Dear Ephrem

Dear Ephrem,

It’s been a while since I’ve written you a note on the blog. Since coming home to be with you more, I have learned all the more what a fun, funny, amazing, smart, incredible little human you are. You are my joy and my heart. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my day than to get to spend it with you. (Well, okay, if we’re able to add Dad in the mix, that’s probably the best day…) You make me laugh in unexpected ways. You make me appreciate the sunshine and parks and cool breezes. You make me enjoy walks and little things like petals on a flower. You help me to realize how big and small our world is at one time.

You are every bit of two years old right now. You are developing (and expressing) your opinions. You are developing your sense of self. I am in awe of all that you have learned and done in two short years. I am so proud of you.

You love to run around the block with Daddy, Mommy, and Pippin. You love to congratulate yourself for doing a good job (I pray this never goes away). You love leaves, sticks, pine needles, and tiny flowers. You love to kick ant hills, which I constantly have to tell you not to do because we have fire ants in Florida and they are mean. (Sorry buddy.) You love to find “squiwewls” and ask to pet them. You love to climb your playhouse and slide down the slide.

I love your little voice. You love to say your alphabet, to count, and to identify shapes wherever they can be found. You sing all the songs that Daddy teaches you. (Even if you won’t let me sing along with music…ever.) You started identifying your family. Even though some days the cup or a box makes the list, I love that you know who belongs to you. I love to hear you call me Mommy or to say “I love you.” Most of all, I love to hear you pray. I know that God is developing a little heart for Him in you. I can’t wait to see that grow.

Some days I don’t feel like I’m the best mom. This role is so much more than I could have ever prepared myself for. I know I need to be more patient. I don’t always know how to teach you best. But I hope you know that this doesn’t reflect anything about who you are. You are incredible, amazing, awesome. And none of my shortcomings would ever change the fact that I will always, always, always love you for the amazing tiny human you are. Nothing that you do – good or bad – will ever change how much I love you.

God created you to know His love. My Little Man, that is my prayer – that more than anything in this world, you would know the height and depth and width of the Father’s great love for you, and that you would share that with others.

My sweet boy, you are my greatest joy and one of two (soon to be three) earthly reason I smile.

With all my heart, I love you.

 

Mommy

Advertisements

What to say?

Sorry for the silence. Aside from trying to gain my bearings as I’ve transitioned out of my full-time job, I didn’t post anything because I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep this secret if I blogged:

1383466_10101263983099644_292583804_n

Baby Shows 2 due April (I’m 12 weeks in this photo)

Yup, we are having a biological child. I’m due April 19, which feels like it’ll be here before I know it. We found out in August and it was a hard secret to keep.

Obviously, everything feels different this time around. Instead of looking at a photo of child who is growing halfway around the world, I see my ever-growing stomach expanding. Instead of the paper chase and madly fundraising, I see doctors and can rely on health insurance. Instead of a child growing in my heart, I have a sonogram of the child being knitted in my womb. Instead of airplanes and travel to the most amazing continent, we will be driving to a hospital and meeting our new person.

The processes are different, but my prayer is still the same: That this child would grow in grace, love, and faith and know that God loves him/her very much and that I would be equipped to mother both of these children in the way that brings out the best that God has for them.

While the processes are different, both paths have been uniquely beautiful.

However, I can say that I love that God called us to adoption first. I grew significantly in my faith during that process. I learned so much about God’s faithfulness to us. Although the learning curve on parenting a child who has already experienced so much has been high, I am grateful for the opportunity to be Ephrem’s mommy. From the moment I saw his first photo, I saw my son and was determined to do anything to protect him. It made me realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that love makes a family, not DNA. 

Ephrem & Mommy

That’s a lesson that I don’t take for granted. I remember when we first came home and Ephrem was so scared, so insecure. And we were clueless. We have had to learn to be a family. He has learned to trust us. We have learned how to parent in a way that best suits him. We learned to love first and laugh deeply. We learned that love is an action, more than it is that warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts or words from our mouths.

So this next child may not come home on an airplane, but this child will enter the world into a family that has learned to love well.

The New Season

In 2011 when we first started talking about the adoption, we were expecting it to take two years. That timing would require a lot of patience, but it would work out because Evan would have finished school and gotten a job and we would have been in a better place for me to be home with the kiddo full-time. Of course, our plans and God’s plans are two different things.

We got Ephrem’s referral two days before my birthday in October 2011. (We accepted his referral on my birthday – best present EVER. Seriously, I have a big birthday coming up and Evan simply can’t top that ever again. :-)) Suddenly our two year wait was going to be a 9-month sprint through paperwork and fundraising. God was so faithful. Ephrem came home in June of 2012.

Evan had just finished his degree at the local state college and started looking for work, but nothing was coming up. At the end of my family leave, it was evident that our plans weren’t going to happen. Evan was going to stay home with Ephrem and I was going to go to work. And that was definitely not the plan that either of us had in mind.

Then, in October, he got a job. But it wouldn’t pay enough for me to stay home. So we had to look to daycare – something we just didn’t even consider when we were planning how things would go. I was devastated and felt the true weight of “Mommy guilt” for the first time. Fortunately, God provided an amazing child care center (which I still prefer to call “school”), with an amazing staff that helped us care for Ephrem in the best way possible. They were just opening and super small and it was perfect for all of us.

But as the year went on, I was more and more discontent with a job that I had BK (before kid) loved. I love being a grant writer in education and it’s a meaningful job. I know the funds that I help teams get and the programs those funds enable make a difference to students who often have less than a good chance of making it (especially where I work). But knowing that someone else got to see my Tiny Human learning and growing made my heart hurt. And the crunch being a dual-earner family with jobs requiring long commutes put on our family was hard. Out the door by 6:55am, home by 6 or 6:15pm, hurrying through dinner so we could do bath time, story time, and bed time, and then get ready for the next day. And I realized that’s all we were doing: surviving this day to get ready for the next day. Weekends were merely the time to do all the chores that we had no time to do during the week. Our family time was all of us exhausted and in a rut.

We began to seek God about how we could possibly get me home with Ephrem at least part-time but hopefully full-time. It was going to require a step of faith I was terrified to do. But when God calls, when He opens doors, it’s hard not to walk, even with great trepidation, to follow Him. I still remember reading Psalm 34 as we were praying through this decision and knowing that God was calling me to be home with Ephrem, even if it meant that we wouldn’t have the financial security of my job.

So, the season is changing (so appropriate that the first day of fall was this weekend). I have the opportunity to stay home with Ephrem. I have the opportunity to teach him at home. I have the opportunity to pick up side work when we need it. I have the opportunity to pursue some dreams and make this life more than a rat race. It has required some sacrifice of trusting ourselves and our jobs over God’s provision, but in the end, I want to rely on God first…not my own hand. As hard as it is to give up control, I long to live a life worth living. And, for me, in this season, getting to spend time with Ephrem is really a life worth living.

Safe

Sometimes we face something that feels far too big for us. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by ourselves or the outside world.

God hasn’t called us to walk alone. He uses these moments to remind us that we’re “safe in His arms.”

 

Seeking Justice

This is a hard post to write. I’m going to (try to) be transparent. I’ve been home for a week from Guatemala and have had some time to reflect. I didn’t go to Guatemala with the intentions of limiting what God would do in me, but some where along the way that happened. I didn’t go with the attitude of humility or excitement of the first trip. Not that I was (intentionally) overly proud, but I think part of me “knew” what to expect in the experience. And so God had this pre-packaged version of the trip that I gave Him.

Fortunately, our God redeems. He takes what we give Him, smiles, and gives us back so much more.

Jami

I wrote about meeting Jami while we were there. I was so completely caught off guard by that moment. Honesty, that moment revealed an ugly truth about my heart: I can be nearly scientific in maintaining emotional distance and not engaging with people’s stories on a vulnerable level. I use the excuse that I’m not a “people” person, but truth be told, I don’t want to be vulnerable myself. By playing a simple game of catch and smiling through my awkward Spanish skills, God opened my heart enough to this experience to break it.

Despite being home for a week, that experience remains fresh, my heart remains broken.

June 2013 328

One thing that struck me on this trip is the scale and complexity of the problem of poverty. I was, in a word, overwhelmed. Our world is so very broken because of sin. Poverty and the inequality of the “system” is a symptom. What is more challenging is that by serving Jami and her family, the story of the poor wasn’t something I was reading in a magazine or on a blog, but something that personally affected me. I looked into her eyes…and I saw a person who by merely being born in Pastores, Guatemala lived in a house made out of particle board with no running water or electricity and who did not go to school. And who didn’t own a toothbrush.

That humility that I didn’t “pack,” showed up in a hurry.

Even though my human heart is overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the problem of justice, I know that our God doesn’t turn His eyes from the poor. He actively pursues not only justice but honor for the poor.

“He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He set the world on them.”

1 Samuel 2:8

Jami now lives in a new house, with a locking door. Her family has a water filtration system that makes even the most polluted river water drinkable. She has a toothbrush, and toothpaste. Because God remembers her. Her name is written on His palm. He has a plan for Jami.

June 2013 435

The experience has circled back to this question for me: What does it mean for me to seek justice? What does seeking justice look like for me (and for our family)? While God doesn’t need me, per se, He wants me to be part of His plan and His work. So what does that look like for me?

I am completely humbled by the fact that God chose to use a little girl in Guatemala to bring me back to my knees. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible. I am grateful that God used you in this opportunity. Thank you.

 

The Step off of the Platform

I went zip lining last week. For someone who has a fear of heights when I’m not comfortably contained in some sort of vehicle, zip lining was a good idea back when I thought about it with both feet on the ground. As we drove up the mountain in a former Dutch army truck that teetered on the edge of said mountain? Less of a good idea.

Actually, it was a terrifying idea.

I went anyway because everyone else went. Yes, while it didn’t involve a bridge, I “jumped” because my friends “jumped.” Also, there weren’t any refunds. So. There.

The zip line team put harnesses and safety equipment on our team and hooked us to the safety line before the first line. I saw my friends all step off the platform like it was nothing while I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest in 20 degree weather. I couldn’t decide whether to cry or embarrass myself by vomiting. Honest to goodness.

Then it was my turn.

Marisol hooked both carabiners to the cable and then I had to step off the platform, which should have been easier, but both of my feet refused to leave the platform.

Although in my head I knew I was wearing a helmet, a harness with redundant carabiners, hooked to a cable that would hold up to 6000 lbs, and I had seen a good portion of my team do the first line, as my friend Heather pointed out, you don’t feel the tension of the equipment working until you are pushed take a step off the platform.

20130618-212208.jpg

Don’t be fooled by my smile – I was terrified!

Much like like my life.

God puts these crazy steps in front of me. And I do everything I can to keep both feet where I feel safe. I make alternative plans. I offer other ideas to God, as if I could remotely control the events of my life. Even when I know I can’t move forward, that I can’t get off the mountain until I let go of the platform, I will try to make another way.

But platforms aren’t meant to be permanent living spaces. They are places for jumping off.

It’s been one of those themes that I’ve seen in my life over the past three and a half years: the audacity, the recklessness of faith. It challenges our commitment to this God who calls us to live a fuller, bigger life…if we’re willing to let go of our feeling of control. I remember the prayer that day walking my dog – Lord, what more can I do for You? What more can I give You? Apparently, it is my wholehearted acceptance of His will, even when it feels reckless or audacious.

We are in a transition season because we have another opportunity to trust the tension in the rope after we step off the platform. I have run out of justifications, excuses, and alternatives for God. I wrote the email that finally closed the door on my way.

There’s no going back if we want to enjoy the ride, if we want to move forward. We have to step off of the platform and trust…

I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, then you grow wings. – William Sloan Coffin

20130618-212322.jpg

The view of Agua (Antigua, Guatemala, 2013)

Wherever You Are

I’m celebrating because one year ago today I got to hold Ephrem for the very first  time. I had studied his little face for nine months and prayed so many wordless prayers for his health, safety, love, and care.

But this day, 365 days ago, I saw his beautiful little smile for the very first time.

This day, 365 days ago, a woman placed Ephrem in my arms in the airport parking lot in Africa, and he was physically a part of our family forever.

This day, 365 days ago, my heart got its second deepest wish: to be a mother.

Ephrem, you are one of the very best gifts I’ve ever received in this life and I cherish May 29 always because it’s the day that we met.

At a restaurant, the first full day together

“I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent my love to follow wherever you go…” – Nancy Tillman

The First Step

If I had to pick a story from the New Testament that I find myself in repeatedly, it would be the story of when Peter walks on water.

(Not that I have any literal water-walking experiences.)

But I feel like God places me in situations where my next step involves murky, shifting water and a decision to answer the Hand that beckons me to take that faith-filled first step out of the boat. And I often call out to that Hand to say (as if He doesn’t already know), “I’m here in the boat because you can’t sink into wood.” But what we both know is that what I’m really saying is this: I don’t trust You enough for even one step. At least Peter was bold enough to take the first step before he got freak out by the fact that he was walking on water when the wind blew. (Seriously, poor Peter gets beat up over the fact that he got distracted by the wind and the waves, but we forget that the dude represented 8.3% of the 12 disciples willing to step out of the boat at all.)

I can’t even seem to get my foot over the side of the boat. I’m too freaked out by the audacity of what He’s calling to do to even begin to believe that the impossible is possible.

But recently, I’ve been thinking, there must be more than the boat. I’ve been thinking, am I happy in the boat, where it’s safe and sure, but while there’s a “bigger” calling if I could just take that first step? I’ve been thinking, what if the boat not only limits me, it limits God? What if the opportunities were endless if I only took that step? I’ve been thinking, this God has been so faithful to me, given me more grace than I could imagine, why do I think He would call me into the water only to let me drown?

So, I’m praying big. I’m praying to learn number my days so I don’t spend all of them in the boat. I’m praying that my short-sighted vision would be extended from the murky water to only see His hand. And I’m praying for the audacity to believe that the endless possibilities are for me.