That Time I Betrayed All My Principles (And Loved It)

Until Zoe was about 13 months old, I had a parenting philosophy that we were not going to “do” characters in our family.

Laugh all you want, experienced parents: I was convinced that I could shield my daughter from becoming a pawn in the merchandising machine of Disney, Nickelodeon, and company.  We would spend our time playing with natural wood toys, painting, exploring the outdoors, eating organic food, and reading books with watercolor illustrations.  Our trips to Target would remain peaceful; Zoe would never demand Sponge Bob fruit snacks or throw a tantrum over not getting the Big Bird toothbrush because she wouldn’t know who they were.  

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

When Zoe was 13 months, she discovered Elmo.  We had never watched Elmo at home, but she discovered a small Elmo doll at Target, picked him up and hugged him, and wouldn’t let go. For the price of a latte and a small part of my soul, I could make her smile this big?! Okay, I thought.  We’ll let Elmo in our cart and into our house and maybe even into our hearts.  BUT JUST ELMO. She’ll never discover his friends.

IMG_2362Zoe with her favorite Elmo of the multiple Elmo dolls we now own.

Apparently these kid marketing people are, like, good at their jobs.  These little Sesame Street characters are everywhere, and once our family and friends realized that Zoe liked Elmo, they made sure that she owned the whole neighborhood.

Ok, so we’re sticking to Sesame Street characters.  They’re at least associated with education, I reasoned.  We won’t do any “fluffy” non-educational characters though, and she is definitely not watching TV.

I held strong until she was 18 months old and I was at my parents’ house trying to watch three kids and finish two grants.  It was miraculous: fifteen minutes of “Elmo’s World” once a day gave me the time to check my work, make a meal for Sam or Olivia, or do the dishes while Zoe sat still! Ok, but TV is only at Gigi and Papa’s house! I said.

A week after we got home, Zoe had an ear infection followed by the stomach bug and stopped eating or drinking for three days.  “She needs to stay as still as possible,” her doctor said.  “Try TV.”

Two weeks after Zoe recovered, Riley joined our family.

Let’s just say that I can recite entire episodes of Elmo’s World now.  (“Birthday” is my favorite.  Only a real Scrooge doesn’t like to celebrate a fictional fish’s birthday for 17 minutes and 34 seconds, and Mr. Noodle’s attempts to “wrap a present” on this particular episode are far better than his groan-worthy acting on “Play Ball.”)

Flash forward to two weeks ago, when David and I had the following conversation:

David: So, I’m still signed up to go to that conference at a Disney resort in two weeks.
Me: Can you get out of it? We have a newborn.
David: (checks) Nope.
Me: Well, I guess I’ll stay home alone with them for three days and three nights…
David: Don’t do that.  You guys should come for at least part of the time.  If you can handle them during the day, I’ll be able to help you at night.
Me: Okay.  “Night” and “help” in the same sentence? We’re in.  But I’m not taking both of them to a theme park.  I haven’t even taken them both to Publix yet.  What can I do around the hotel?
David: Hmm. Do you think Zoe would like a character meal?
Me: She doesn’t really know any of the characters.  (Brightens) Wait! We have two weeks.  That’s enough time for her to learn their names.  I’ll show her some videos on YouTube.

I’ll pause and let you re-read that last sentence.

MY MORALS HAVE SLIPPED SO LOW, GUYS.  

And last night, as I sat across from my chicken-nugget-eating, dessert-buffet-partaking, character-knowing, HAPPY little girl, I thought: I’m so glad!

IMG_3254

IMG_3255

IMG_3257

IMG_3259

IMG_3260

IMG_3264

IMG_3270

IMG_3271

IMG_3280

IMG_3282

IMG_3285

IMG_3289

IMG_3296Some rules were meant to be broken!

But seriously, as I adjust to two kids, I have to have SO MUCH GRACE for myself.  It is hard work, and it would be easy to drown in guilt because I’m not as good as I want to be at it.  This night was a great reminder that sometimes, my expectations of what I “should” do and the rules I’ve created for myself about what kind of mom I want to be are actually blocking fun and enjoyment from my life as a mom.

Last night was the best night of Zoe’s life.  I am so glad I got to enjoy it with her!

Life with Two So Far

I thought I’d write a little post about life with two kids.  This is a good illustration of what my day to day life looks like now: 

Photo on 8-17-14 at 11.06 AMIf you detect a slight hint of fear in my eyes, you’re right on! It’s a little overwhelming to have two under two, especially when one is a strong-willed and energetic toddler and one is a completely helpless baby.  Throw in a move and starting a new semester as an adjunct instructor, and wow, it’s been a crazy month.    

I’ve been SO blessed to have lots of family help over the last few weeks, as David’s mom and my mom both visited for about 9 days each.  This, along with David’s paternity leave, provided me with about 3.5 weeks of a 2:2 adult-to-child ratio.  Without this, I think someone might be dead (and the odds are fairly even for all of us–Zoe from self-inflicted daredevil-style injury, Riley from Zoe-inflicted injury, and me from fatigue and/or despair! LOL.) 

I start every day sitting in the bathroom for a minute and telling God, “I need you!!! I can’t do this alone! You gave me these girls.  Now please give me what I need today to be the best mom to them!” After that, I take a deep breath, force myself to leave the bathroom, and try to take it hour by hour because I don’t know how long my day will be, what sorts of toddler challenges await me, whether Zoe will be nice to her sister or will spend the entire day trying to pinch and hit her, whether I will get to take a shower or not, whether I will get a break at all in the form of simultaneous naps or if I will just spend the entire day caring for babies (my “workday” now can easily be 4:45-5 am until 9-10 pm, so if they don’t nap at the same time, it is a long day.) 

One thing that I DO know is that my day will be purposeful…because although it may be difficult sometimes, I believe wholeheartedly that I am right where I am supposed to be with the children I am supposed to have, and that God will give ME what I need to give THEM what THEY need.  

Every day I have to admit my inability, put my faith in something beyond my own abilities and energy, and trust in Him for what I need.  It’s humbling, and honestly, “humbled” is not my favorite feeling. 

But every day He has been faithful to provide what I need—whether that is patience, insight into their needs, energy that belies my sleep deprivation, a positive daughter/daughter moment…

IMG_3128(Zoe loves to play “patty cake” with Riley)

…a friend who is miraculously able to come over when I need an energy outlet for Zoe, dinner delivery, a break in the extreme heat that lets us get outside, a fun hour where Zoe does not challenge me once, or a positive text when I need the extra encouragement.  Also, the God who invented the coffee plant is a good God.  Amen.  

Here are a few things I LOVE about being a mom of two: 

  • I’ve been trying to take Zoe for some special “mommy/daughter trips” that are just me and her.  She REMEMBERS them and talks about them later.  It’s so sweet and makes me feel really good about the time that I invest into making it happen. 
  • Seeing Zoe and Riley interact.  Zoe is very sweet with Riley about 85% of the time.  She says “hi Riley!” every time she passes Riley’s bassinet, whether Riley is in it or not, and in the mornings she usually wants me to put Riley into her bed so that they can cuddle for a few minutes.  Zoe sleeps with a blanket and an Elmo doll, and she will tuck Riley in with her blanket and will make her Elmo doll dance for Riley.  Riley is very interested in Zoe…unless she’s sleeping.  Even then, Zoe will often find a way to involve her in an activity!  
    IMG_2895
  • Having Riley around has brought out a nurturing side in Zoe.  She really loves playing with her baby dolls now, and thanks to Grandma, we have expanded our collection of toy baby accessories to include a toy bottle, a toy bouncy seat, and a toy Pack N Play.  In between these and the real baby accessories littering my house, there is NO mistaking the presence of two under two in this household.
  • One day when Zoe had been particularly unkind to Riley, I was feeling very discouraged…until I saw Zoe pick up her baby doll, sweetly cuddle with it, and sing “Jesus Loves Me” to it.  It made me feel like everything I have been doing to try to help Zoe learn about kind and nurturing behavior will eventually pay off.  Learning at this age is a lot of scaffolding, but eventually, she will act kindly without me having to constantly instruct her.  Plus, when she does get it, Riley will have another role model.  
  • Zoe is OBSESSED with riding with Riley in the double stroller.  
    IMG_2898
    When we go for walks outside, Riley tends to open her eyes REALLY big.  Zoe thinks that Riley is being intentionally funny, and giggles hysterically at her.  It’s hilarious.  
  • I finally bit the bullet and hired a sitter to come for a few hours a week to help me get my consulting/teaching work done.  I felt too guilty to do this with one child and tried to just work during nap times, but with two, I know that their naps won’t always coincide and so I felt very confident in the decision to hire a sitter.  God provided a great and energetic sitter—an alum of our youth program who is currently home for a “gap time” between college and graduate school. I’m scary excited for 9-1 on Mondays! 
  • With two kids, there isn’t a lot of time to spend sitting around holding Riley, so I sometimes worry about our bond.  However, when she does get fussy, she seems to relax the best with me over any other adult in our home.  I love this! 
    photo-72I may not feel the slightest sense of mastery yet, but I’m excited to keep improving as a parent of two and I am so thankful for the chance to parent these girls with my amazing husband by my side!   

 

Our Journey to Riley: The End (and the Beginning.)

I am writing this final chapter of Riley’s story in my new dining room in my new house—the house I wasn’t looking for and didn’t know I needed, the house that is blessing our family immensely.

A few feet away from me sleeps a baby I could say similar things about.

IMG_3098

I am still getting to know this house, and I am still getting to know this girl.  But what I do know about her is this:

  • She has a great smile.
  • She has the most peaceful temperament of any baby I’ve ever met.
  • She is immensely loved—not just by us, but by her biological family, by her extended family, and by her spiritual family of friends and family—and their love for her is a beautiful reminder of what is good and right in this world.
  • She was meant to be ours.

I will back up a little now and finish the story.  But I just had to say this first: in case anyone else out there finds themselves in a situation, wondering what is God doing??!!

He is doing something good.  That verse that says He works all things for your good? It’s true.

And I’m learning that you don’t have to understand it all.  You just have to thank Him for what you do understand, and let your faith in His goodness carry you through the parts that don’t make sense.

Back to our story…

***

We got to the hospital around 4:30 pm on June 21.  Riley’s birth mom, “P,” had been induced the night before, and we were all expecting a baby to come that night.

Nothing happened.

We spent hours that night with the birth parents and the biological grandmothers, chatting as P had contractions. I challenged myself to stay present and tried to soak each part of the conversation into my memory so that if this baby came home with me, I could tell her details about her family…but I have to admit that my impatience was getting the best of me.  I just want to meet this baby.  Why is it taking so long? I asked God.

Around 10 pm, I left the room to go to the bathroom.  The birth dad’s mother followed me out and there, under the dim lights of the hospital hallway, asked me a rapid-fire series of questions about myself, David, our faith, adoption, and our hopes for this baby.  We talked for almost thirty minutes and wound up hugging and crying together.

“I thought you were the right ones for this baby when I read your profile,” she said.  “Now, after meeting you both and hearing your answers to my questions, I have no doubt.  You are the family God picked for this baby.”

At this, I decided to pipe down my inner Thomas and trust God’s timing.  I was not going to ask Him one more question.  I was going to enjoy this ride!

David and I wound up spending the night at the hospital, as the doctor said that if anything changed, they would have P begin pushing right away.  P had invited us to cut the cord and catch the baby—a tremendous honor and an opportunity we were not going to miss.  We got a few hours of sleep on a combination of a borrowed hospital bed and the vinyl family waiting area couches.  No baby came.

The next morning, we were exhausted.  We couldn’t imagine what poor P felt like, and so we were relieved for her when the birth dad came in and told us “they are doing a C section, starting now.”  The time? 8:30 am.

(Guess when my Bible study had already decided to corporately pray for a safe delivery for P? 8:30 am.)

At 8:50 am, a beautiful little girl entered the world.  At 8:54, we were invited to gown up and head into the infant nursery to meet our daughter.  We actually ran into her on the way into the nursery.

I instantly burst into tears.

“She’s so beautiful,” I said.  “She’s so beautiful.”  It was all I could say as I looked at her, thinking of our journey to get here, thinking of how much I had longed for and prayed for this baby.

My mind sped through the past I looked at her thinking, this is happening in the present—in MY present.  There is a baby in front of me and she is moving, squirming, looking around, and these nurses are calling me “mom.”  I am crying and feeling real tears fall on my arm.  I just drank a large coffee so I know I’m awake! This is not a dream! 

Amidst the exhaustion and unplanned C-section, I didn’t bring my camera into the infant nursery, so this crude cell phone picture is the only picture I have of our first thirty minutes with Riley:

photo-71We stood watching her in awe as the nurses examined her.  She looked around—cooing, interested, alert.  I could barely breathe.

After a while, I was reunited with my camera.  A nurse took a few photos for us:

IMG_2742

IMG_2744

IMG_2747

We invited the birth dad and biological grandmothers to come in for a while to see her while the nurses finished cleaning her.  Then, the nurses told us to go to a private room to spend some special bonding time with the baby.  We couldn’t believe that we were getting this privilege as adoptive parents.

As each moment passed, we fell deeper and deeper in love.

IMG_2770

IMG_2771

IMG_2772

As the day went on, we learned that the birth parents wanted me to stay in the hospital and begin caring for Riley right away.  The nurses gave me a room, ordered meals for David and me, brought me towels and shampoo (I hadn’t showered since Sunday night and it was now Tuesday afternoon) and generally made everything lovely.  For the next two days, I stayed in the hospital with Riley while David went back and forth from the hospital and caring for Zoe.

A few times a day, we’d truck down the hallway to P’s room.  It was beautiful to watch P and Riley’s birth dad interact with her.  I don’t feel comfortable sharing a lot of details of their story or their time together, but I have a beautiful set of photos that I will show Riley someday.  She is a profoundly loved little girl.

Any parent who has been through a “traditional” matched domestic adoption will tell you that the time in the hospital is a roller coaster.  You are falling in love with and caring for a baby that you aren’t sure you will take home.  You are interacting with biological family members who are on their own roller coaster.  You are aware that you are constantly being watched; that every action has a potential impact.  My desire for this time was to show the love and unconditional acceptance of Christ to the family—not to manipulate anything and not to worry about the outcome.  I wanted our time together to leave an impact on the family whether we took the baby home or not.

Throughout our stay, God was faithful to encourage me that this was happening.  In one of my favorite moments, the birth dad’s mother pulled me aside on Tuesday and said that our conversation the night before had encouraged her more than I could know.

“I had to leave the hospital on Monday afternoon because I was so sad thinking about saying goodbye to the baby,” she said.

“But I made myself come back to meet you.  As I drove away last night, I called my mom and said ‘now that I’ve met them, I have total peace about this.’  You guys are wonderful and so loving, and I know you’re going to raise her to know the Lord.  I don’t look at this as a loss anymore.  I think of it as the joining of families.  I’m not saying goodbye to her.  I’m saying hello to an expanding family. I love you guys and am happy to have you as part of my family.”

THIS is adoption at its finest, is it not? I was so joyful.

IMG_2866

But as I described, it was still a roller coaster.  In Florida, the birth parents sign their parental rights away, thereby placing the baby with you, 48 hours after the baby is born (the birth mom also has to be painkiller free for 4 hours prior to signing.)  This would put our signing on Thursday morning.

For most of our hospital stay, I felt joyful and at peace.  But on Wednesday night, I felt like a wreck.  I was exhausted.  I was alone in a noisy hospital room with a baby that was having some feeding issues (since resolved) and that may or may not be mine.  I felt sad for P.  I felt the reality that P could choose not to sign; that this could be my last night with Riley.  I felt the temptation to detach.  I felt the weight of the failed adoption.  I felt alone.

I said into the darkness, I am not alone.  

And I began talking to God about this baby, my feelings, all of it.  It wasn’t coherent or organized.  It was a jumbled prayer of fatigue, my desires, my questions, and my reality (honestly, I think this must be His favorite kind of prayer.)  I talked through our journey with Him, asking again, what was any of this? If this was supposed to be my baby all along, why did all of that happen? Why did I feel that call to adopt in October? It was so random.  This baby probably wasn’t even conceived then!

And in that darkness, I almost felt His chuckle.  “Really?”

Wait…

I pulled out my cell phone calendar.  My hands began to tremble a little as I counted backwards.

Sure enough.  Riley’s due date had been July 9.

This meant that the week that David and I had started praying hard about adoption together—the week that he had said “I am actually really excited about the possibility of a newborn”—the week that we decided that we felt called into the action of pursuing adoption—the week that we started praying for whoever our future baby would be—was the week Riley was conceived.

We had been praying for Riley since she was conceived.  We just didn’t know it.

And there, in that darkness, I relaxed into this truth: this was our baby.

IMG_2815

I don’t always understand how God works.  I don’t.  I don’t understand why a good and loving God wouldn’t just give me my baby without the painful loss preceding it.  But He gave me a baby, y’all.  Hallelujah! I also know that God doesn’t allow useless pain, and I also know that He gave me the encouragement that the situation with Zoe’s birth mom wasn’t about us.  Through our experience I’ve grown, I’ve been humbled, I’ve learned to understand others better, I’ve learned more about life and grief and marriage and parenting and faith and friendship, and who knows what He’s done with it in others that I don’t know about?  Would I trade all that for no pain? Probably.  I’m weak and human.  But I can also say “thank you” for the pain.

Shauna Niequist writes, “This is the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate.  And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.”  

Adoption offers plenty of sweetness and bitterness.  LIFE offers plenty of both.  And God is in both of them.  And, like this dining room I’m writing in, His work might be unexpected…but it is always good.

I look at the baby sleeping next to me, and I listen to the early morning singing of my other baby in the next room (I’ll need to get her soon!) and all I can say is thank you to the One who has given this life to me.

I don’t deserve it.  But I hope to steward it well.

For reasons I do and don’t understand, I’ve felt called to share our story with you along the way—the good, the sad, the ugly.  I hope You see Him in it.

IMG_2810

IMG_2811

IMG_2871

IMG_2884

IMG_2892

It is all Him.

Our Journey to Riley: Part Three

“Oh, how slow grief is to come to understanding! When the grieving women were sitting there ‘opposite the tomb’ (Matthew 27:61,) did they see the triumph of the next two thousand years? Did they see anything except that Christ was gone? The Christ you and I know today came from their loss.  Countless mourning hearts have since seen resurrection in the midst of their grief, and yet these sorrowing women watched at the beginning of this result and saw nothing.  

What they regarded as the end of life was actually the preparation for coronation…but they did not see it.

It is the same with us.  Each of us sits ‘opposite the tomb’ in our own garden and initially says, ‘this tragedy is irreparable.  I see no benefit in it and will take no comfort in it.’  And yet right in the midst of our deepest and worst adversities, our Christ is often just lying there, waiting to be resurrected.”
–from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman 

***

A few days into our grief process, I decided I was sick of hiding.  So I wrote about what happened.   And then I kept writing—about what sadness physically felt like, about how difficult it is to grieve with a child always watching you, about how I didn’t understand anything that was going on, about the sweetness that we found in our marriage in the midst of this loss.  I admitted to feeling angry with God for seemingly leading us to a dead end (an an expensive one at that), for not acting in a way that made sense to me, for allowing a child to have such a poor start to her life when there was another option for her.   I confessed my inability to understand the answer to the question, what now?

What I didn’t write about was that we re-entered the adoption process.

In February, I had a counseling session with a social worker from our agency.  During our call, she gently commented, you have everything ready for a baby and your hearts are ready for a baby.  Adoption takes a while and typically involves a lot of waiting, so why not start the wait now and grieve while you wait instead of waiting until you felt ready and then face a long wait? In the meantime, you can say “no” to a situation if one comes up and you don’t feel ready for it.

I was kind of shocked by the suggestion, but when I shared it with David, he agreed with her.  I talked with her again, saying I just wasn’t sure, and she said, re-entering the process might produce some closure to the failed adoption—a way of saying, “we know this situation with Zoe’s sister is over and we’re ready to accept that.”

David was enthusiastic about re-entering the process.  I was still hesitant, but was comforted that we could turn down a situation if we didn’t feel ready, so I updated our family profile and dropped it off on March 18.

As I drove away from our agency, I felt numb.  But the next day…I felt lighter.

I felt hope.

IMG_2415

I began praying for the baby we might have in addition to the baby we didn’t have.  This time, my prayer looked like this: God, for reasons that seem increasingly beyond my understanding, we felt you clearly calling us to adoption in October.  I don’t know what the heck You have been doing, or what any of this was, or why you let things go badly like this here on earth, but scripture says You work all things for our good.  All things means ALL THINGS, and “our good” means that you’re working for our good and for Brianna’s good too.  I want to believe.  Help me believe.  

My daily prayer became, I do not want the fastest adoption.  I want the RIGHT adoption.  Make it clear.  Bring peace when it’s right.  

A week after re-entering the process, we got a call about a baby due in a few weeks.  It was a bit of an unusual situation, so we had 24 hours to decide whether we wanted to be considered for it.  It was exciting to be considered so soon, but as the 24 hours ticked by, I felt increasingly like I wanted to throw up.  I didn’t feel peace—I felt the complete opposite.  I felt panic, anxiety, discord.

This is NOT right, I finally told David.

I feel the same way, he confessed.

And here, I began to feel thankful to God again—not just for the obvious blessings like family and friends that I had never stopped thanking Him for, even in the hard times—but because we had heard His guiding voice again.

Since that day in January when my heart shattered, I had felt His presence and His comfort, but His guidance felt nebulous and far away.  But here, I had evidence that He was still guiding—that I hadn’t messed up or misheard His directions—and with this little bit of encouragement, it became easy to trust that He would keep guiding us to the right situation.

I began to take small steps to ready ourselves again, as our agency was hoping to provide us with a shorter match or a “stork drop” situation after our failed adoption (a “stork drop” means the baby is already relinquished or is about to be relinquished when they call you…so you get a phone call that says “hey, come pick up your baby RIGHT NOW.”)  

I applied for an adoption grant to make up for the amount of money that we had lost in our failed adoption.

I updated our hospital bag.

IMG_2673I continued to feel lighter and happier and more at peace.  I still had questions about why God allowed this, yet recognized that these questions probably wouldn’t be answered in this lifetime and that I had to make a decision about whether I was okay with that or not.  I decided to surrender them, reminding myself over and over again, “all things means ALL THINGS.”

I decided to trust the process He was leading me through.  I decided to thank Him for what I DID have—His presence and His guidance and the assurance that He was with me and for me.

And I kept praying for our future child.

In June, Zoe and I went to Minnesota for a few weeks to teen-sit my siblings.  A day after my parents left, I began feeling deep angst.  It’s tough to describe, but my soul felt rattled and scared and unnerved.  All of the questions and doubts that I thought I had surrendered about our adoption were coming back up.

I asked David, pray for me.  I am processing something big.  

I felt deep in my soul that changes were about to happen in my life.  I just didn’t know what they would be.

A few days into this, I went to my best friend Whitney’s church.  The sermon topic was “God of the storm,” about how God is in control of the physical and metaphorical storms in our lives—a fitting topic.  During worship, I felt the presence and comfort of Christ so strongly.  I continued to feel like my heart was opening to something.

After the service, Whitney’s sister asked me something about our failed adoption and I broke down crying.  I don’t know why I’m crying! I said.  I’m so sorry.  I haven’t cried about this in months!  She apologized for bringing it up and I said no, no, it’s so strange.  I usually can talk about it.  I don’t know what’s going on here.  

Embarrassed, I fled to my car and went home.

Later that afternoon, during Zoe’s nap, Whitney came over.  We sat on my parents’ porch and I told her about how confused and unnerved I was and asked her to pray for me.  And that friend of mine said, “how about right now?”

So with our lattes in hand and the  summer sunshine warming our bare feet, she prayed: God, You know what You’re doing in Sarah’s life, and I thank You that what will happen next in her life is not a mystery to You.  Give her patience as she waits, and clarity about what You’re doing soon.  

The next morning, Zoe and I set out for our usual morning walk.

Rochester country

To keep her happy as we walked, I sang her the song she had recently become obsessed with.  Its lyrics:

In my wrestling and in my doubts, 
In my failures, you won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea.

In the silence, you won’t let go
In the questions, your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea.

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea.

My Lighthouse, My Lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, My Lighthouse
I will trust the promise: you will carry me safe to shore.  

That morning, as I walked and sang, I realized the truth in Whit’s prayer and in those lyrics: that God was with me in every question, in every doubt, in every moment of wrestling.

He wasn’t surprised by them.

He wasn’t judgmental of them.

He was with me, loving me in them.

And He knew what came next.

That meant I didn’t have to know.  I just needed to keep seeking Him.  The rest would follow.

The next day, June 17, I wrote a blog post about learning to live with the mystery.  I said:

I feel God working in me as I surrender this time to Him and though I don’t quite understand yet what He’s doing, it’s enough to feel His presence with me and trust that He will sort it all out.

There is always room [in my life] for God to do something NEW, something different than what I pictured. And I continue to want to step out of the way to allow Him to work.

I pushed publish, almost an “amen” in my mind.  I was still sitting at the desk twenty five minutes later when my phone rang.

It was Tammy, our case manager. Don’t get excited, I told myself sternly.  It’s probably just a paperwork question.

But deep inside, I knew it wasn’t.  I knew I was about to get the answer I’d been seeking.  

“Hi, Sarah!” Tammy said breathlessly.  “Is David around?”

“No,” I said. “I’m in Minnesota…”

“Oh!” she said.  “Well…I can’t wait.  I just have to tell you! I’m just leaving a birth mom’s house, and she and the birth dad have selected you and David!”

“As parents?” I said, just to make sure.

“Yes!” she said.  “She’s due July 9.  And it’s a girl!” 

To make a long story short, over the next five weeks we rejoiced, prepared, met with the birth parents, loved the birth parents, filled out a ton of paperwork, learned we had to move, found a great housing situation within 24 hours, learned we had been awarded THE MAXIMUM GRANT AMOUNT from the adoption funding foundation even though I had only applied for what we had lost in our failed adoption, packed up our house, organized a move for the first week of August, prayed a BUNCH, and waited.

Photo on 6-28-14 at 8.25 PMAnd waited.

And waited.

It seemed like our little girl was quite cozy in the womb and wasn’t coming out anytime soon.  So we used the time well.  We kept packing.  I finished two of my three summer consulting projects.  I hung out with Zoe.  And we kept waiting.

We hadn’t told many friends about our potential daughter because of our previous failed adoption.  However, I told a few.  On July 20, one of those friends asked me, aren’t you going out of your mind with anxiety?!!  

And what I said surprised even me.  I am not anxious, I replied.  I felt that God was doing something in June when I was in Minnesota.  I didn’t know what He was doing, but I knew I wasn’t alone.  I told Whitney and David I needed prayers.  Whitney prayed over me and two days later, I found out about the baby.  I haven’t felt anxious since.  Through our failed adoption and again in this process God has been with me in every question, every feeling, every doubt, and I have learned that I can be entirely honest with Him.  THAT is the treasure.  Not this baby.  Of course I want this baby, and it would be wonderful to get her.  But if I don’t…I still have Him.  And I know He will be with me and give me what I need to make it through.   

The peace I had been praying for? Had been there through the entire process.

This really might be our daughter.  

The next afternoon, we got the call to head to the hospital.  A sweet little girl was about to make her appearance.  Forgetting half of the practical things we should have brought and almost forgetting to say goodbye to Zoe (oops!) we giddily hopped in the car.

On the way, David and I talked, reiterating our desire to enter into this situation with open hearts.  It would be hard, because we knew what it felt like to love a little girl and then lose her, but we wanted nothing more than to surround this precious creation of God’s with complete and unguarded love for her first few days of life—even if we didn’t get to take her home in the end.

We prayed as we drove.  And then looked at each other, beaming, goofily saying variations of the statement over and over again:  “let’s go meet our daughter.”

IMG_2733

IMG_2735

IMG_2734

IMG_2736

The final post in Riley’s story—in my opinion, the coolest part of this entire story—will be coming soon!

Our Journey to Riley: Part Two

“In no way is it enough to set out cheerfully with God on any venture of faith.  You must also be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the journey will happen as you expect.”
–from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman

When we left off in Part One, David and I had just agreed to adopt Zoe’s biological sibling, who was due in eight weeks.  Over the next month, we told our parents and closest friends about our news, prepared a nursery, prayed hard for our future addition, and got organized for life with two.

On Christmas Day, we told our extended family about the upcoming addition.  Everyone rejoiced.

IMG_3163

As the weeks went by, some red flags started to emerge.  The birth mom skipped several OB appointments and lied about several things.  But she kept reiterating that she intended to place the baby with us.  Ordinarily, red flags would make us run—but we knew her.  She had given us Zoe.  We loved her and trusted her.  And we didn’t feel like God was telling us to run.

Then, two weeks before the baby’s due date, I got a call from our case manager.

The birth mom was having second thoughts.

I want to make it clear that I respect the enormity of a decision to place a baby, and that I don’t automatically think I am more qualified to parent than someone else.  However, in this particular case, every professional involved thought it would be in the best interest of this child to come home with us as the birth mom lacked the physical, emotional, and mental resources to care for this child and lacked family support as well.  After working in Title I schools for a few years and learning the difference between “rougher than my upbringing” and “harmful to a child,” I agreed with their assessment.  We were scared by the thought of a child entering this situation.

The case manager and the social worker working with the birth mom suggested that I have a phone conversation with the birth mom to remind her of her positive feelings towards us. I agreed, feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of this assignment.

The next day, I was on the elliptical machine at the gym when my phone rang.  Was I free to talk to her now?

I stepped out of the gym and sat in my car.  It was a crisp Friday morning, and I shivered a little in the car as I chatted with the birth mom.  At first, it was just a conversation between two moms—updating one another on their kids and on life.

Then it got serious.  She said she was having second thoughts about this adoption.

I told her, “I know it’s a huge decision.  I want you to know that we love you regardless of the decision you make about this baby, and we will always love and respect you because you are Zoe’s birth mom.  I want you to make the decision that is best for the baby.  I can’t tell you what that is.  But either way, we will still love you.  Please just let us know what your decision is.”

And at that moment, she said “I woke up this morning and knew what I have to do.  I need to place the baby with you.  It’s the right thing for the baby.  Talking to you makes me feel certain it’s right.”

She said it would be helpful if I would come to some OB appointments with her, as she didn’t have any friend or family support, and invited me to go to an appointment with her a few days later.  Everything she said sounded “right.”  But I still came home and said to David, “I’m not sure what will happen here.”

We felt exhausted.  But at the same time, we didn’t feel like we were supposed to “move.”  In many ways, I wished we felt that way.  It would have been easier.  But God kept telling us, “stay with this.”  1518807_709743621525_999587354_o

I wrote to my prayer group that day,

“I was reading this morning about how a planter and a harvester aren’t always the same person and I realized that in this situation, I feel called to faithfully ‘plant’ love regardless of whether I see this ‘harvest’ or not. I get the sense that God just wants me to obey and live out what He has called me to (pursuing this adoption and loving and supporting the birth mom) regardless of outcome.  I feel strongly that there is an entire spiritual dimension going on that I know nothing about, that may have very little to do with me, but that my obedience still can impact.  Of course, God is going to do what He is going to do and I couldn’t stop Him by NOT obeying—but maybe He wants me to play a ‘willing participant’ role instead of ‘mere bystander.’

And so my cry to God is ‘if all I am in this situation is a planter—let that be enough.’  I am praying for the outcome I want too, of course, and I trust that God CAN do that and very well MIGHT do that but that is not the most important thing to me anymore.  And so I ask for your continued prayers for this situation, for the outcome but also for the process in me and in whoever it is supposed to be impacting.”

Over the next two weeks, I attended two appointments with the birth mom.  She acted relieved and excited to have me there.  We made our birth plan.  My mom came, ready to help.

And then, the day of the C-section arrived.  We waited and waited for the phone call telling us our baby’s gender.  Hours went by, with no information.  “She should have been done by now,” we realized.

It was pouring outside.  My mom snapped some photos, trying to capture the mood of the day our new son or daughter would be born.  They are telling.

IMG_3468

IMG_3469Then the phone call came.  My mom, not knowing what was being said and thinking she was snapping photos of a happy moment, took these photos.  They make me tear up looking at them even now.

IMG_3483

IMG_3485

IMG_3494It was not a happy moment.  Our birth mom had been through the C-section procedure, refused calls for a while, then finally got in touch with our case manager only to tell her, “it’s a girl.  I love her and I’m keeping her.” 

Our case manager said, “she sounded pretty loopy from the pain meds.  I bet tomorrow she will say something different.”

If you’ve read my blog or followed our life at all this year, you know that she didn’t.  For three weeks, she wavered while we waited, grieved, felt guilty for grieving, hoped, felt stupid for hoping, prayed and generally went crazy, but ultimately, she said she was keeping the baby—that she knew it wasn’t the best decision for the baby, but that it was her decision.

Our case was closed.

Now what?

We didn’t know.  But we knew—and wanted to trust—that Someone else did.

IMG_2677

Part III coming soon.  

Our Journey to Riley: Part One

IMG_2798

Our family now.  Welcome, sweet Riley Grace. 

I barely know where to begin this story, except to say this: I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d have two under two.

David and I had discussed kid spacing.  2.5 years apart sounded great.

Until we adopted Zoe.

At our first post-placement visit, three weeks after Zoe came home with us, our social worker joked “so, are you ready for another one?” In all seriousness, I said “yes.”

When I told David about our conversation, he laughed nervously.

“You were joking, right?” he said.

“Nope.  I would take another one any time.  Including now,” I said.

My poor husband, sleep-deprived and wondering what glutton for punishment he had married, told me that we could renegotiate our 2.5 year spacing but that he didn’t really want to have a discussion about a new baby until Zoe was one.  He didn’t think we could handle more than one baby.  I understood and tried to respect his wishes, and we settled into life as a family of three.

Colorado

However.

In the first week of October, when Zoe was ten months old, I felt my heart being tugged towards adoption—hard.  A newspaper article.  A song.  A dream.  A story.  A book.  Another newspaper article.  Billboards.  I felt like I couldn’t escape it.  I finally told David at lunch on October 8, “THIS IS INSANITY.  I can’t escape this.  I feel like we have to pray about whether we are being called to adopt again now.”  He laughed.

Later that afternoon, I got an email about a young boy in our community who needed a home.  I don’t ever get emails like this, and when I called the friend who had sent it to ask more questions, she said “I knew you were going to call.  I sent it to a group of people so you wouldn’t feel singled out, but I knew you were the one who was going to call me back.”

After that, David agreed to pray about it.

On October 9, he gave me the okay to call the lawyer representing the boy.  After all, it wasn’t a newborn.

The situation with the boy didn’t seem like a fit, but somehow I left the conversation with a request from the the lawyer to talk to David about whether we would be interested in adopting a baby who was expected in December.  The lawyer was finding it difficult to find a black family—the mom’s preference for the baby—and wondered if the mom would feel comfortable placing with our multiracial family.

I presented the situation to David, mostly as a joke.  We had not called about a newborn—we had called about a young boy.  Hilarious, right?

Oddly enough…that husband of mine said “I am actually really excited about the possibility of a newborn.  Ask more questions.”

I asked more questions.  We began to pray.  We talked financials.  We had money earmarked for one more adoption.  Could we live on David’s salary + my part time work with two kids in diapers? Yes, we realized.  We could.  It would be tight, but we could do it.    

The lawyer suggested that we put a family profile together for the birth mom.  I made it over nap times and turned it in.  We kept praying.  We didn’t feel the “STOP” we expected to feel.  What was this?

I contacted our old adoption agency.  Can we do an expedited home study? I asked.  Our case manager said yes.  We heard from the lawyer that the birth mom was interested.  Everything was falling into place…for an adoption.

The week before Thanskgiving, David and I began to feel uneasy about the specific situation.  I asked some friends to pray for clarity for us before we signed the retainer letter and put our check in.  We decided to make our decision over Thanksgiving break.

Two days before Thanksgiving, I got an email from our case manager at our old adoption agency.  Could I call her? There was something she wanted to discuss.  

My heart began racing.  Somehow, I suspected what was coming next.

We played phone tag.  I tried to quell my nervousness, telling myself she couldn’t possibly say what I thought she was going to say.

Then, at Target, while Zoe and I posed for a picture by the Lego display—a phone call.

IMG_0108Our case manager.

My suspicions were right.  Zoe’s birth mom was pregnant again and wanted us to adopt the baby.  It was probably a long shot, but were we remotely interested? 

Yes.  We were, I said.

Our case manager was surprised.  Didn’t we even want to talk about it? No, I said, looking at David.  He nodded.  We didn’t need to.  

We had already opened our hearts to the possibility of a newborn, soon, and we had already decided that we could make the logistics work.

We had already talked about it.  We just didn’t know who we were talking about.  

I thanked God for the clarity about the other situation and we rejoiced in the fact that God was making it clear to us that we were supposed to adopt again, sooner than planned, and to adopt a newborn.

We let the lawyer representing the other birthmom know that we were withdrawing from consideration, and began preparing to welcome Zoe’s sibling into the world.

Little did we know what was about to occur.

This is getting long and both girls are up from their naps now (so fun to say “both girls!!!”)…so part II will be coming soon! 

 

Seven Stages of Moving

We are officially moving.

It isn’t a decision I really wanted to make.  I loved our little house, love our neighborhood, love our neighbors.  I know all the dogs in the neighborhood.  I know exactly how long it takes me to walk to Starbucks, with and without the stroller.  I know the shadiest streets and the closest parks and the length of time it takes to bike to the waterfront.

On our moving day, I will have been in this house one week shy of six years.  It’s the longest I have lived in any one house.  I’d stay longer if I could.

But it’s time.  I won’t go into all the details now, but my sister says it best when she says the last two months and the next month will be a great chapter in my book someday.  She’s right.  My husband is also right when he says I am being a bit over-emotional about our move (we’re only moving five minutes away.) 

Here are the stages of moving grief/excitement I have been experiencing lately.

 

Stage One: Melancholy 

Yes, we’re only moving five minutes away.  But this won’t be my kitchen anymore.

Six years ago, I pulled these appliances and pots and pans out of carefully wrapped packages, feeling a little less homesick in a new place every time I used the mixing bowl from Sue and the measuring cups from Lisa, the Pyrex containers from Emilie and the dish set from Heidi.

Four years ago I celebrated my Master’s graduation in this kitchen with my family visiting.

Three years ago, we hosted a baptism party in this kitchen for a boy who writes me Mother’s Day cards.

Nineteen months ago I opened baby shower gifts in this kitchen, filing toddler utensils in the back of a cabinet for what I thought would be an eternity away.  She uses them on a daily basis now.

This is all so sad.  I think I will cry into this box.

 

Stage Two: Misplaced Rage

How the HECK did I get so much Tupperware?!! Why does none of it have lids?! What have I been doing with my life for the last few years that this is so unorganized?

And why won’t this @#*! packing tape dispenser work better? Does it think I have all day? If you haven’t noticed, Tape Dispenser, I have a whole house to pack.  If you could, you know, DO YOUR JOB, it would be at least a little more efficient.

OH MY GOSH ASSEMBLING BOXES IS SO MUCH WORK.  Can’t they just come pre-assembled?!!

 

Stage Three: Excitement

At least in my new house, I’ll be able to take a shower with actual water pressure.  And maybe I’ll even be able to find a corner for an “office nook” all to myself.  I should totally start pinning “office nook” ideas! And we’ll have a playroom.

 

Stage Four: Resigned

We’ve been packing for 1.5 hour and the kitchen just looks more messy.

 

Stage Five: Needing a Reward

We’ve been packing for 1.5 hour.  I totally need a reward.  Yes, my husband is laughing at me for needing a reward after a mere 1.5 hour of work.  But he has also added a frappuccino to the coffee order.  I’d rather need a lot of affirmation than be a hypocrite.

 

Stage Six: Wanting to Give All of Your Possessions Away (But Only If the People Will Pick Them Up Themselves)

Why do we have 10 coffee mugs that we don’t even use? Why do I have so many T-shirts? WE HAVE SO MUCH STUFF. I’d love to give all my excess away so I don’t have to pack it to make someone’s life better! I wonder if I can just leave it here and put a sign out front that says, “Free Stuff, Let Yourself In?”

 

Stage Seven: Needing a Massage

This stage is self-explanatory.

Our Song

Somewhere in Wisconsin, we gave up.

“All Summer Long” was playing on every radio station in every town we passed through.  Every attempt to change the station had met with a new rendition of “All Summer Long.”

Our white flag was up.  We would listen to this stupid song.

By Illinois, we were singing along—my new husband and I—in that red Nissan Sentra stuffed with my possessions and our wedding gifts.

My feet on the dashboard, his hands on the wheel, our new rings sparkling, that song playing over and over again.  These are the things I remember from that three day drive to our new home.

Our conversation was light and easy.  Our tans were fresh.  We were poor and I was worried about being a wife, but I knew that I was supposed to be sitting next to that man.

Town after town, county after county, state after state, that song played.

By Tennessee we knew all the words.  We joked that years from now, we would remember this song—not the carefully selected first dance song from our reception—as “our song.”

It wasn’t a song we would have picked, or even particularly liked, but it had become the soundtrack to our great adventure.

Somewhere in north Florida, where the stations get scarce, I fell asleep.

I remember David waking me up 45 minutes outside of what would be our home.

“Want to see where we are living?”

I suddenly felt a pit in my stomach.

We drove through the outskirts, through suburbs, through downtown.  With each exit we passed, my anxiety grew.  Would I like this place? Was it right for us? Would we make good memories here, or would it be a chapter we’d want to forget?

“We’re almost here,” he said, jarring me out of my reverie.  “This is our neighborhood.”  

And just then, the song began again.  I had to smile.

Our great adventure wasn’t ending with this road trip.  Our great adventure was just beginning.

I heard that song today as I drove with our baby, and thought of that road trip and the guy who made it with me. We aren’t as young, aren’t as tan, aren’t as carefree as our 22 year old baby selves.

875_511431725155_6244_n

I mean really.  We look 17.

But our great adventure continues.

On this summer day, almost six years later, I am not wistful for that time.  I like being connected to a community, like knowing my way around the city that once seemed so confusing, like being more confident than that girl was, like knowing more about my husband than that young bride knew.  We are closer now than we were then, thanks to joy and pain alike, and I wouldn’t trade that closeness for anything.

But I still have a special place in my heart for that song, for those memories, for that hesitancy mixed with anticipation: what comes next? 

If the last six years are any indication, it’s going to be good.

875_511431720165_5981_n

 

 

Coffee Date

I have a sick baby and a busy week, so I thought I’d just write something easy today.  I am actually drinking coffee right now (not surprising, I’m sure!) so if you were sitting across the table from me drinking your own cup and chatting about life, here’s what I’d share!

Photo on 6-29-14 at 11.51 AM #3

-Our trip to Minnesota was tiring, but awesome.  It came at exactly the right time, because I was going crazy here in Florida with our housing issues.  It was so nice to unpack a suitcase and know it could stay unpacked for the next few weeks.

My Minnesota highlights included my daily walks with Zoe, seeing my best friend Whitney, and catching up on this season of The Bachelorette with my 13 year old sister (who would probably want me to insert that she CANNOT BELIEVE that Tasos was sent home, as she said this statement approximately 2343 times while we watched the most recent episodes.)

I also loved watching Zoe enjoy family members, seeing “The Fault In Our Stars” with both of my sisters, and cheering Zoe on as she participated in a Rochester tradition—the All Comers Track Meet! She ran the 50 meter dash in the “2 and under” category and, if I may say so, totally rocked it!

Rochester Track Meet

My lowlight of the trip was the exhaustion that came from meeting the needs of an early rising 18 month old all the way through a curfew-violating 15 year old.  Those were some long days, folks.

-While in Minnesota, I picked up the book Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.  This is the type of book I want to write someday. I ate up every delicious word.

bittersweet(photo credit: Amazon)

-Zoe is obsessed with the song “My Lighthouse.”  We listened to it 8 times this morning, probably 8 times yesterday, and 10 the day before.  She says “want my iii-house” to get me to play the song, and sings along, and it is THE MOST PRECIOUS THING EVER.  Which reminds me: Zoe talks a lot now.  She can say sentences and totally tracks with conversations.  She is also a sharp observer of the human condition, as I learned the other day when we were playing with her doctor kit:

Me: “I’m so tired! I’m so sick! Cough cough cough.  I don’t feel good! Oh, hey, I’ll take this medicine! (pretending to drink from toy medicine cup) Wow! I feel better!!! I have so much energy! Yay!”

Zoe: “Coffee coffee coffee!”

No idea where she picked that one up.  No idea. Moving right along…

-About two months ago, I started taking “Sunday prayer walks” with Zoe.  Hello, best idea ever! Instead of spending a lot of time getting my “outside” self ready for church, I enjoy God’s beautiful creation with my daughter, lift up some of our friends in prayer, and go to church with my “inside” self totally ready to worship.  Why didn’t I start this years ago?!!

photo 2-7

(Also: some weeks I wind up not having time to shower afterwards, so consider this a blanket apology to anyone who sits by me in church on those mornings.  I’m sorry.  My baby wipe sponge bath can only carry me so far, I know.)

-While we’re talking about church, please note that I am truly a “pastor’s” wife now, not “the YOUTH pastor’s wife,” and then please erupt into a fit of giggles with me because I certainly do not fit into the mold of people who long for this role.  But, let me just say, that I am passionate about the church, and I am passionate about OUR church and the families in it, and that getting to play any role at all in my husband’s ministry (even if I am just the person that cooks dinner for him) is really cool.

-I really and truly missed my friends here in Florida while I was gone.  I am SO happy to have friends that I can miss so much.  That wasn’t always the case for me here, and I don’t take it for granted.

-Finally, I would close on this note from Bittersweet.  If this was actually a coffee date it would be awkward to read aloud to you, so just read it to yourself:

“Everyone I know gets their heart broken sometime, by something.  The question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?

Sometimes in the moments of the most searing pain, we think we don’t have a choice.  But we do.  It’s in those moments that we make the most important choice: grow or give up.  It’s easy to want to give up under the weight of what we’re carrying.  It seems sometimes like the only possible choice.  But there’s always, always another choice, and transformation is waiting for us just beyond that choice.

This is what I know: God can make something beautiful out of anything, out of darkness and trash and broken bones.  He can shine light into even the blackout night, and he leaves glimpses of hope all around us.  An oyster, a sliver of moon, one new bud on a black branch, a perfect tender shoot of asparagus, fitting up through the dirt for the spring sun.  New life and new beauty are all around us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be seen.”

Whit and I chatted over a glass of wine in Minnesota and decided that the most profound and life-altering growth in our lives has probably come from hurt.  Do we WANT the hurt? Of course not.  But it can be such a great teacher.

I know I’ve grown a lot from this season of loss in my life.  It may or may not be over, and I’m okay with that because I know that every season ends eventually.

It’s not up to me to decide when the seasons end—that’s God’s job.

My job is to grow in the season.  And I feel like I have done that, and am doing that, and will do it as long as this season lasts.  And that feels good.

What is the best book (or article, or blog entry, or shopping list…whatever) you’ve read lately? 

The Background

A few weeks ago, I had one of the sweetest parenting moments I’ve had so far.  I was driving and the song “10,000 Reasons” came on the radio.  From the backseat I heard:

“Bess Lor, my soul.  Oh, my soul.  Wor-ip hooooo name.”   

It was Zoe, singing a song she’s heard probably hundreds of times in the background.

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul.  Oh, my soul.  Worship His holy name.”

It’s not a song I’ve ever sung to her with hand motions or an agenda to teach it to her.  It’s just a song I sing to God myself in those quiet moments when Zoe doesn’t need my full attention—when she’s busy or otherwise occupied and it feels like just me and God.

She learned it anyway.

“I love your singing, baby,” I said to her, wiping away a tear.  “It’s beautiful.”  

Then to God I said, “Wow.”  

I think a lot about how to raise Zoe.  I want her to know God’s love and to desire a relationship with Him.  I pray for it, I read about how to foster it, I think about it, I talk about it.  I want to be intentional about the right things.

But I’m realizing that a lot of her early thoughts about God and faith will not come from my carefully constructed lesson plans or mission statements…but from the background of my own life.

I can tell her “God loves you,” and that’s good—but if I rest in God’s love myself, letting His love define me instead of relying on my actions or accomplishments, loving others from the overflow of His love to me—that will speak even louder.

I can read her books about patience and putting others first, but being patient myself and letting her see me put others first will be a better lesson.

I can tell her to be thankful to God for everything.  But when she overhears me singing “for all your goodness, I will keep on singing” over and over again in a season of loss? That speaks much louder than my words.

I’ve worried about what to teach.  But really, it’s about how I live, and what God does through that.

It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t think about faith and how to teach it.  But it means that mostly, I should just work on living it authentically myself.

IMG_0790

I’ve pondered all of this the last few weeks.  And as I stood in my best friend’s church last Sunday, in the hometown that doesn’t always feel like home, the familiar chords began and my heart relaxed into what I can best describe as openness.  And the last verse, which has always seemed a little morbid to me, hit me fresh and new and tied all this together.

“And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore.”

I will not be around forever.  I will die.  But at some point, when I’m no longer here, I hope my daughter will still be singing to the Lord she loves.

This is my prayer.  Not that she never doubts; no that she has a faith just like mine; not that she goes to church every week; not that she can regurgitate creeds or impress everyone with her Bible knowledge.  My hope is that she has found something authentic and real in my faith, in her father’s faith, in her grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ faith—that all that she has seen in the background has developed the foreground of her own life.

And so, as the song says:

Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

I will keep singing.