picture of purpose

i feel obligated to follow up last night's post. i would never want people to draw conclusions from what they learned yesterday. and certainly should lydia ever read this blog (which is WAY weird to think about although it was started for that purpose), i want to set the record straight.

God works in mysterious ways. we know that, we've all heard that, and most of us have experienced it in some capacity. and the creation of our family is no exception. i can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that God's hand has woven us together. and that's great news. some day, lydia is going to have to wrestle with the why's of adoption. and there will be a lot that i can't answer for her. but what i will always be able to do, is point her back to Jesus, and together run our fingertips through his footprints that are so clearly visible in her journey to our family.

the story starts about 14 years ago when eric and i were first dating. like all newly dating couples, we talked about children and what we would want to name them (what? you didn't discuss that? i'm shocked.) we picked the names josiah, abby, and micah. and we stuck to them for the most part - abby got nixed when it became the most popular girls name ever. we've always dreamed of having children and while i cannot point to a specific time, the idea of adopting a little girl from china was always a part of the conversation. no details, just a mention here and there.

josiah came...then anna claire...

we waited while the ultrasound tech looked around. "it's a boy," she mentioned. eric looked at me and i smiled at him. "yes!" he said, "one more wedding that we won't be paying for!" i laughed. "perfect! we can adopt a little girl from china and have two boys and two girls!"
a little bit of unintended foreshadowing...

and oh sweet micah. what a ride he took us on. to sum it up, exactly 5 days after that uneventful ultrasound we found ourselves in the situation of a lifetime...3 months of bedrest, 2 months in the hospital, an emergency c-section. the details, well, let's just say it was a BIG God-story. however, before we leave the subject, i do feel obligated to interject that i can count myself among those who have endured major surgery without proper anesthesia. uh yeah...i would HIGHLY recommend being numb prior to being cut on.

it was the journey of that pregnancy that led eric and i to begin to contemplate closing up the fertility shop. it was debatable whether i should become pregnant again, and after so much stuff neither of us was certain it would be a chance we wanted to take. we prayed. and we prayed. and we prayed. i knew it was a big decision, although there was no way to grasp how big it really was. it was one of those times you blindly follow God's leading and do what you know to be right. if i had stopped to think of what i was actually doing, well...

the tubes were tied. i came home. i was REALLY sore. laying in the bed for 3 months does a number on the body. and i was REALLY sad. i knew within weeks that our family was not complete. someone was still missing. i cried, and i cried, and i cried. i felt like someone had ripped my child away from me and there was no way i would ever see them again. how could we have done this? how could we have made the decision to end our family when there was still room for somebody else? i pleaded with God. i prayed for a miracle pregnancy (which would have been a miracle on SEVERAL accounts). i begged God to just undo it all.

i was angry. how could God have led us to the decision of a tubal ligation and then send me home only to have a heart that longed for another baby? that was cruel. oh, i was angry. i had a whole new empathy for the infertile. to long for a child and be completely unable to conceive...oh, what pain. i was crushed.

i had a whole lot of conversations with God. well, they weren't necessarily conversations, more a SCREAMING IN YOUR FACE BECAUSE I AM SO ANGRY WITH YOU!!!!

but one day, he answered me.
"here," he said gently, "this is who you long for and who i have created just for your family."
now i have never had a vision before, but i am here to say i had a vision. before me stood a little chunky chinese girl, wrapped in big puffy winter clothes that didn't match one twit. her short little body stood outside my front storm door and knocked. her sweet face looked like that of a two year old, with little black ponytails sticking up on top of her head. she was solemn and didn't say a word, but i could read her big almond eyes. they communicated everything they needed to.
"bring me home."

that was july (micah was born may 24) and for the next two months i wrestled with what i had seen. adoption? i knew we had talked about it and entertained the idea but we hadn't ever reallylooked into it. but with each passing day i was more and more convinced that this little girl was the longing of my heart. i mentioned it to eric. he laughed. i mentioned it again. he laughed a little less. i decided not to mention it again.

we went away just the two of us in september to the beach. and i brought my vision with me. my stomach physically ached with longing. i finally gathered up enough courage to ask eric, "will you please pray? maybe this is really God?"

well, folks, the rest is history.

three years later we sat on that same beach in september. this time, we had our lydia.

adoption was not our answer to infertility. adoption was God's calling on our family. and i am convinced, that God had to lead us to the place of ending our fertility in order to get us to see that calling. there is not a chance in this world that i would have, of my own volition, chosen to fill an agonizing three years with paperwork and silent waiting, and spend $30,000 that i didn't have. i am way too practical and stubborn. God was going to have to force me to take that exit off the highway.

so is there pain? yes. absolutely. and yet in the midst of the pain i can see that there is purpose. i wouldn't trade our adoption journey for anything. it is a mistake to think that God's purposes don't involve pain. but it is a bigger mistake to think that pain doesn't involve God's purpose. God always has a purpose.

and i'm lucky. everyday His purpose is staring me in the face. her cute chubby self, complete with ponytails sticking up on top of her head. and yes, she was two, and yes, she had puffy winter clothes that didn't match one twit. and yes, she is short and sweet with big almond eyes. she will forever be not only the embodiment of the miraculous to those who witnessed her journey home, but the picture of purpose to this stubborn soul.


fat laughs

i think i am starting to know what people mean when they say they finally get themselves figured out by the time they are 40. it seems this VERY short amount of time i have had in my 30's (let's just say i am closer to 30 than i am to 40) keeps bringing me face to face with me. and the me that is buried deep in there is not who i thought she was. she's far more complicated than originally thought...and not nearly as all-together as was once believed.

a humongously obese comedian - that's who i am. (i'll pause while you go check the pictures.) i am that person. those people who laugh at the very thing that is the most painful part of their being. that person that uses humor to distract from the torture and goes to great lengths never to let anyone know what is buried deep down in there. the person who claims they are completely happy but can't actually talk about it with anyone because the tears prevent any semblance of a normal conversation.

that's me. i hide. i distract. i move people away from my pain. sometimes its with a funny line, a lot of time its just silence (i am shy, so i can get away with being quiet). and much of the time its because if i actually opened my mouth nothing would come out that resembled anything anyone could understand (think blubbering tears, unintelligible sounds)

often people make a comment about our kids. it's my life, so i don't think it's weird, but evidently having four children in a span of 5 years is not necessarily the usual. even having four children - they think its crazy. people, it wasn't that long ago that families always had four and five and six kids. and it isn't the end of the world if i can't go on a disney vacation every year! THIS hits my passion button; however, for now i am figuring out myself, not the american culture.

anyway, it never fails that someone makes a crack about me being pregnant and i automatically make some joke about how that would be the most awful thing ever. could you imagine? pregnant? yeah right, i would die. at least that's what i tell people. the truth...i would do almost anything to be pregnant. after prayerfully making the decision to end our fertility after micah's difficult pregnancy, i suddenly have found myself in the realm of the infertile. the world where people would do almost anything to experience the miracle of life within them. unless you've been there, you don't get it (and take my advice, don't try and get it if you haven't been there). it is one of the most deeply felt emotions i have ever experienced. it is a longing that is almost unbearable when i dwell on it, that makes me fight back the tears when i hold a new baby, a pain that for the most part stays hidden but occasionally, when i let it escape, comes forth with weeping and questioning and wondering why. i'm the big fat guy whose always making a joke. but inside i am dying. i am being crushed and the pain digs itself deeper and deeper to places in my soul i didn't even know existed. (and if we keep finding new places in the soul, it is going to take me longer than 40 to figure myself out)

why? why can't i just look in their eyes and say, 'gosh, that would be wonderful. i would be thrilled!'

i don't really know. it seems easy enough. and it would for sure shut them up really fast. and make for some good moments when people stare at you and don't know what to say and feel really awkward. ...........because to admit that would be to admit the pain, the hurt, the unresolved questions. and i certainly don't want everyone seeing my pain. i am pretty real, but that's really real.

and i guess that's what i am figuring out. that as much as i am real (i was actually called "raw and real" today, not sure if that is a compliment or what...) i am not. i hide the tenderest parts of me. even from myself. sometimes they stay so hidden i think they're gone until i suddenly find myself with uncontrollable tears and irrational frustrations. and then, i remember, that yes...it's there.

it's at this point that i say, "but God is healing me and bringing me wholeness and there is no journey i would rather be on than this one."

ahem, hold the presses. cause that ain't what i'm saying.

deep gutteral longings unmet by life's circumstances are not so easily resolved. and even more so, the isolation that comes with the pain is not a place i enjoy. i'm discovering, and God's going to have to hand me over a treasure map to get to the gold part. cause right now, i'm on the dirty, stinking pirate trail just digging up a bunch of clues. (i may have been reading a bit too much about somalia while doing the digging)

but you know, i've got 7 more years. it's a journey. maybe when the 4-0 comes around i will have at least figured myself out. ...then i can move on to figuring everybody else out.

step away from the 40 year old.


the body

this is why i love friends...
i really don't have words. some things just make my heart quiet. our friend (really, i should say eric's friend because i have spoken maybe 10 words to ray; however, when someone prays for your children that aren't even your children yet...they are most certainly OUR friend, which is what in part makes it so amazing to me) recently ran a marathon and each time he runs he has things that he specifically prays for during the 26 miles. this time it was the sanzones. for 26 miles - which i think was only a few hours for him but certainly would have been at least 6 for me - ray prayed for wisdom in our adoption journey. and as is his custom, he has a tatoo (it's temporary, don't worry, the sanzones won't forever be emblazoned on his guns) to prove it (i'm not sure why the picture is so small but you get the idea)(how many parentheses can you put in a row?)

i dare say God heard his prayers as we are feeling very peaceful about a decision. which actually, it is just as i write this that i am realizing just how much peace has come over us since mid-march, when ray dedicated his 7th marathon to our newest daughter. hmmm...there God goes again proving himself to this stubborn soul. amazing that he keeps me on the team. seriously. sometimes i wonder.

i love when i can see the body of Christ in action. it gives me hope that maybe this Jesus thing is for real. and i have an inkling that this journey to our sweet daughter is going to be just as full of God stories as the first one. my hope is simple - that as much as lydia is the embodiment of the miraculous, our next little girl can be the embodiment of faithfulness. i have no idea what that means. it just came out of my mouth. which is dangerous - it has me thinking already - but generally it means something. generally my fingers somehow interpret my head.

and while i'm on the subject of fingers, here's the latest title for my book...motherhood, the blessed monotony. i am figuring that might open more doors than the previous title, what the hell was i thinking, and others honest thoughts of motherhood. although, that most definitely is going to be a chapter title. its just too perfect to leave completely on the side of the road. but all those christian bookstores would have a hard time stocking the previous title. and for sure i would not be asked to speak with pat robertson.

okay, so i don't really care about christian bookstores and pat robertson, but my husband is a pastor...and i wouldn't want him to lose his job over his ill-mouthed wife...although i did put it to the test in the church foyer last week...and his paycheck was direct-deposited this week...so i guess i didn't do too much damage. i like to say it's my ministry - being real. not so real as to show up on sunday with no make-up (again, we want eric to keep his job), but real enough that sometimes, i feel more at home with the sailors than with the church folk.

oh jesus, do you really want this broken soul?



The house is silent and still
but my heart is not.
The chaotic evidence of life, once ruling floors, tables, couches, counters,
now subdued, now conquered;
yet my heart
has eluded capture,
has dodged detention,
has evaded the preferable prison of Peace.

I know You have woven rest into the rhythm of life.
But I am restless,
disturbed by demands,
Ungrateful for unceasing dictates from those under my care.

I am weary, Lord.
Weary, once again.

Weary to the point of wanting nothing.
Nothing at all.
Or so my heart deceives me.
So weary, that I contemplate servitude
to the master of ME.
I have served her before and found her incessance
more tiresome than my tasks.

Why do I rage against the very thing I know I need the most?
Why not exchange my weighty parcel of monotony from the mundane
for refreshment from your Righteousness?

I am most free when shackled by Your Truth.

Yoked by Your gentleness and humility,
desirable beyond description,
I drink from the Water that breathes Life.
And in that simple act of surrender,
Acknowledging my thirst,
I find my weariness displaced by the weight of Grace,
My striving, sanctified by serenity.

Gratitude engulfs me in a wave of rest.
I am still.
You are God.


“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
- Jesus Christ, Matthew 11:28


i think God is chuckling at himself - he's so daggone clever. its sort of not fair that he gets to control everything in order to get his point across. like the kid who yells 'timeout' every time he is about to be tagged. ...not playing by the rules.

but i'll take it. it kind of makes me laugh except that i am stubborn enough to NOT crack a smile. this is serious, GOD. at least 5 times since i last wrote have i encountered an experience specifically addressing my thoughts in the last post. i went to church and guess what the sermon was about...trusting God. i know. almost laughable except that i am not cracking a smile, remember? and then during one of my workouts at the gym last week i randomly dialed (or whatever you do with an ipod) to a podcast which was about...God's sovereignty in the midst of tragedy. ha! see if i ever choose a podcast again over my very hip playlist of avril, rihanna and beyonce.

i can't remember the other moments right now - let's just say God was having a good time throwing them in whenever i turned around. however, sunday night was the pinnacle. if i didn't clue into God then i think i might have had a reason to file for social security based on a severe hearing disability.

eric and i had the enormous privilege of helping with the steven curtis chapman/michael w. smith concert. we worked with steven's new project, Show Hope, to tell people about orphan sponsorship. it was a great time and seeing so many people have soft hearts to the orphans made me smile. i wished i could have done it for his whole tour - one of those purely uplifting experiences that you think, WOW, i could live on this mountaintop! anyway, a bonus was that we also were able to attend the concert - for free! we weren't sure if we would be able to, but God knew i needed to be in there.

i never realized how many of scc's songs were about the sovereignty of God. one after another was a cry to God proclaiming faithfulness in the midst of the mystery that is faith. and to hear him sing that and then talk of the horrible tragedy with his daughter maria... he was able to say, over and over and over, that even though he couldn't understand why God would allow what he did, he couldn't let that tragedy overwhelm the truth. that God is STILL faithful, he is STILL in control, he is STILL good, he is STILL holy, he is STILL right. what was true before may 21st is true after may 21st. do i get that? no. and that is where it gets complicated because i can't explain it. and i want to be able to reason with God and understand why he does things. WHY. HOW IS THIS GOOD?

tragedy is not good. christians try so hard to seek the good from tragedy. we have the "God works all things together for good..." syndrome. we can't allow ourselves to sit in the moment and say, "this is tragedy. there is nothing good about this. it is hell." but guess what? this earth is full of hell. God promises suffering and hurt. why can't we allow ourselves to feel it? why are we so uncomfortable with the idea that life can be full of devastation. why do we feel a need to wrap it in a pretty bow. hell is not one bit pretty nor are those things that are brought by its master.

God promises to orchestrate good from circumstances, that somewhere in the master tapestry the flawed and broken threads will be woven into the goodness that is our created life. but those threads are still flawed and broken. let's say it. let's live there for a bit. life affords tragedy and it is not good. cancer is horrible. infertility is heart-wrenching. tragic accidents are devastating. sick mama's and dying children are not good. and i don't believe that God asks us to feel that they are good. he only asks to believe that HE IS GOOD.

what i am learning is that my heart can feel the tragedy of circumstances. the weight and heaviness of hell personified. and that's okay. in fact, i would argue that a few of us need to sit there more often. to allow ourselves to be overcome with the tragedy that befalls us and those we love. but while my heart is feeling, i need to lean into the truth. to borrow a line from scc,

"God is God and i am not, i can only see a part of the picture he's painting"
and when we can embrace that we are not God, and that he is in control, and that despite the hell which God assures us will enter into our lives in some way, he is good...that is when we can live life with fullness and as God intended. we can grieve alongside the losses, we can rejoice with those we see triumph, we can live every moment with all the emotion that comes with our frail, and yet God-created, human nature. all the while, leaning into the arms of a God who can see the whole canvas.