Thursday, November 12, 2015

Have You Considered...

"How are you really doing? How has this whole baby ordeal affected your walk with God?"  she asked without hesitation.  I knew the question was coming, and I knew because of our long history of friendship, support, accountability, and you-know-my-crap-and-love-me-anyway-ness, I had to actually answer.  Not with Christianese, not with pleasant "doing ok," platitudes, but nitty gritty get to the heart of the issue thoughts.

I side stepped a little, and then the real truth leaked out. I took a deep breath and spilled.

A few weeks ago, I realized that in every trial I face, walking away from faith doesn't cross my mind.  Each struggle, each heartbreak presses me to the feet of God.  "Help me understand," "Teach me to love like you do," "Give me peace."  There is beauty in that blessed assurance...I'm not going anywhere, and, more importantly, neither is God.

But I've found myself sincerely struggling with the idea of what else might God allow to happen to me in order to "test" my commitment.  For example, I'm "okay," with what we've endured (although I wouldn't want to live it again), but find myself getting super anxious about what else  might happen.  What's scarier, is I know there is pride and distrust at the root of this issue.  Distrust is a form of disobedience, and I'm grateful that all of this craziness is coming to the surface so it can be dealt with.

In fact, yesterday, I came to the conclusion that the six scariest words in the Bible "Have you considered my servant, Job." This feeling of God somehow choosing Job's suffering.  God knew that Job would persevere and still choose faith in the end, and the most horrendous things to happened to Job.

And so, there on the phone through my tears, I started listing some terrible things that could happen to me.  I ended with "Why would God NOT do that stuff to me?"

Then, as one does when faced with a conversation that's just a little too real, I quickly changed the subject to my new babysitting job, and how perfect it is for Levi and I, and how I kind of prayed for this exact scenario, but didn't really think much about it, and then it literally fell in to my lap.

"Michelle, I am going to tell you some things you already know," she inserted into the conversation when I stopped to breathe.  "God is a good father.  He loves you, and He does not delight in your pain." She was right.  Even in the juxtaposition of presenting the facts of feeling like a spider in God's fingers just dangling over the fire next to the answer to a prayer I barely breathed out, there was evidence of God's goodness, His faithfulness, His love for me.

Of course I chewed on this all day.  I texted Herb about my cry fest, and felt at peace.  But later was feeling down again, and couldn't shake my "Job Complex."  I'm so freaking dramatic.  

"No more Adele on Pandora," I texted my brother.  "Every song is making me cry today," I wrote, thinking about all the crappy things that have happened in the last few years.  The lowlight real was playing strong in my mind and like a broken record was stuck on some continuous loops.  When he pressed me a little bit about my sadness, I tried to explain the "Job Complex."

Almost instantly, he wrote back, "I'm not convinced that we are all Job.  Does God let us suffer, or is that just life?" 

With one text, he diffused the bomb I had been wiring all afternoon.  Suddenly head knowledge started flowing in, replacing irrational emotions, reminding me in the dark what God had previously taught me in the light.

I heard a pastor say recently, "God is such a genius at taking evil and turning it into good that will be tempted to look at the good that comes from evil and think that He willed the evil to get the good."

But He didn't.  He can't.  There is no evil in Him.  Life is hard and suffering is real, and it sucks and we want to avoid it.  And we don't know why God intervenes sometimes, and not other times, and that's ok to not know the answer to that.  The struggle is real, and it's going to happen whether I am a Christ follower or not. In that same sermon (seriously, check out Mike Erre preaching about "When God Doesn't Answer" if you have time), he read Romans 8:28 and surmised these three things:

1. God is always good
2. Evil is evil (not pretend good)
3. God's relentless commitment to bringing good from evil

I love this verse in Romans, where Paul writes about the faith of Abraham, "Against all hope, in hope Abraham believed." (Romans 4:18)

This morning, that brings so much peace to my heart. Trusting God to do and be what He promised, even in the face of a broken heart and a weary soul. Sometime in the last month, I kind of forgot that.  He has allowed free will, which has made way for sin, and, as a result, pain in this life will happen. But HE is incapable of evil.   He is a GOOD father.

Against all hope, in Hope I will believe.  I will rest my burden on Hope.  Hope looks a lot like Jesus.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Looking Through the Macro Lens

Sometimes we need reminded to look big picture.  You know, "In the Grand Scheme Of Things, this is not that big of a deal."

And sometimes even the Big Picture isn't reassuring.

It is in those times, that we have to look through the macro lens.  In macro photography, small things are enlarged to show beautiful, colorful detail that might otherwise be missed.

For example, these red mums.  The contrast of their scarlet color against the concrete with a little bit of moss patina.  The curve of the stem with the budding dark green leaves.  The delicacy of of the remains of a thin white spider web, trailing off the pedals, flowing in the wind.

But if you were here at my house, walking up to my front door, you would probably miss this beauty. You see, these mums are the remains of something I planted last year that failed to thrive in my flower bed this year.

You would notice the yellowed hosta, the pathetic lone daisy, the cracked concrete porch, and maybe your eye would catch the dying mum.    


As my husband says, sometimes a close up looks better than real life.

Isn't that like life sometimes?  We look around and notice all the things that are not going the way they should be going.  All the angst that weighs us down.  All the hard work and toiling that seemingly never ends.  All the hopes that remain unfilled.

But if we stop and really look through the macro lens, what might we notice?

The smoothness of Levi's cheeks when he nuzzles my face.

The strength in the squeeze of Herb's arm around my waist.

The gratefulness I feel when I consider the faith my parents instilled in me at a young age that carries me through difficult times.

Beautiful colorful details are all around us.   Oh, that I may stoop down and look a little closer.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Likes Comments and Shares

I know you're not supposed to measure your self worth and popularity using the yard stick of social media, but on this special day, I can't help it.

Five years ago today, I wrote about the homecoming of our "tree of life," the day Levi came in to our lives.  It was after weeks of sorrow, somewhat similar to what I'm feeling now, although the situation was completely different.  It was a total surprise, and honestly felt as close to a "stork drop" as realistically possible.

Facebook reminded me, that on this day, five years ago 120 people wished us congratulations.  ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY.  Those same people were praying for and wishing for a baby for us, joining in our sorrows and our joys.

And those same people, plus about fifty more, have sent condolences, wished us well, and have surrounded us in prayer following the heart break of not bringing home a baby girl last week.

The numbers astound me.  I'm just an ordinary person, how am I so blessed to have so many people who care?

What's the point?  Who cares about social media?  I do.  I have felt so loved, so supported, so prayed for in the last five years on our journey to parenthood, and now on the continuation of the family building journey.   Maybe you don't always understand how adoption works or why it works, but you care, love, and mean well, and hope for the best.

Thank you, you guys.  Whether you are in our close proximity of people we see on a regular basis or part of the crew who's path crossed ours for only a season of life - thank you.  You are our village and I can't wait to show all these comments and well wishes and joy filled messages to Levi when he's older...and hopefully his younger sibling too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It Is Well

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Two and a half weeks ago, I found myself on the top of a mountain.  Unprepared for the journey, over dressed and unprepared, we journeyed uphill for a breathtaking and surprisingly beautiful view.  Ten days later, I witnessed dark billowy clouds rolling over the ocean, so dense that they could be sliced.  The sky met the sea, impossible to see where one ended and the other began.  The winds were debilitating, it was, after all, a hurricane, and waves pounded the shore, loud and angry.  

I am speaking both quite literally and figuratively.  

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Every time I have stopped to write, my fingers pause.  Our hopeful adoption situation is now tinged with deceit, lies, broken heartedness, anger, and a whole lot of hope deferred.  I want to tell you every juicy detail.  I want you to come over for coffee and gasp in horror when I tell you the story.  I want to hug it out and share a tear.  But I feel like spending time explaining is a waste.  This part of our story doesn't deserve the tears and anger that have already been shed.  I just can't inscribe words that will live for eternity on this place of hope fulfilled.

Because, at this point, it is well with me.

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
This mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

After the house of cards began to crumble, Herb whisked me away to the beach.  It was the most healing and therapeutic time for our family of three.  God met us at the ocean, wrapped us in His arms, dried our tears, and settled my heart.  Just like in Job 38:1, in the midst of the storm, the Lord spoke.  

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know his name
It is well with my soul

And I reminded myself in a permanent way about how God is in the business of hope fulfilled.  He has given me Jesus.  That would be enough.  But then he gave me Herb.  And then He gave me Levi. I am so beyond grateful for His faithfulness, and I can do nothing except just trust Him.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

It is well with my soul.

**lyrics from "It Is Well" (Bethel).  I can't believe how fitting they are for this season of life, but really, why am I surprised?  God is good.   

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hope of Hope

The air is crisp, the kitchen is clean, the house is quiet, the coffee is brewing.  These are the inspired moments.  The moment preschool drop off is over, and the reality of chores hasn't sunk in.  These are the times when I think - who's life is this?  I get to be me?

I was going to title this blog post "The Joy of Anticipation," until I logged on and realized that I actually DID blog about that already, it's just been that long.  I wanted to document this anticipatory time as much as I did with Levi, because it's just been so different.  So hopeful, so happy.  Five years ago I was just bitter and sad most of the time and couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And now, I have contentment, peace.  Looking down a long tunnel, I saw a light, and now we are almost there.  It is surreal.

Quite honestly, at this point, 38 weeks and quickly progressing, the anticipation doesn't feel only joyful right now.  The joy and excitement is there, but it's also surrounded with anxiety, oil changes, lists, and is glued to a phone, just waiting for the message, "It's go time."  I am surprised by how stressed I feel, given that I have felt so relaxed for the last four months.

And of course there are the normal second time mom feelings - did I spend enough time with Levi recently?  Have I been too distracted?  Did we go to the park enough?  In fact, last night I was getting all weepy thinking that I didn't read to him enough in the last five years.  Adoptive parents apparently have raging anticipatory hormones, too.

This morning was good, though.  It was what led me to my inspired moment of writing.  We had to take my car for an oil change before school, so Levi and I packed up our bikes and rode from the garage to school (yeah, little town).  The wind blowing in my face reminded me of all the hours of bike rides that we have enjoyed.  The fifteen (no lie) times Levi  yelled "I love you mom!" when he was getting in line for school affirmed me and calmed my anxiety.

Recently I heard a song whose chorus plays in repeat in my head...

"Where there is no way you make a way, when no one else could reach us, you find us."

I keep reminding myself of God's faithfulness.  He has so clearly guided us thus far, I must continue to trust the next steps to Him, as well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Joy of Anticipation

Weeks ago, when we began to slowly and cautiously share our baby news, one of my often quoted friends Lauren said, "Oh Michelle.  I am so excited that you get to experience anticipating this baby."

"Stop.  What?  All I want is for the next five months to be over and have that little squish in my arms!" is what I thought.  But instead replied, "Yeah, I guess me too."

As she often is - she was right.  "Walking through" this pregnancy with the E-mom (E) has been redeeming for me in so many ways. We each signed up for The Bump and have enjoyed texting each other every week, commenting on the baby's eggplant size or developing ear lobes.  E has been so faithful to text me every day - "So many kicks today," "Heartburn sucks," or "Do you want to talk about my hospital plan?"  In every choice she makes, she considers me, more than she would have to.  I can't speak highly enough of her integrity in this journey.

There are ultrasound pictures.  I have three that E has so thoughtfully texted to me.  It amazes me to see the growth and the development of facial features.

When I look back on our waiting time for Levi, I remember the angst.  I was NOT a joyful waiter.  I was not content.  I was heartbroken and desperate and miserable.  And then when he was in my arms it all changed.  To quote Mater's Tall Tails, "You remember, you was there."

At the beginning of our second adoption, I was so nervous about whether or not the feelings of anxiety and baby-desperation would return.  God is so GOOD - they did not.  Even now, in a 5 month match process (that's what the time is called between when you are picked by an expectant mom and the baby is actually born) my heart is content.  This is the kind of peace that passes understanding.  I get that verse now.

I'm so excited for the calendar to turn to September and know the baby could come any day, but I'm genuinely enjoying getting ready for her.  If I feel like working on the nursery, I do.  If I feel like dropping $25 at Target on baby gear, I do.  I have enough time to spread out purchases so nothing feels like a huge hit.  And yet, we still have 2 1/2 months to go, so there are not any rushed feelings  (yet). 

We were walking out to the car and Levi said with a sigh, "Oh mom.... I just can't stop thinking about that baby."

Me neither, buddy. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


On my favorite episode of my favorite show, there is a wedding.  Pam tells Jim that because wedding days fly by, they should take mental snapshots of moments throughout the day.  This morning I woke up thinking about some very specific moments of our own wedding day, which was nine years ago today.  You know - the moments that weren't captured by the photographer, and not captured by a smartphone (it was nine years ago), and are burned in my memory simply because of their significance - or significant insignificance?

Waking up at 4 am and spent the next two hours journaling, shaving my legs really well, just bidding my time till the bridesmaids woke up, too.

The moment my sister noticed I was awake way too early and got up to hang out with me.  We talked and walked laps around the hotel parking lot.  That just might be my very favorite sister moment.

Standing in the church bathroom with my mom, both of us dolled up, feeling the most beautiful I have ever felt, and hearing my mom affirm those feelings.

Waiting, nervously, in the hallway as the clarinet choir played.  Jocelyn came to fix my veil and when our eyes met, we both crumbled into a ball of tearful emotion.

Walking, arm and arm, with my dad, feeling all eyes on me.  Walking past all the friends and family who came to support us seemed so fitting - like every person had helped me along the journey which ended at the alter meeting Herb.  I wanted to hug everyone I passed and shout, "Thank you!"

Herb gently holding my hand at the alter and turning it over to see the terrible result of a spray tan on the palm of my hands.

Exchanging vows and choking out the words "in sickness."  How far we had already come at that point, and how much more we've endured since then.

Sitting in the chairs after the ceremony, waiting for pictures, my brother came over to admire my rings.  It was the first time I looked at them together.  We marveled at their beauty and had a tender moment of congratulations.

Posing for pictures and feeling awkward.  I just knew these posed pictures could not be looking good - I was right.  Our posed couple pictures are super awkward.  (Don't make big chested girls in strapless dresses try to sit on the lap of their equally sized husbands.  It's just weird.)

Hearing the jazz band at our reception and wishing I had offered to pay my friend and have them play for more than three songs.  In all fairness, I hadn't really been to any weddings that had dancing/music and wasn't sure how to structure the event.

Dancing with my dad and him remarking, "I had no idea this day would be like this.  This is so wonderful.  You did such a good job."

Trying to direct everyone who was helping clean up and my mother and sister-in-law telling me to just leave already - they had it handled.

Flopping face down on the bed at the hotel room while Herb carried in our luggage.  Tears of nervousness and excitement stung my eyes.

Sitting in Red Lobster later that night because of course we didn't eat anything at the most expensive meal my parents had ever purchased.  It was almost closing time and it was freezing.  But we were starving and it was the most delicious meal ever.

Feeling incredibly awkward the next morning when my in-laws drove us to the airport.  They knew what we DID the night before.  Haha.

Today I am going to hook up the VCR and show Levi our wedding video.  I wonder what moments I have forgotten?

Just last week, Lauren asked me how I felt about where God was leading our family.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  Remembering the fear of loneliness and the relief of finding the love of my life I replied, "I never thought I would be here and look what God has done.  I am happy to follow Him in whatever comes next."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Oh boy. I mean girl?

There have been so many easter eggs, dropped clues, vague-gramming/blogging/booking, and secrets I've wanted to spill on social media.  How do I recover?  Where do I even begin?  How do I spill the beans that there's going to be a little bean?

Oops, I just did.

I remember when we were matched with Jen, I didn't sleep for about a week out of sheer excitement.  And at first, this match was exactly the same.  But there is no earthly way I'm going to maintain that for months. Yes, I said MONTHS.

In almost every way, this situation is different than Levi's adoption.  Not better, not worse, just totally different.  And isn't that just the plight of the second child?

The expectant mom (E-Mom) that has chosen us is a friend of a friend.  So, we did a little something I've coined "BYOBM" - bring your own birth mom.  She picked us to parent her unborn child, and then she met with a  social worker from our agency.  

When we were chosen by Levi's birth family, we had only three weeks to prepare (and ultimately actually only a twelve hour notice).  It was completely what I had been hoping for - spontaneous parenthood!  

This time - E-Mom made her adoption plan fairly early in her pregnancy, hooked up with us early in her second trimester, and seven weeks later, we met face to face.  That was yesterday.  If you're doing math - E-mom is currently 25 weeks pregnant and due October 2.  

Levi was seven weeks old when we brought him home.  He slept through the night and had a pretty wonderful schedule.  He was a content and calm baby with whom I was very spoiled.  

This time, I have been invited in to the delivery room.  Lord willing, I will be in her life from day one, minute one, second one, not to mention the joy of anticipation.  E-mom shares a wonderful amount of information with me as she walks through this pregnancy.  We have signed up for the bump weekly emails and we text each other, marveling at the new things the baby is developing.  It's almost like experiencing pregnancy, just without all the painful side effects.

Oh, and did you catch the other big difference?  Go back and read the last paragraph.

I said HER.

This time, it's a girl.  This time, it's pink and purple, fuzzy and princess-y.  This time it's hair bows and braids, glitter and dresses.

Oh friends, I can't even touch the tip of the iceburg with what it means to be "expecting" a daughter.  The work God has done in my heart and my life as a woman and the joy I feel knowing I can impart that on someone else.  OH man, that's a whole other post for another day.

A few months ago, we found out our social worker was pregnant with triplets and due in May. I said, "I fully expect when she goes out on maternity leave and the office is busiest, we'll get the call.  We'll get matched in May."  The first day I talked to E-mom on the phone was May 1.

And yet, we want to be sensitive.  I want to be guarded.  I want to remember that she's still got 15 weeks to go.  That's a long time in the adoption world.  This is the kind of match I dreaded for fear of the obvious, and yet, I want to continue to be transparent.  I want to look back on this time of waiting knowing I trusted God with my family's future.  If this is to be, I want to be able to look back on this time of expectancy with joy, knowing I celebrated our daughter from the moment I knew of her existence.  This is why I have not shared yet.  But as another adoptive momma reminded me, there is no amount of guardedness that can prepare you for a disruption.  If this falls through, it's going to hurt, whether I've been guarded or not.

So, instead of worrying or stressing, I'm thinking what an incredible opportunity it is to get to know E-mom and E-dad and their families.  Because, if I have learned anything in the last five years, it's that adoption is so much more than gaining a child.  It's a beautiful chance to gain a whole extra part of extended family.  And it's freaking amazing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

30 Rocked

On Friday I turned 31.  I spent the day reflecting on the days leading up to turning 30 (thanks Facebook memories reminder) and the actual day I spent celebrating last year.  I kept using the hashtag #30rocks because my oh-so generous family + friends threw me a birthday party with that theme.

Friday night, looking back on the last year, I felt strongly about the fact that, indeed, thirty rocked.  I was dreading the decade change, but eventually I embraced it.  Thirty brought a new found confidence in my abilities and appearance.  I started working out, I stopped wearing make up.  I decided that I liked wearing knit dresses and leggings better than jeans and a tee.  

On my thirtieth birthday, I prayed the bridge of "Oceans" - "I want this of my year," I asked.

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would guide me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior"

I got choked up when I realized how faithful He had been (why does this ever/always surprise me?!). This year I had the opportunity to expand my music studio.  I decided to take control of my weight (ugh, this is going so slow right now).  My husband began working on a Master's degree (that's a whole other topic entirely, but even though he's doing all the work, I feel like this has to be a group effort).   I found forgiveness.  We are doing pretty good on our budget, and really trying to get out of debt.  We continue to move forward towards adoption number two (isn't waiting, fun?).  Parenting, in general, is majorly proving to be a time where my trust needs to be without borders.

If I had set out to make all these changes, life steps a year ago, I would have been overwhelmed.  In fact, lots all of those things stress me out when I think about them.  I'm so thankful for God's grace and provision.  Thankful that in this season of transition, change, excitement, and preparation, that He has promised to sustain me.

Thirty rocked, but it's looking like thirty-one is going to be a pretty amazing year, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Unknowingly Sentimental

Levi and I have compiled a summer adventure list.  One of the things on our list was to take the bus from Manheim to Lancaster city, which after several postponements, we planned to do today.  We would visit the market, the splash fountain, the library, go out for lunch, and then I promised him I'd show him the courthouse where his adoption was.

At the bus stop
Imagine my delight when I realized that today was, in fact, the fourth anniversary of his adoption!  Looking back, that was easily the happiest day of my life.  I expected something so anti-climatic, after all, we had been parenting Levi for 7 months at that point.  But it was such a beautiful experience - and one I look forward to experiencing again.

Lunch date

We did all the things I mentioned while we were in Lancaster today, complete with tasty donuts from market.  At one point I wished Levi a "Happy Adoption Day," and he said, "Happy Adoption Day to you, too, mommy."  

Watching him splash in the same fountain that he did on this day four years ago filled me with so much joy.  What an honor, what a joy these last four years have been.  

May 26, 2011
May 26, 2015

Oh, happy adoption day to me, too.