst-case-scenario. That first week, she was the size of a one-year-old. She flailed constantly and couldn’t seem to learn anything. And Brandon and I were convinced, for days, that we’d just adopted a child who would never grow, never learn, never communicate…

God gave us this girl. We knew that to be true. And we loved her already. But, I spent those first days grieving. Grieving the simpler days of soccer practice and laughing in my home with my healthy, happy girls. Grieving the hopes I had of signing the Gospel to Joy, so she could understand and know grace and freedom. Grieving the desire to see her grow up and thrive.

And I was angry at myself for grieving. And angry at myself for being weak. Angry at myself for sinning. Angry.

How could I be so stupid? How could I be so proud? How did I think I was doing this with the Lord all those months, and look at me now? Look at how sad I am! Look at how stiff she is when I try to rock her. If I’d really been walking with God, I wouldn’t feel so much fear and sadness right now! I’d be celebrating! Do I know my own heart?? Does the Lord know my heart? Is He going to take care of me?

Thank God for Brandon Hiltibidal who had the brilliant idea that maybe I needed to repent of pride. When he said that, sitting on the edge of the bed in China, it took me a minute to remember that repentance was a thing. It took me a minute to remember that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me.

So, I buried my leaky mascara-smeared eyes into the white hotel comforter (sorry, room cleaner) and I told God I was so sorry and so prideful and so weak and so in need of Him. And under that blanket there really was a God who really heard my heart and really forgave me and really decided to shower me with grace, instant grace in that moment, in that hotel room, thousands of miles from home.

Later that day, Joy learned how to sign “food.” Since that moment, she has learned much more, she has grown much more, she has smiled much more , and our hopes for her future have resurrected. We have a calendar full of doctor’s appointments this month and there are still a lot of question marks. But, here’s what I can tell you. Somewhere in the second week of the trip, I remembered that the Lord adopted a broken, needy, stiff, scared little girl named Scarlet, who didn’t know how to trust or love or be loved. God loves me and has endless grace for me, and as I started to remember that, I started to feel less fear and more joy. Less like an emotional mess and more like a mommy.

Every day so far, there have been moments when this new calling – doing it fully and doing it well – have been hard. And I feel overly weak. Then, I open my mailbox to find cards from friends with perfect, anointed words of comfort and grace. Handwritten scripture. Bouquets of flowers. My people leave meals on my doorstep because I can’t invite them in. And their love reminds me to renounce the lies. The lies that my not-enoughness is what matters.

And so, I’m pushing back on the half-truth that I should despair because I’m not enough. And I’m replacing that half truth with full truth.

Full Truth: I am not enough. I am WAY too weak. BUT…God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything more beautiful:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Grace is ours. God is real. Joy is home and safe and loved. And so are we.

 

I Was in a Tornado at Dunkin’ Donuts

fullsizerender-1-2When I call Brandon, it doesn’t say my name on his phone. It says one of my nicknames (Scrawls), followed by a tornado emoji, followed by another one of my nicknames, “Ol’ Reliable” (it’s an ironic nickname). The picture that flashes up is an off-brand Elmo with fire behind him. Each of those details is attached to a lot of long stories that are probably not interesting, but my point is, tornados are such a thing for me that I literally have one attached to my name on our phones.

So, much of my identity for much of my life has been tied to fear and panic – and specifically, tornados.

I’ve lived scared as long as I can remember. When I was five, I collapsed dramatically in aisle six of the grocery store because I was convinced I had appendicitis. It’s something we kind of laugh about in my family now, but I was a wreck. It was just after my parents got divorced and my drives to school were always terrible because I was nauseated. Doctors said “nervous stomach.” Adults said “hypochondriac.”

The fear morphed and changed as I got older. But, I always had things to be afraid of. I’ve had seasons in adulthood when I was on medication for panic symptoms. I couldn’t stop hyperventilating.

I had a black widow phase.

A sinkhole phase.

A rare infectious disease phase.

A bad guys phase.

But tornados have been a constant. They’ve always been number one on my list. They’re super creepy looking and deadly and unpredictable. Seriously, you don’t know when the death wind is coming for you. My husband jokes regularly about my frequent YouTube deep dives into tornado destruction videos.

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Just watching a tornado swallow a warehouse in China three years ago.”

“Why?”

“Got to stay vigilant.”

I knew there would be storms today. But, I didn’t think they were starting until 8am. At least, that’s what my weather app said when I woke up at 6-something. I noticed last night that we were out of coffee, so I decided today I would take the girls to Dunkin’ Donuts.

I didn’t know tornados were a possibility. I didn’t even think we’d get caught in the rain.

We pulled in at Dunkin’ and ordered donuts and coffee. I asked the lady who was helping us how she was doing and she paused before saying, “I’m running…but not on Dunkin.” We chuckled and took our donuts.

Ever wanted a seat by the huge glass windows, but I said, “Eh, it’s supposed to storm soon, so let’s sit away from the windows.”

As soon as we sat down, the sky got weird. Let me remind you, this particular Dunkin’ is ALL windows. It was suddenly dark and it felt like everyone in the store with me held their breath. I remember saying to Ever, “Wow. Maybe we should go home…the sky just got really weird.”

As soon as I got the words out, the wind threw the door open and shut and our napkins flew everywhere. Then, the hail started.

It was all so sudden. The power went off and tornado sirens went on. All of our iPhones started buzzing and “TORNADO WARNING: TAKE SHELTER NOW” flashed on the screens. There must have been eight of us in the Dunkin’ and we all instinctively huddled near the bathroom, gawking at the huge windows. It looked like we were in a cloud that was rushing by horizontally. The trees were bending. It was loud.

A real tornado was really outside the donut shop, touching down a street over.

The Dunkin’ Donuts lady who was “running, but not on Dunkin” wrapped her arms around my Ever, and we were all silent.

I held my girls and asked God, out loud, to please protect us. Ever was crying and shaking and Brooklyn was motionless, like she knew something was happening. And then, it was as if a light switch was flipped. Everything was still. People started moving again.

“Did that just happen?” we all mumbled.

It wasn’t until then that I had time to text Brandon and tell him what was happening.

This is what was happening.

So, there it was. My biggest fear, materialized. And the funny thing is, I wasn’t really afraid. Ever was afraid, and I just kept telling her that God is in control of the weather and He is good and He loves us and we can trust Him. Even when bad things happen.

It’s just so crazy.

People have been asking me if I’m nervous about what we’re preparing to do this month – fly overseas as a family and adopt a little girl with special needs. And my answer is no. I’m not nervous.

God has been so faithful. I will write more about all the ways at some point, but He has just been so clear and loving and generous to us, in such personal and miraculous ways, I can’t even be afraid.

If all our scenarios end up being worst case, I can still trust God because He has proven His love and goodness to us, just like He’s been doing since the beginning of time.

It’s just an incredible thing. This Christian life. I look back at the layers and layers of sin and fear and disobedience that He has helped me through and I am just in awe. Even in the middle of a tornado in a Dunkin’ Donuts, I’m in awe, as I experience this gift He loves to give His children – the gift of perfect peace.

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” Isaiah 26:3

So yeah, my adrenaline was through the roof, and it is even more so now that I’m watching the news footage of what was happening while we were snuggling strangers in a donut store bathroom. But, I didn’t have to be afraid. I knew that if that tornado sucked us up, we’d still be okay. We’d be more than okay.

“For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21.

God is so gracious. Also, I’m going to ask Brandon to change my identifying emoji from a tornado to a donut.

You Can’t See Our New Daughter

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In a few weeks, I’ll be boarding a plane with my husband and my daughters and as many tablets, headphones, travel books and lollipop distractions as we can cram in a carry-on for the long flight to China.

From our perspective, we are about to get a new daughter. We are growing our family. We are celebrating and buying matching shirts and matching backpacks and daydreaming about seeing her change as she learns how to be loved.

From her perspective, the world is about to end. Every smell. Every sight. Every person that has ever been familiar, whether it be a foster parent or sibling or an orphanage worker or the view outside the window, will be taken from her in a moment. They’ll hand her to us and everything she has known will disappear forever. She’ll see our weird faces and she’ll smell our foreign smells and she’ll wonder why we’re kidnapping her.

That means that as much as we’d like to throw her a welcome home party and as much as we’d like to show her sweet face off to every living person within a 100-mile radius of Middle Tennessee, we’re instead going to disappear.

It’s called “cocooning.” Experts suggest that if you are adopting a child with a traumatic history from overseas, you should cocoon them for 6-8 weeks.

Here’s what this means.

When we bring Joy home, she won’t see anyone but her immediate family. No friends. No grandparents. No Easter Bunnies. No playdates. Nobody. Joy’s world, for a long time, will be Mommy, Daddy, Ever and Brooklyn and that’s it. Oh, and Pickle, the beta fish.

That’s because we want Joy to learn what parents are. We want her to see what a family is. We need to be the ones to hold her. We need to be the ones who meet her needs. We will try to help her learn to trust us. To help her know that we are where she should go for help.

She is an orphan. She will have a new family. It will take time for her to learn to trust.

When God first adopted me, it took me way more than 6-8 weeks to believe that He really loved me and that He really was working all things together for my good.

How awesome would it be if baby Christians were cocooned? What if, when our eyes were opened to the glories of Christ and our need for the Father, nothing else could influence us or interact with us or distract us for weeks or months or years? We might, then, learn quickly that anything that seems to show He doesn’t love us or care for us or want what’s best for us is a lie.

I wish that was a thing, because I’m as prone as any orphan to run to strangers for satisfaction or joy or support.

We’re about to reach into another country and pull out a broken little girl with a broken history and we’ll welcome her with open arms into our own broken family. Joy’s adoption isn’t her happy ending. She will spend her life recovering from the scars of abandonment and neglect, but we do hope she will one day understand that through Jesus, her life really can have a happy ending. Through Jesus, her story can be re-written.

In a few weeks, she will go from orphan to daughter. She will go from being homeless to sharing a room with two sisters. But, her broken heart will not instantly be made whole. We know that no matter how well we cocoon and no matter how much we spoil her, only her Father in heaven can fill the hole in her heart.

Will you please pray that God will heal her emotionally, spiritually, and physically? Please pray that God will protect us – our hearts, our marriage, our kids. Pray that He will make us all less selfish and more loving. That He will help us get better at sign language. And that sooner than later, our hands can communicate to Joy’s heart and teach her that just like we flew around the world to bring her into our family, God traveled from heaven to bring her into His.

What I Teach My Kids About Their Butts

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Ever and I have had this joke about her butt for years now. She might be getting a little old for it. But, pretty much, it started when she was about three, and I told her that her tushy was actually my tushy attached onto her body when she was a baby, and vice versa. And she said, “Mooooooooooommyy, NO IT’S MY TUSHY.” And I said, “Actually, sweetie, you’re wrong, because you see, that’s my tushy. I was there when the doctor switched them. And so, I have your tushy on my body. But the one on you, that’s actually mine.”

Maybe that’s weird. Okay, typing out the whole thing, I’m definitely realizing it’s weird. Whatever, it’s fine. Seriously though, please never think about this again.

But, when you have kids, whether you like it or not, you and your child sort of blur together. Their life is your life. Their bum is your bum. As a mom, you put your dreams, your time, your body, your everything, on the back-burner for a long time to meet this tiny person’s every need.

You are the conductor and the teacher and the cheerleader and the night-shift nurse and the chef and the boo-boo kisser through every stage. The “mine mine mine’s” and the tantrums and then finally, VOILA, they turn six, and you exhale and look at this beautiful masterpiece you’ve raised, like WOW. I MADE THAT. This person is a radiant, decent, kind person! She mostly does what she’s supposed to do! I must be awesome at this.

But then, you think about that time when she was 20-months-old and saw you scream at the steering wheel in frustration. You were sure you’d damaged her in irreparable ways. Or the time, when she was just barely five, and walked in on you crying and telling your mom with stage 3 cancer that you didn’t want her to die. Surely, that broke her heart too soon. Or what about the time you and your husband aggressively disagreed on the way to the soccer game last year and she saw you cry and yell and state your case like a cave woman. That will absolutely be something she talks about in therapy.

But, no. Here she is. Sharing. Smiling. And you think to yourself, Wow. I must be really great.

I sure swing high and low when answering my constant burning questions: Am I a good parent? Am I doing this right? Have I ruined everything? Is anyone proud of me?

Just the other day I was watching Ever while she brushed her hair, and wondering how much of her sparkling qualities and good behavior are from her and how much are from me, and it was like God leaned over and tapped me on the shoulder and went, “Uh…hello? Heaven to Scarlet. It’s not her…it’s not you…it always has been and always will be Me.”

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:36

It is God who does good things. Forgetting that I have next to nothing to do with anything good that God uses me to do, sets me up for despair when I lose my cool, or spend too much time staring at computer because listen, I had a deadline, or listen, I’m tired and I work hard and I want to read this funny fake article about a frog who said Moses.

I know it’s not just me. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re ON FACEBOOK. SHOULDN’T YOU BE IRONING! OR WORKING! OR PREPARING A LESSON FOR YOUR HOMESCHOOL KID! OR CHANGING THAT LOW-HANGING DIAPER BEFORE IT BECOMES A SITUATION OF GREAT SIGNIFICANCE!

It could happen again tonight – the mulling over burning questions. Maybe, I’ll tuck my kids in and think to myself, “When I was reading stuff on Facebook and my kid looked at me and wanted me to play barbies again, and I said, ‘just a minute,’ did I ruin her?”

No.

Spoiler Alert: I didn’t actually have a rear transplant with my oldest daughter. Her bum and my bum were never actually surgically switched.

Second Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t really matter. Nothing is really hers. Nothing is really mine. Everything is borrowed and nothing belongs to any of us. No kids. No plans. No accomplishments or funny jokes. No good deeds or Christ-like reactions.

Looking for my own good and fixating on my obvious and frequent bad is a crippling pastime. All good is from God. All good is to God.

He helps me up when I feel like I’m missing it as a mother. He gives the grace when I’m getting it right. He holds my daughter’s future.

And that’s why I can be a mostly happy person. Because molding masterpieces isn’t up to me. But, MAN, do I get to enjoy a lot of beauty when my main focus is noticing, just witnessing, God’s goodness to my family.

That’s my hope.

And Ever, that’s my tushy.

We’re Going To Be Okay

Started my blog a year ago today and this was my first post. Last year, we were praying and fighting for joy as we walked through darkness, as a family. This year, our circumstances are rosier, and our God hasn’t changed one bit. He is still full of mercy and love, He is with us now like He was then. He is good now, just like He was then. Thankful to be the daughter of the One whose name is Faithful and True. I knew, when I wrote this, that we were going to be okay, and here we all are. Mom is healed. Grandpa #1 and #2 are in heaven with Jesus. We’re on the hunt for a third car seat and an extra chair for the dining room table. We are more than okay, because our God is always good.

Scarlet Hiltibidal

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Sometimes, you’re getting group texts from your dad about how brave your mom is during her first chemo, and while you’re looking at them, your baby falls out of her high chair onto her head, and you’re at a restaurant trying to be cheerful for your sweet mother-in-law’s birthday dinner, and you whisk your freshly injured baby into the waiting area and stand facing the painting on the wall so no one will see you crying. But, you see that you’re face to face with a painting of a guy standing in a field full of bulls.

And the painting makes you think of being a five-year-old flower girl at your mom’s second wedding because her new husband – the guy that would adopt and love you as if you were his daughter by blood – would attend his own wedding with a major pectoral injury…

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Airplane Springs, Anxiety and Jesus

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Growing up, I was a frequent flyer, bouncing back and forth between Los Angeles and New York City. I have fuzzy memories (reinforced by family members) of walking up and down the aisles of American Airlines flights, introducing myself to adults, and departing the plane with a new list of “lady friends” and “friend boys.”

Flying wasn’t something I was afraid of because I didn’t know there was any reason to be afraid. Then I learned that planes crash. Sometimes, they stop flying and explode. When I heard that, my flippant flying attitude and my perusing the plane for friendly grown-ups, turned to straight panic and tears. I was glued to the seat. I was scared to breathe. Surely, I was about to die at every take-off and every beep-boop ding and seat-belt sign flash and “Please take your seats. We’re experiencing some minor turbulence.”

Mommy, turbulence means we’re dying, right?

I was only five, my oldest daughter’s age, when that fear was at it’s most intense. I remember, one particular day, crying my way onto another five-hour flight with my mom, and her trying to talk me down. Then, like an angel from heaven, a seasoned flight attendant leaned over and put her face level with mine.

“Oh Dear, you don’t have to be afraid of crashing. Don’t you know there are springs on the bottom of airplanes? If they fall out of the sky, the giant springs bounce them right back up into the air! There’s nothing to fear.”

And that’s all I needed. That sweet, sweet lie.

I don’t like the idea of lying to kids to make them feel better temporarily, because little five-year-old Scarlet grew into bigger Scarlet who one day realized that no one is safe from life’s turbulence, and I couldn’t handle it.

The reason airplane springs are on my mind is because my five-year-old, who might fly to China to pick up our daughter, Joy, with us in a few months, caught a snippet of sarcastic conversation that was intended to stay between adults. Brandon and I were talking flight routes and mostly-joking as we discussed whether we’d rather crash over the North Pole or Russia.

“Mommy?” she said, approaching me from out of thin air (she always does this when I’m having conversations I think/hope she not hearing), “I don’t think I want to go to China anymore to get Joy…I don’t want to die in a plane crash.”

And I looked at her, and decided right then to tell her the sweet truth instead of a sweet lie.

I told her that plane’s crash. And sometimes people die in plane crashes. But, hardly ever. I told her (unsure as I said it, whether it was a good idea to keep going) that a few years ago a man in Florida died in his bed because a sinkhole opened up under his house. I told her that meteors have fallen from outer space. And that people die in car crashes, even when they are making good driving choices. I stopped there. 😊

Then, I told her that God, who loves us so much, is in total control of everything.

I told her that if God wants Mommy or Daddy or her or anyone else in heaven, it doesn’t matter if they are on a plane or in their bed or watching TV or in China. I told her that Jesus is the only One who has power over life and death. I told her that He defeated death on the cross. He walked out of His own grave. I told her that if He has work for our family on earth, He is strong enough to keep that plane in the air and protect us.

I reminded her that He so loves her.

I told her that bad things happen in this broken world, but that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). I told her that for followers of Jesus, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

I said these things, fully expecting them to not help or fly over her head or maybe even make things worse.

But, the Holy Spirit took His Words, and cast out my little five-year-old’s fears with His perfect love (1 John 4:18). With His very own Word. Just like that.

“Oh! Okay,” she chirped, “I still want to go to China, then.”

The sweet Truth trumps any sweet lie I can come up with, on the fly.

I really don’t want to crash over the North Pole or Russia, but I don’t have to be afraid. God proves to me every day that He is real and that He really loves me and that He is in control and that I can trust Him.

I’m thankful for my kids, who remind me of what I believe. And I’m thankful for God – the Author of everything good, the Fixer of everything sad, the Finisher of every good work, and the Father who so loves us.

How to Rest in December

fullsizerender-3It’s December! The month that becomes impossibly busy impossibly quickly and you tell those five families you have been trying to get together with for what feels like fifteen years, “I’ll see you sometime next year, because we’ll surely be completely booked and also fighting these viruses for the entire month!”

It’s the month when I think, without fail, “Did I just birth a newborn that I don’t know about because I’m waking up every hour of the night with my kids (Brandon is helping😊) who have stuffy noses and new molars and new infections and bad dreams and the neighbors are playing loud music again and I really need to be working, but who is going to watch all the romantic Christmas movies if I don’t?”

You know, December.

Also, we just sent Joy (the little girl we are adopting from China) another care package. From Brandon’s parents, this time. This one included a Chinese Barbie and socks and shoes and a music toy and I think about it and I wonder if the warm socks are actually warm and will they actually make it to her orphanage and her feet and I check the weather in her province and it’s really cold there today, or tonight, because it’s night there, and I want to know if she’s using the blanket we sent her or if she’s hungry or lonely and why won’t they just let us come get her already?

Do I sound unhappy? I hope not. I’m so happy. Do I sound tired? Somehow (caffeine), I don’t really feel that tired, or overwhelmed even. This is just the nature of Decemembering. It’s my 30th one – I know how they go.

So, I don’t have bad circumstances, or Christmas struggles or even exhaustion.  But I feel like I’m having a rest problem. Like I want it and I need it and I’m doing it wrong.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I want to rest, but my heart often feels restless. I’m in the land of diapers and food caked crevices. And there are two less grandpas to buy Christmas presents for this year. And there’s a daughter I love with my whole heart who is waiting and suffering a world away. And I’m tired. Everyone in my house is sick and one of my daughters just wiped a booger onto my face.

Seriously.

My face.

And I look at these two babies and study their freckles and I watch the three little video clips of Joy over and over, and my husband texts me something that makes me laugh so hard I can’t breathe. And suddenly, I’m worried. I don’t want my girls to grow up and hurt and leave. I don’t want this blissful season of my marriage to turn into a valley. I don’t want to give anyone Advil at 3AM tonight.

And I read those verses again.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So I look for the formula. What do I do? To get the rest? To feel the lightness? And I read it again. And again. And it clicks. Again.

“Come to Me.”

Oh, you mean You?

“Me.”

You mean, romantic Christmas movies and secret cheese that my daughters aren’t stealing or a day off from diapers won’t do it?

“I will give you rest.”

Oh.

That’s it.

It’s December. My amazon packages are late and my girls are sick and my calendar contains many Christmas functions, but all Jesus really wants for His birthday is for me to come to Him and rest.

Maybe I can handle December after all.

Does Doll Hair Grow?

stories
Sometimes I forget that my almost-6-year-old is a kid. She has a very grown-up way of speaking. She throws a lot of “actually’s” and “as a matter of fact’s” out there. She hears expressions and wants to know what they mean and then promptly incorporates them into her everyday conversations about things like Barbies and princesses and, you know, hating meals, and stuff.

Mommy, actually, this American Girl doll catalogue is just killing me. But, it’s not actually killing me. You know, it’s the expression. Like, I’m not going to die because of American Girls. But it’s just an expression, Mommy. Do you think I can get a WellieWisher for Christm—no, probably not, right?

I mean, sometimes, she says cute things like that. But, most of the time, talking to her is like talking to most any adult. So, I forget.

I forget until I’m cuddled up next to her at bedtime and she whispers, “Mommy, I know Lizzy is just my American Girl doll, and I know she’s not real, but… can her hair grow?”

And then, I remember.

I remember that she’s little and I’m big. I remember that the world is scary and she’s not sure if her doll has real hair.

It’s a very easy black hole of anxiety to get sucked into as a mom. Guarding that delicate, childish innocence. I feel like I’ve got my hands wrapped around it. I want so badly to protect it. A lot of the time, I’m terrified, not only of my babies experiencing pain, but of them finding out that there is evil out there.

Then, I remember reality.

The reality is, evil isn’t just “out there.” It’s in Ever. It’s in all of us (Romans 3). I live many days as naively as she does. Like little girls can be perfect and doll hair can grow.

When Ever asks me about her doll’s hair or if her stuffed animal’s eyes are real (since they open and close), I don’t need to climb on top of her and try to shield her from a broken world. I need to make sure I’m telling her over and over, like a broken record, that Jesus loves her and that Jesus is stronger than the broken world.

I want to say with certainty and poise, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) I want her to say that. I want Brooklyn to say it. I want Joy to sign it.

If I raise my three daughters to be more distrusting of their own hearts, which the Bible says are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9), than they are of the broken, mean, scary people in the world they’re supposed to love, I will raise three girls who don’t doubt the truth, but rest in it.

Today, as I make a dent in the laundry pile, and make a dent on the deadlines, I pray I’ll also make a dent on these little hearts I get to shepherd for just a little while. I pray that my words are full of grace and that my spirit is marked by peace. I pray that God will keep reminding me how deeply He loves me and my children. I pray that God will keep reminding me that He has overcome the world. I pray He will show these babies, whenever it is they learn that dolls aren’t real and that the world isn’t safe, that they still have nothing to fear.

The Lord is on our side. We will not fear. What can man do to us?

A New Face on the Christmas Tree

15027536_10103180918585638_4949119852645971672_nIn the summer of 2013, I got pregnant and right at the first hint of fall, found out I’d lost the child. My second miscarriage. Also in the summer of 2013, this beautiful little girl was born in China and abandoned.

I can’t comprehend God’s sovereignty and the powerful ways He redeems what’s broken. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that my daughter, my Joy, is three-years-old and has never known the love of a family. I can’t believe that God loves this little girl so much that He shook us up and poured His love for her into our hearts, in such obvious ways that it took away our fears.

I can’t understand it. But I’m so thankful for it.

And I can’t wait to hold this baby and kiss her face and show her, every day, that she is loved and delighted in and ours forever.

My mother-in-law sent this photo of her Christmas tree decorating progress. That’s one of the first pictures we ever saw of our Joy. Apparently, Tuesday was #worldadoptionday. I never could have imagined this. And now I can’t imagine our family without this. Joy, your family loves you. God, You are real.