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.
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…
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 staybetween 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.
It’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.
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?
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.”
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.
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 outthat 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?
In 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.
I knew the doctor wasn’t going to say everything was looking happy and healthy. I knew that simply clearing my throat shouldn’t set fire to my stomach. I knew that a pattern of “concerning blood work” probably didn’t indicate a belly full of kittens and butterflies.
But, I hoped.
I was young. So young, that my purse was shaped like an electric guitar and I had a bleached hair stripe that changed color every couple of weeks. Still working one of those “not it” jobs, I was glad to leave work early for my appointment, despite all the cryptic phone conversations I’d had with nurses.
Before I left, I had a few minutes of quiet at my desk. I used the time and the quiet to make promises to God that I’d break. To go through the motions of being faithful, all the while, saying in my heart, “God, You’d better fix this.”
The last thing in my prayer journal that day was a scribbly psalm. I wrote the words I wanted my heart to believe.
“…in God I trust, I shall not be afraid…” – Psalm 56:11
I hoped that by writing the words with my hand, the sentiment would transfer to my heart.
With undercooked faith, I tried to obey in an effort to win my Father’s favor, going through spiritual motions, subconsciously attempting to manipulate Him into giving me the outcome I hoped for. I wondered if He would reward my efforts by “working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28),” or what I thought would be my good.
You know, like, “Hey, God! Here I am, praying.
But, not just praying, super praying!
I’m writing Bible verses down!
Are You seeing this right now?
Wow, look how much I’ve written.
My hand is literally cramping.
Surely, I should be rewarded by not almost dying, and not losing my baby, and not waking up to multiple blood transfusions…”
I hoped. I expected. I’d put in the handwriting, after all.
But, I ended up waking up to bags of strangers’ blood dripping into my arm. And I couldn’t sit up straight without holding a pillow over my stomach that had just been slashed by a frenzy of doctors and nurses after they ran my gurney into a room with blinding lights and scrubs and scalpels and face masks and an ominous voice behind me that said, “Just count backwards from ten…”
After almost a week in the hospital bed, I found myself home, unable to go to work, and barely able to move. And there was my bedside table. And there was that prayer journal I’d diligently scribbled God’s Word into just a week before my organs ruptured and my world imploded. And there was my Bible. I picked up the Bible and the journal and opened them, skimming over God’s promises and my promises only to shut them right back up and slam them back down with just enough force to make a statement.
I looked away from my bedside table and said the first prayer I’d prayed since before my fallopian tube ruptured and my baby died and the last prayer I’d say for two months.
“God, why? I don’t know what to say to You.”
Even when we don’t know what to say to Him, He knows exactly what to say to us.
God isn’t rattled when our faith is weak. When we’re faithless, He is faithful. When we’re selfish, He is selfless. He doesn’t turn away when we tell Him of our hurt or our anger or the losses we don’t understand. Our feelings don’t change His feelings.
He says, I love you. I love you. I love you. I so loved you that I sent Jesus to carry your pain and heal your soul and give you everlasting hope and peace and overwhelming joy.
He stands with open arms, ready for His broken daughter to return to Him with her stomach gash and her tears and her doubts. My months of anger and silence didn’t blow my chance for His love. I was lamenting and He was still there, speaking in that still, small voice, saying, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…” Isaiah 55:9.
And also, I love you. I love you. I love you.
When our circumstances are bad, God is still good. We don’t have to pray and journal the right words to earn His favor. We have His favor already. His love for us is based on the good work of Jesus, not any feeble attempts of ours, handwritten or otherwise.
In our grief and anger and discontentment, when we sink into silence and despair, we can release our laments onto the shoulders of a God strong enough to carry them. He will carry them. He will carry us.
Ten years ago, two little babies who thought they’d always be young and always have punk hairstyles and always be just the same as they were right then made serious promises to each other.
Every season and every version of this man has been a treasure to me, and even though our hair and careers and tastes have changed, he’s still the man who makes me laugh every day and loves me when I’m terrible and shows my daughters what Jesus looks like with every shirt he irons and every Daddy Daughter Dance he attends and every blog of mine he edits (except this one 😁).
I like you so much, B. 😌
I went through a very bizarre fashion phase when I was about, let’s just say twelve, because that sounds better than the age I actually was. So, I was trying to figure out the meaning of life and more importantly, exactly what my accessorizing was going to tell the world about who I was. I’d say the rock bottom of that entire fashion-finding-myself phase was when I asked my mom to drive me to Pet Supermarket (okay, maybe I was old enough to drive myself) and give me some money so I could stick it into the machine that engraved stainless steel dog bone shaped tags. For the sake of clarity, those tags are for dogs. My plan was to have my own name and my new, personal phone number engraved on the front of a dog bone tag, which I would then put onto the choker I had around my neck.
I can’t recall what the thought process was behind that decision, but I do know I was very proud of the fact that I’d just been giving my OWN PHONE LINE. Like, a phone number that went to a phone that was only in my room.
I felt good in my dog bone collar. I had a phone number. I was comfortable. I was secure. I had arrived.
I don’t remember how long I rocked that dog collar. But, I know that I spent at least the next decade reaching for comfort and security in places that were usually less odd, but just as unfulfilling. Things like relationships and career opportunities and ADT alarm systems.
But lately, I’ve been learning that sometimes seeking God goes against seeking comfort and security. I’m learning that following Him can and often does feel uncomfortable and look strange, but not in the dog collar sort of way.
I had some trepidation about taking my youngest to the pediatrician the other day for her well visit. You see, I reallylike it when people like me. And our pediatrician used to like me. But then, I sent him the medical files of the deaf girl in China we had not yet decided to adopt, and his evaluation over the phone made it clear he thought I was crazy. He spoke slowly and in a tone that I haven’t been spoken to in since I was under the age of adult, as he explained that this didn’t seem like a very wise decision.
And, hey. I didn’t blame him at all. Just over six months ago, I would have used that same tone with myself. Because financially, emotionally, and pretty much in every other way, adopting Joy is way risky. And also, just a sort of bizarre life choice. Like, even more bizarre than wearing a dog collar. I get it.
Anyway, I sucked it up for Brooklyn’s appointment, made a few jokes, and finally (I think) got him in my corner-ish, or at least, I got him to change his tone and agree to be Joy’s doctor.
Following God to this unexpected and sometimes scary place is changing me. While wearing a dog collar made me feel like an individual, adopting a needy stranger is daily reminding me that I am a needy stranger. It’s a constant putting me in my place. With every phone call from our social worker and every dollar that leaves our bank account, and every miraculous provision that the Lord sends, I’m reminded how little I’m in control and how real Jesus is.
Twelve-(okay, fifteen)-year-old me believed this bizarre lie that wearing a dog bone collar with my name and phone number on it would be a unique and fulfilling life choice. But, it turned out to be so not those things.
Fifteen years and zero dog tags later, I have never felt happier or more peaceful than I do right now, as I move furniture around and learn a new language, because chasing true love beats chasing dog collars.
“Brandon…this is Deaf church…what if no one there can hear? Like, probably, no one there can hear. We have to be able to say somethingin sign language…like, something to make them understand we can’t communicate with them…and why we’re there, even though we’re not Deaf.”
I used my phone, in the parking lot of the church, to figure out how to say what I thought was, “We have had one ASL (American Sign Language) class. We are maybe adopting a deaf child.”
I was so proud of myself. I had it down.
We entered the church feeling out of place. Thankfully, after just a minute or so, a sweet woman walked up and spoke to us out loud, jolting us out of our culture shock. She was the interpreter.
We said hello, explained what we were doing there, and I proudly showed her the sign language I’d learned all of five minutes ago. We…are…maybe…adopting…a…deaf…child.
That’s what I thought I was signing, anyway.
Then, she leaned over, smiled, and pointed out that I was actually doing the sign for “drop” instead of “adopt.”
Oh, hey there, Deaf Church! We are here to MAYBE drop a deaf child. Maybe. We’re thinking about it… Please pray with us…
Thankfully, we got that cleared up before we got beat up by the most Jesus-loving deaf people in the city. The signs for those two words are super similar, okay??
So, yesterday morning, we got the call we’d been waiting for. China said YES and gave us permission to adopt our little deaf sweetheart whom we are naming Sawyer Joy. We’ll call her Joy. It’s easier to sign.
Back in April, when we started the process, we got our first zip file full of paperwork. One of the first things we were told to fill out and return was the “Special Needs Consideration List.” It was about two pages of ailments, one after the other, with boxes to check yes, no, or may consider.
We sat up in our bed that night and I read off the ailments and we answered in unison to each one. We were on the same page – saying no to the most “scary” sounding and yes to the most doable needs.
We felt good about it, but when we got to “deafness,” I paused. One of us said, “I want to check yes to that.” The other said, “I do, too. I don’t know why. But, I do.”
I really don’t remember who said it first, because the weird hmmm-is-this-something-we-could-pursue moment happened for us at the same time.
So, we checked yes. We sent it off, and I got in the shower.
While washing my hair and thinking about special needs, I started praying out loud. I usually only pray out loud with my children or if I’m driving alone in the car and Nicole doesn’t answer her phone. But, for whatever reason, I prayed out loud.
My initial “yes” started feeling scary a few minutes later. I thought, “Why in the world would we do that?” Then I prayed, “God…why am I doing this? Deaf? Why would I ask my family to adjust their lives in such a dramatic way?”
And the Holy Spirit immediately said, “Look how I adjusted My life for you.”
So, this past Sunday, after a few months of taking ASL classes and sitting awkwardly in the corner at the Deaf church, we finally had enough vocabulary to sign with one of the deacons that we are Brandon and Scarlet and we’re adopting a three-year-old deaf girl from China.
He then shared the news with the church and the whole congregation turned to us and gave what looked like gloriously excited spirit fingers. That’s how the Deaf culture applauds. And then they prayed over us in sign language and they hugged us and we cried and it was just amazing.
And now, we will wait. And we will trust that God will take care of our precious daughter. And we will learn how to count past ten in sign language. And we’ll thank Jesus every day for being willing to drop us. I mean, adopt us.
God is so good.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In lovehe predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
I didn’t know what baseboards were until a couple of years ago when I heard my friend, Katie, talking about cleaning them. And I was like, “Oh, yeah. Baseboards, am I right? I hose those guys down pretty much every day.”
Cut to me in the car, thirty minutes later: “Siri, what are baseboards?”
I grew up in an environment where creativity was emphasized. I’m sure our baseboards were great, but it wasn’t something we talked about. In our home, someone was always writing a song or taking a screenwriting class or painting something on a giant canvas or shooting a pilot.
Baseboards just weren’t on my radar.
All the time, I am noticing things that I probably should have been noticing for the last thirty years and my genuine reaction is, “Oh! That’s a thing!”
Choosing the life of write-from-home mom has been one of the most life-giving decisions I’ve ever made, but sometimes it messes with my head.
Because I’m living in this sort of limbo between owning homemaking and also meeting deadlines, so it feels like there are a million things a month that prompt the “Oh! That’s a thing I should be doing!” reaction.
This is a life I love, but it’s easy for me slip into the unhealthy mindset of looking at the #pinteresthomemaker with sparkly baseboards and the #pinterestwriter whose laptop doesn’t have food caked onto the screen, and who works in a reclaimed barn wood coffee shop shaped like an actual barn, and think I’m doing it all wrong.
So, until recently, I didn’t know what baseboards were.
Now, I need to clean my baseboards.
I need to clean my kitchen.
I need to clean myself.
I need to finish prepping my daughter’s science lesson.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
But, baseboards and cooking and the pile of laundry with the stains that I don’t know how to get out and aren’t I supposed to be pre-ironing work shirts if I’m a good wife and if I just take a trash bag and throw all our stuff away, will that fix it, and then I can learn how to poach eggs and…
“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:7a
But, I have to blog at least two times a week and aren’t I supposed to be learning snapchat and the important lady said I have to…
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of ANXIOUS TOIL, for He gives to His belovedsleep.” Psalm 127:2
I tell my 5-year-old all the time to keep her eyes on Jesus, and not worry so much about if she accidentally dropped a carrot on the floor or got her ballet sticker or kept her soccer cleat from falling off during the game.
I tell her that, and then I live in a state of anxious toil, striving at my job, striving at momming, striving at dieting – trying to make myself #pinterestworthy in every way. And I fail, and I fail, and I fail. Learning what baseboards are is only scratching the surface.
Pursuing excellence is good,but it’s a chase that never ends. When Jesus tells me rest, He really means I can rest. When He tells me to store up treasure in heaven, He’s not giving me an impossible job description. He wants my heart, not my checklist. My love, not my initiative. My worship, not my worry.
Jesus wants me to remember that He already has my heart and He’s already handled my future. When I lay my head down tonight, whether or not I got the last Cheerio off the floor or whether or not I heard back from a publisher, or whether or not I filled out the thousand and oneth adoption form, I can lay down in peace, for He alone makes my soul dwell in safety.
“In peace, I will lie down and sleep, for you alone LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8