Monday, June 20, 2016

Dear Husband

Dear Husband

So much time has passed since that cookout where you first caught my eye,since the moments of first dates and first kisses. Things have changed. You have changed. I have changed. Time has a way of doing that. Life has a way of doing that. The years have had their wear and we have come out on the other side different, better.

When I met you, you were wide-eyed and silly. You were full of life and laughter and fun. When I first met you, I couldn't take my eyes off of you. Your smile was captivating and lit up and beamed out of your eyes. Those beginning years were filled with football games and cookouts, with date nights every night and romance and pursuit. Our days were filled with anticipation and longing for the future we wanted to share together. Our time was ours, alone, ours to choose and ours to spend. In those first years, we were all dreams and flutters.

It has been years since those first few moments It has been a lifetime of happy days and sad days, monumental moments and the regular day-to-day grind. A lot of life has been lived and a lot of memories shared. I have seen you grow, transform. I have seen that silly, full-of-life boy grow into a man, a man full of dreams and ambition. I have seen the boy with the smiling eyes continue to smile through the good times and the bad times, through the times where life has flowed as we planned and in the times when we were free falling not knowing which ways was up or down. I have seen the transformation take place as you have shifted from a college boy, on the heels of a new life and a new career and a new marriage, to the man living out each day as a faithful husband, hardworking provider, and fun-loving consistent father.

Our life, from the outside, looks nothing like those first few years of stolen moments and lingering kisses at the end of a date. To the outside world, I am a mom and you are a dad and we live in the middle of soccer games, homework, diaper changes, and middle of the night feedings. To the outside world, you are busy and working and running kids to practice. To the outside world, I am rocking babies, cooking dinners and helping kids with homework. The outside world doesn't see what we see, doesn't know what we know. In the middle of the chaos, in the middle of the working and running and rocking and living, I see something that others do not have the privilege to see.

I see you.

I see you trying in every moment to be the father that every child deserves to have. I see you consistently being the husband that I need, the husband that I want. I see the same smile in your eyes now that beamed from them all those years ago. I see you work and strive each and every day to provide well for those you love. I see you being a man that your daughter can trust and count on, a man that will set the standard for all other men in her life. I see you being a man that our sons look up to, a man that teaches our sons how to love and work and worship. I see you leading our family in faith and strength. I see you as the man that that dreamy-eyed college boy grew into. You are the same person I fell in love with as a kid, but you have grown and matured and added new and wonderful qualities as you have learned. All of the traits that made you the boy I wanted to date in college, have become the characteristics that make you the man I want to be sitting next to when I grow old.

I see all of these wonderful things about you that have changed and grown, but the deeper I look, I also see things that have remained the same.

I see you.

I see the way you look at me. I see the way you reach for my hand. I see the lingering glances between dinners and practices and homework. I see the way you faithfully provide for our family while consistently considering the needs of your wife. I see the way you light up when I come in the room. I see the way you lean in closer every chance you get. I see you continuing to date me even after ten years fo marriage. I see that you see me, still, even in the craziness that is this dream we call our life. I see the same look in your eyes that I saw in the beginning, the look of love and longing and excitement.

I see you. As life goes on, I see you.

I see you on one knee, ring in hand as you dream of our future together. I see with a silly grin and beaming eyes, as you stand at the end of the aisle waiting for my hand. I see you sigh with hesitation and anticipation as we sign the papers opening the doors to our very first home. I see you standing strong and holding my hand as we grieve the loss of our first baby. I see you comforting and reassuring me as I wade through another pregnancy, clinging to the hope that all will go well. I see you overjoyed and spilling over with excitement at the birth of our first son. I see you step into fatherhood with strength and grace. I see you fall head over heels as we welcome our little girl into the world a couple of years later. I see you step out in faith as you move our family to Memphis to help plant a church. I see you lead with confidence as you walk me into the world of adoption. I see you remain steady and faithful as we navigate the adoption world and as I struggle in the wait. I see you melt as our new little one is placed in our arms for the very first time. I see you serving as you love our city, our community and our church. I see you loving us and fighting for us each and every day.

Through it all, I see you.

I know that the heart of who you are, who we are, will remain the same. I have seen you grow from a boy into a man over the years, and in the middle of all the changes spinning around you, your heart has remained steady and true. You are a man of faith, a man consistency, and strength. You are a man that is responsible and reasonable. You are a man that loves big and plays hard. You put others first and are always quick to serve. These characteristics have taken different forms over the years, but they have remained.

So yes, you have changed and transformed. Yes, time has changed and life has changed and we are different than when we first began. In the midst of all that is different, there is still so much the same. The details and moving parts have changed, but the core remains true. It is important to remember who we were and where we come from, but it is more important to realize who we have become and where we are going. We are going places and you have become the man that is leading us to these wonderfully amazing, full of adventure places.

I love the boy I met in college, the one I eagerly said yes to spending the rest of my life with. But the man you have become is the one that I can lean into, that can hold me up when I am ready to bend, the one that, through prayer and Christ, can be the rock for his family. The man that walks alongside me now is the one that can lead and love in a way that is bigger than words, bigger than he even realizes. That boy, from all those years ago had great potential, but the man before me now is strong and steady in a way that only a life lived faithfully can develop.

I see you. I see who you were, who you are, and who you will be.

So yes, life will change and you will change, but from what I can see, change is good.

Monday, June 13, 2016


 (Audrey's daughter's birthday party. Just celebrating life together.)

There is a darkness that hides in the beautiful corners of our world. This is a darkness that well-meaning people pretend is not there in the name of moral innocence. It is easier to turn the other way and focus on what we can understand.

We live in a fallen world. We live in a world where women and children are sold as a commodity and traded like livestock. We live in a world where the dark underbelly has risen to become the driving force of our nation. It walks among us disguised in suits and ties and rests in our very own pews. We live in a world that attends church on Sunday morning while consuming women and children, in the evening, through their very own computer screens. We live in a world where the innocence of the marriage bed is corrupted by the insatiable desires of men and women who are drowning in the darkness as it threatens to take over.  Our world is lost and searching and reaching out for anything and everything to fill the emptiness.

Until recent years, I was one of those people that buried my head and ignored the evidence around me that the darkness is lurking, waiting to devour. I would have said that people are inherently good and that the horror stories you hear of human trafficking only happen in other places, more "pagan" places.  Until recent years, I would have said that these tragedies could never happen here, where I live. But I have learned that where people are, wickedness lives and thrives regardless of race, socio-economic status, education or appearance. I have learned that, as much as I'd like to think/hope that we live in a good and decent world, that is just not true. We live in a world that needs rescuing, that needs a hero. And as I have come to this realization, I have started to examine the church's place in all of this darkness. I have started to contemplate, as a Jesus follower, what is my place. Do I hide to protect myself from the darkness? Do I send money so I can help, but not get my hands dirty? Do I step in and have relationships with people sitting right in the very middle of the darkness? What does mission look like?

Mission is a word that, I feel, is commonly misunderstood and over-complicated. Mission is more than a trip once a year to a far off country or the Christmas project of gathering and collecting for those in need. While these things are good and serve a purpose, to live on mission has to be the sum of more than these acts. I firmly believe that as Jesus followers, we are called to love others. I also believe, that most of the time, the church does a poor job of this in an effort to protect her own. Throughout my life, I have seen a lot of mission trips and mission projects and mission drives. At the end of the day, these efforts were more for the benefit of the church goers than the people in need. There seems to be this desire to check the mission box off of the list of things to do without ever really getting your hands dirty.

The more I know Jesus, the more I learn about Him, the more I believe his hands stayed dirty. I believe Jesus didn't have a checklist. I believe He just lived and as a part of His life, He loved people, all people. This has laid conviction on my heart that mission is more than a trip or a project. It is in the day-to-day decisions. Mission is letting people in your lives and around your dinner table. Mission is being willing to step into their lives even when it makes us uncomfortable. Mission is seeing people as more than the sum of their circumstances and decisions they've made. Living on mission means being willing to leave your comfort zone behind. It means relying on the Holy Spirit to guide you through the darkness. It means being willing to get dirty sometimes in and effort to show the love of Jesus to people.

 Where do the gifts and talents that God has given you intersect with the need that is all around you? That is where you dive in, bringing your family right along with you. Be a family on mission. Understand that mission is just inviting people in your life. You don't have to start a non-profit or spend weeks at a time away from your family. You just have to love people. You just have to be willing to get your hands dirty.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Day God Brought Us You

“I think she prayed like crazy that you would be safe, Little Fox.
I think she prayed for me as much as I prayed for her.” Mama’s voice got all whispery. “And God answered both our prayers.”
“I came home then? To you?”
Mama nodded, happy tears in her eyes. “You came then.
When God found us you, you made me the happiest mama in the world.”
- God Found us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren

   There are a lot of things I have reflected on, this week, as we have been approaching the one year anniversary to bringing Aiden home. There are so many memories from that week, and it seems that every day has been a “a year ago at this time” kind of day.

   I remember getting the call on Monday the twenty-eighth. We were having dinner with friends. We were out on the deck when my phone rang. I saw the social worker’s number on the screen and thought she must need more information for our paperwork. I had just met with her that morning to give her our profile. When I answered, she said, “So, remember how we joked about you bringing a baby home tonight? Well, how’s tomorrow work for you?” I about died! We sat around the table that night, in shock, as our friends prayed over us, prayed for our family, for Aiden and his birthmom.

 The next day, we met with Aiden’s birthmom at a restaurant. Talk about a surreal moment, walking into a restaurant and looking into the eyes of the woman that would be bringing new life into our family, the woman that would be becoming a part of our family. We were told Aiden would be coming home that night, but there were complications and circumstances beyond our control. He didn’t come home that night or the next. I was at the end of my rope and had gone to my parents' house for help with the kids (I was so nervous that my patience was running low), a shoulder to cry on and overall support. As a matter of fact, by the thirty-first, we were told, “Instead of looking at this as 'when will he come home?', look at it as 'how much information did we find out.?' He will come home; we just don’t know when.” We decided to stay at my parents' for the night because I was barely holding it together. Adam and I were praying like crazy, and my parents were offering prayer and support that we absolutely needed at that time. My mom and I went to the grocery store to get things for supper. I just needed to be doing something, anything, to keep my mind busy. We were walking through the store, getting bacon, when my phone rang. Our social worker was calling. I thought she was just calling to check in or to update us on the continued plan. When I answered she said she was sorry she had taken so long to call me that night, but she had a little boy with her that was ready to come home. I was crying and laughing and telling my mom what she said. Then my mom started crying and laughing and jumping up and down. She grabbed me, and we hugged and jumped and cried in the middle of the store, bacon flying. I immediately called Adam, and we cried together on the phone and praised God for the miracle He had just worked.

We went to get Aiden as soon as we were told we could come that night. It didn’t seem real. We walked into the house, and Aiden’s birthmom stood there, along with our social worker and the birthmom counselor. She was holding him. We were told she wanted to be the one to hand him to me, and that she wanted to spend those first few moments with us. As we walked up, she reached out her arms, with love in her eyes, and handed Aiden to me. She leaned in, and we hugged each other, with this precious baby boy between us. My heart connected with her heart, and we both knew this was the beginning of the next chapter of his life, of our lives. Both of us, both of his moms, stood there, holding each other, holding him and wanting the very same thing for him: that he would be loved and taken care of, that he would love and know love, that he would grow up knowing he was and is wanted and loved and part of the Creator’s master plan. Aiden’s birthmom and I bonded that day over our shared love for him.  I sit here a year later, praising God that I get to be one of the moms Aiden has had in his life. I am so thankful that on July 31, 2014, I got to hold and snuggle and bring him home forever. I still remember sleeping the whole night with my arm in the bassinet so he would know I was there and that I loved him.

   As I reflect on that time a year ago, and I am overcome with joy that he is my son, I can’t help but also be overcome with thankfulness for Aiden’s birthmom. I am thankful for the decision she made a year ago. I am thankful to know that she loves Aiden and during her whole pregnancy she prayed for him to have a family. She said it was the most she had ever prayed in her life. She said she knew God had a plan for Aiden’s life and she knew God had a family for Aiden. I am so thankful that she prayed those prayers and that she loves Aiden so much, a sacrificial love. I feel honored that she would choose us. What a high calling to be the ones that someone chooses to be the family for the child she has carried, loved and prayed for. I have a love for Aiden’s first mom that I can’t explain.

 This is a day that we celebrate. We celebrate Aiden and all the joy he has brought to our family. We celebrate his birthmom for all the love and care she gave Aiden, for her decision to place him with us and for her courage to follow through with what she felt was best for him.
 July 31, 2014, Gotcha Day, Family Day, Homecoming - whatever you want to call it. It was the day we held our son in our arms for the very first time. It was the day Carter and Norah Lynn stayed up until midnight to meet their new brother. It was a day of many answered prayers...the day we got the son we had prayed for...the day Carter and Norah Lynn got the brother they had prayed God be the glory for July 31, 2014.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Shepherd

     I want to share something that I haven't really talked much about. I haven't talked about it because it is personal, it hurt, it is out of my control. To open up and lay my heart before the world feels too vulnerable.

     But here we go. Heart out.

     We just passed the year mark. We just passed the one year anniversary to heartbreak and crying out to God in a way I'm not sure I had before. May, a year ago, we were matched with a little four year old boy. We received the call we had longed to hear. Those words were so sweet to our ear. A grandmother had custody of the little boy and had a reached a point she felt she could no longer care for him. She had seen our profile, loved it and wanted to meet not only us but our other children as well. The understanding was that we would meet on Sunday and then start the paperwork the following Monday. The grandmother felt it was a done deal. She didn't want to meet us to make a decision. She wanted to meet us because she had made her decision and she wanted to begin getting to know the family with which her grandson would be joining. A couple of days before the meeting we received the call we dreaded and prayed to never hear.
Due to different and hard circumstances, circumstances that seemed unfair to the boy and harsh, the grandmother had changed her mind.

     I was heartbroken. I was confused. I was hurt. I couldn't understand why God would bring us to this point, call us to this journey and leave us. That night I cried a deep, hard cry from the gut. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get up and read my bible. I turned to Psalm 23 and began to read and journal. The words poured from my heart onto the paper as I cried out to God for understanding and comfort. What came out was a poem that my husband later put to music. What came out was a culmination of all the heartache and uncertainty and trust and growth and joy and longing and love that had been our adoption process. It is my heart in words and chords and melodies.

     You are my shepherd
     But can I go where you lead
     What if all that I want 
     Is more than all that I need
     What if peaceful streams
     Become oceans too deep
     And the rest that You give
Turns to nightmares in sleep

Renew my strength
I keep falling weak
Guide me along 
For it's You that I seek
Reach down and hold me
I'm too broken to stand
Your grace sustains me
I am moved by your hand

In the darkest valleys
I long to see your face
To have no fear and
Rest in your embrace

Your rod and staff
Can seem harsh and unkind
Protection and comfort
Can seem so hard to find

I long for the feast that
You have prepared
Honor and anointing 
To be shared

Your goodness and love 
Surround me I know
     But the places you lead me
Make it so hard to know

You are my shepherd
But can I go where you lead
What if all that I want
Is more than all that I need

     So there it is. My aching. My questioning. My heart. Adoption is a journey that requires total reliance on the shepherd. It is hard, and most days it seems you are never given vision very far in front of where you already are standing. God's calling, for us, was to trust Him today. The same calling came the next day and the next and the day after that. In the end, He is sovereign. He reigns and He knows what He is calling us to, even when we don't. He knows the desires of our heart and the longing of our souls. He is the one that puts them there and he will be the one that satisfies. 


Monday, March 2, 2015

The Path So Far

(This is before we were even dating)

  I heard the song "If You Want Me To" by Ginny Owens this week and was reminded about God's faithfulness.  Reminded is not a strong enough word.  The immensity of God's love and faithfulness washed over me in a way that took my breath. 

The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason why you brought me here
But just because you love me the way that you do 
I'm gonna walk through the valley if you want me to

      Scenes from the last ten years began to flash through my mind, and I was overwhelmed at all of my highs and lows and how God has been there every minute of every day.  Sometimes I didn't understand He was there, but in the end I could always look back and see His hand.  I have realized that God has shown Himself so faithful that I don't doubt that characteristic in Him at all.  I may have questions about what He says or why, but I know to trust first and understand later.  

'Cause I'm not who I was when I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
I'm gonna walk through the fire if You want me to

If you had told me ten years ago that I would marry my best friend, meet a group of people in Huntsville that would rock the way I view Jesus and following Him, grieve the loss of one baby, bring two more into the world, move to Memphis to help plant a church, endure a terrible year of marriage and come out the other side stronger and more in love, fall in love with Memphis, be a stay-at-home mom and realize it is harder and better than I ever imagined, find my identity in Christ alone,  endure the emotional roller coaster that is the adoption process, become the mom of another beautiful baby boy, and mentor women coming out of prostitution, I would have laughed in your face.  I would have laughed and then cried because the prospect of all of these things is overwhelming and not all things I would have chosen, but God is faithful and He is good and He loves me.  He knows what is best for me, and this is the path He chose for me to take.  So, understand it or not, I have learned, with plenty of fighting and kicking and screaming, to follow Him.  I am thankful that I am not who I was ten years ago.

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that's not my home
But you never said it would be easy 
You only said I'd never go alone

So much of my life is not what I planned or imagined.  It has been harder sometimes.  Mostly, it has been richer and fuller and better than I could have planned.  I am not saying that I have always followed God or always been obedient.  I haven't always willingly listened to God, but He has always kindly and firmly pushed me along.  He has offered me riches.  While, a lot of times, I have chosen rags of my own making, I am beginning to see through the rags and recognize the sparkling of God's riches.  I have seen enough of who God is to know that I can trust Him.  He is good, and He is faithful.

So when the whole world turns against me and 
I'm all by myself
And I can't hear you answer my cries for help
I'll remember the suffering Your love put you through
And I will go through the darkness if You want me to

Now, I hope there are not dark times to come, but in this life so far we have had a few.  There have been times that felt like the whole world was against me and God wasn't listening.  He was and is listening.  He was and is always there for me.  

When I cross over Jordan, I'm gonna sing I'm gonna shout
I'm gonna look into Your eyes and see, You never let me down
So take me on the pathway that will lead me home to You
And I will walk through the valley if You want me to

This last part of the song is my prayer. I am so thankful for the path so far, and I want to follow God all the way home.  It is hard at times to remember God's faithfulness when in the middle of the struggle.  So, my prayer is that not only now while things are good but also when things are hard I will remember how good and faithful God has been this far in my life. He is trustworthy and good. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Secret About Women

Looking around at the world, my little world, where I live, I find that it is hard to know what a woman should be.  There is a pull to be so many things, and expectations can be daunting.  There is a demand to be married while simultaneously not losing yourself or compromising any goals you have set. The expectation to be a mom rings loud and clear, but the expectation to be a career woman and make your mark in society rings just as loudly.  The pull to serve others and be a part of community tugs at a woman’s heart, while trying to balance serving her family.  There is a call to be fit and healthy while managing a budget and time schedule that serves everyone best. The list goes on.  Just as women are known for being multi-taskers, the expectations on women are multi-faceted. 
There is a secret about women, something I’m not sure many people realize.  They are strong.  Women are strong.  They have that daily, in the little things, get the job done kind of strength. Theirs is a strength that can go unnoticed or unseen, but is a force that shakes the world all around them.  Two of my friends are starting a business while raising kids and loving their husbands and seeking to honor God.  Another friend is working full time, from home, while her baby is there with her.  She is balancing full time work and full time stay at home mom so she can support her husband while he is in school.  Another friend is a teacher that is rocking the lives of the students God places in her class.  Another  friend is a single mom, fighting to turn from a life that has been tragic and hard and full of unhealthy habits.  She is fighting to give her daughter a better life, a life that honors the Father who pulled her from the pit.  One of the strongest people I know is my mom.  She began motherhood as an eighteen year old and has raised four children in a way that exudes strength and love.  She has supported my dad and helped run his business.  She has been a stay-at-home mom for as long as I can remember.  That job gets little respect most of the time, but she has shown such strength in being a steady foundation for her family.  She has four children who respect her and turn to her.  She has been our mom, our friend, our counselor, our doctor, our taxi driver, our fashion consultant and so much more.  The thing I see in common with all of these women is strength. 
Strength takes many forms.  I am always amazed at the physical strength women can have when they put their mind to it.  If you don’t believe me, think about all those times you came home or to a friend’s house and the furniture was all in a different place.  Yep, she did all of that, by herself.  Even more amazing is the strength I see inside the women I know.  Somewhere deep inside of women there is a well of strength that never seems to run out.  The hits keep coming, the voices keep calling out, the phone keeps ringing, and there she is standing or kneeling, in the middle of the storm, making her world a better place.  Her kids cling to her.  Her husband relies on her.  Her friends turn to her.   She kneels before her Heavenly Father asking to be filled, asking for strength and patience and wisdom and joy.  Then she immediately turns to the world around her and pours every bit of what the Father has given her back out.  She loves well and serves well and, at the end of the day, falls into bed asking God for the strength to do it all again tomorrow.

God created women in His image, and they are beautiful.    

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Color Blind

A friend shared the link above with me, and it really struck a chord.  The wheels began to turn, and I realized something deep within me was moved.  I realized that there was something that has bothered me for a long time:  The phrase color blind.  We are not color blind.  We should not be color blind.

The article is about adult, transracial adoptees sharing their story of how hard it can be to grow up in a white family and not be white.  Well, as you can see in the picture above, we are now a transracial family.  I have a little one who will grow up in a white family and not be white. What does this mean for him?  What does this mean for us?

It means we have been given and unique gift and challenge by God.  I have zero doubt that Aiden was meant for our family, regardless of the color of his skin or the color of my skin.  I am not saying that I don't see the color of his skin.  I do!  I see it every time I look at him and every time I think about him.  He has this creamy chocolate skin.  I don't know how to explain it, but he is shaded perfectly with lights and darks.  It is warm and inviting and compliments his big, shining, brown eyes.  I see his brown skin, and I see beauty.  I love it.

Now, that is my mama's heart speaking up there.  All of those things are true.  When I see brown skin or white skin, I do not see one as better than the other or that skin color is even the most important defining thing about a person. It is just a brush stroke in the design of God.  Unfortunately, not all people have this view.  We live in a world where some people view skin color as THE defining thing about a person, and they view darker skin as less than.  This is the world where my kids will grow up.  This is the world that my children will enter when they leave my home.  This is the world that they will need to know how to survive in when I am not around.  So, no I will not be teaching my children to be color blind.

As a transracial family, it is our job to acknowledge and educate every person in our family.  That means a lot of different things, and we understand that we may not always be able to provide all our kids need in this journey.  We are committed to surrounding ourselves with people to help us along the way.  We are a family, and we love each other very much. But we understand that that love will not be all our kids need.  We will strive to instill in them a confidence that comes from knowing that their ultimate identity comes from God and God alone.  We will also try our best to prepare them for the world that is outside of our house and our embrace.

We are not a color blind family.  We embrace all the shades that God has and will use to make our family.  We love them.  We also understand the responsibility that comes with this beautiful color-filled life God has given us.  We understand it and we welcome it.