If I Told You My Story

If I Told You My Story

IMG_0719Last night, Stephen and I attended the Special Kids* benefit concert to see Big Daddy Weave perform. I don’t listen to a ton of contemporary Christian music, but I do love Big Daddy Weave.

During the concert, my eyes filled up with tears, and I realized that I haven’t truly stopped in the last six weeks to worship. Our last six weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions—going to doctor appointments, getting to know Griffin’s sweet birth mother, getting our house and nursery ready to go, working extra hours at work to get ready to take time off, and just simply processing the fact that our lives are about to change in a matter of days. Toss in the holidays and Christmas shopping, and it has been a truly hectic time.

It was refreshing to take a couple of hours to praise God through song. I spent most of that concert just thanking God for the work that He’s doing in our lives, for loving His children with a fierce love, and for redeeming our story.

That’s why, when Big Daddy Weave started singing “My Story,” I really began crying. “My Story” is a song about our testimonies and how they point to the kindness, grace and mercy of Jesus.

If I told you my story
You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go
If I told you my story
You would hear love that never gave up
If I told you my story
You would hear life but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

Our stories are all different. I hope that when I share my testimony, about my life before my relationship with Jesus, that people see a clear picture of Him. But I also hope that when I share my current story—infertility; days, months and years of praying for a child; starting the adoption process; learning we had been matched; preparing to meet our son—I hope you see God in that, too.

I hope you see a God who restores what is seemingly broken.

I hope you see a God who draws us up from the pit.

I hope you see a God who loves His children.

I hope you see a God who is faithful even when His people are struggling to have faith.

I hope you see a God who is close to the brokenhearted and heals those hurt hearts.

I hope you see a God who rejoices over His people like a father rejoices over His children.

I hope that when I tell you our story, you see Him.


 

Special Kids is a Christian nonprofit in Murfreesboro, Tennessee that provides therapy and nursing services to children with special needs. They were founded on the principle that no child would ever be turned away because their family could not afford services. 

Tossing My Plans Out the Window

Tossing My Plans Out the Window

If you know me well, then you know I like to be in control. I’m a planner and a list maker, and I like checking things off that list fairly quickly. When life doesn’t go according to my plan, I can often feel like things are spinning out of control.

For example, my birthday is this Wednesday. I typically love my birthday, but this year, I’ve honestly been kind of down about it. Deep down I’ve been thinking, “I was supposed to be a mom by now.” When Stephen and I got married at the ripe age of 21, I assumed we would have our first child by 25, the second by age 27–28, and the third in our early thirties. I knew adoption would be included in there somewhere, I just didn’t know when.

Obviously we don’t have kids yet, and my plans of three by our early thirties may be a little too ambitious now. (But who knows? I’m learning God chuckles when I start making plans.)

So now I’m (very, very, very slowly) learning to relinquish control and say, “God, your plans are so much better than anything I can imagine. I don’t see the full picture yet, but I know you are good and you love me.” This journey we’ve been on the last two-plus years—fertility problems, praying for a family, starting the adoption process, waiting—has drawn me closer to God. The Lord and I talk a whole lot—sometimes I’m angry and cry, sometimes I ask questions, sometimes I plead, and sometimes I just sit and be still. But each time I thank Him for being a good father who listens to me and loves me. And it leads me to wonder: Would I have drawn closer to the Lord if my life had gone according to my detailed, meticulous plan? Would I have a desire to talk to my Heavenly Father on a regular, day-to-day basis? I really don’t know. Maybe this relationship is a part of His plan.


If you’re reading this, will you pray in these four ways? I love when people give me specific things to pray for, and I wanted to do the same.

  1. Pray for us to trust in the Lord’s timing. We know that one day we’ll look back at and thank God for His goodness and provision. We’re confident that one day we’ll hold our child and say, “This is who we were waiting on.” But actually waiting is easier said than done. Pray for us to continue trusting in the Lord’s perfect timing.
  2. Pray for us to find joy in the wait. We may be waiting two more years or two more weeks. Who knows? I sometimes find myself feeling sad and anxious as the days go on and on and on. Please pray that we enjoy this time we have to spend as just the two of us. Pray for our marriage to be strengthened, for our friendships with others to be rejuvenated and our lives to be filled with joy.
  3. Pray for the woman who is either currently expecting or who will become pregnant. I pray for our future child’s birth mother every day. It’s hard to do that, because I don’t have a name or a face to attach to those prayers. Please join us in praying for her. I ask God to keep her healthy and safe. I pray she realizes how brave and courageous she is. I ask God to show her how loved she is and how strong she is, and I ask Him to comfort her and give her strength.
  4. Pray for the child who will one day be part of our family. We’re so excited to become parents. But we know and understand that our child, even if adopted at birth, will experience loss. Please pray for the physical and mental development of our future child—that he or she is healthy and strong. Pray that we are parents who love deeply, practice wise discipline and model Christ’s love.

 

 

Stay Steadfast, My Soul

Stay Steadfast, My Soul

Y’all, Kristene DiMarco is one of my favorite songwriters and worship leaders. If you’re familiar with Bethel Music, you have heard her lead others in worship through song. I recently heard this song, “Take Courage,” and I fell in love with it. It has been such an encouragement for me during the hard, seemingly never-ending adoption process. Watch the video below to listen to the song, and read over the lyrics.

Verse 1
Slow down take time
Breathe in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
And He’ll reveal all to come

Chorus 1
Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope, as your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing, He’s never failing

Verse 2
Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His words lead You on
Do not forget
His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

Bridge
You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep Your promise to me
That I will rise in Your victory

Chorus 2
Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope, watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing, He’s never failing

Contentment: Seven Months Later

Contentment: Seven Months Later

At the end of every year, I pray and ask God to show me what He wants me to learn for the coming year. Last December, I felt like God wanted to teach me about contentment and being satisfied with what He has given me. I wrote about the word I chose—content—in a post on Christmas Eve last year, and I said this:

I’ve often struggled with contentment, with being satisfied with the life the Lord has given me. I find myself dismissing the blessings that are already in my life and holding out my hands asking for more. More money, more clothes, nicer possessions … material things that don’t matter. But I also find myself discontent because I don’t feel like God’s answering my prayers for what I desire the most: a family.

When I wrote that blog post on December 24, 2016, I had no idea that we would be starting the adoption process just seven weeks later. I had absolutely no clue that Stephen and I would be entering into a difficult, challenging season of life.

But God did. 

Just a few weeks after I wrote that post, God started working in my life and heart. I had been praying about adoption for a couple of months, but still didn’t feel peace. But in January, God said “adoption,” and Stephen and I said, “Well, OK.” Seven weeks after I hit “publish” on that post, we attended an information meeting and filled out the first adoption application.

And now, here we are—almost seven months later. I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled with contentment this year. I’m not a patient person. I don’t like waiting. And the adoption process? It involves a whole lot of waiting. It’s easy to feel forgotten, too: There’s no growing baby bump, no due date circled on the calendar, and no physical reminder that there is a baby, at some point, on the way. Contentment with this path the Lord has placed me on? Though I’m confident that this is the correct path, it’s a daily challenge as I learn to wait on the Lord and trust in His plan.

I’m choosing to take it one day at a time, asking God each and every day, “Help me be satisfied in You alone today.” The Lord is growing me, drawing me closer to Him, every day. I want to be able to confidently say, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26). And one day, when I’m rocking a baby in the nursery that currently sits empty, I’ll praise the Lord for the gracious, beautiful gift He’s given me, while remembering that He alone is the only One who can satisfy my soul.

In December’s post, I quoted Seasons of Waiting by Betsy Childs Howard. I’ll end here with another passage from her book:

You see, once you start walking in daily dependence on God, you have to keep walking in it. God’s desire is to be in fellowship with us, and one way he draws us into that fellowship is by meeting our needs one day at a time. He doesn’t just give us what we need; he wants to give us himself. He gives us himself through his Word. The trials of our life that make us crave the life-giving sustenance of the daily nourishment of Scripture are like the hunger pains that drive us to the daily food our bodies need to survive.

Favorite Worship Songs

Favorite Worship Songs

Stephen may be the worship leader, and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I do love worship music. Over the last few months, some songs have been played more than others, because the words reach a deeper part of my heart that is hurting and restless. These songs have encouraged me as we have pursued adoption and comforted my restless heart, reminding me of God’s plan, grace and love.

Enjoy!

And If Not, He Is Still Good

And If Not, He Is Still Good

18922881_10208712360355609_6124737615411317520_oAdoption isn’t easy. It’s a roller coaster that is full of loops and sharp turns, and more often than not, you feel like you’re just hanging upside down.

About two weeks ago, Stephen and I were contacted by our agency about an expectant mother who wanted to meet us. We met with her the next morning and loved her, and by that afternoon we learned that she chose another family.

I won’t sugar coat it: That rejection stung. We were disappointed and hurt. And while this is the first rejection we publicly shared with people, it’s not the first “no” we’ve heard. In April, before our home study was ever approved, we were connected with a family for a baby girl who had been born a week earlier. For two weeks, we rode that roller coaster, scrambling to finish our home study, get paperwork in order, and hire an attorney. And, sadly, it didn’t work out. 

It would be easy to look at both of those scenarios and question whether God sees me and hears me. And I’ll admit, I’ve asked God whether He truly loves me and wants good for me, whether He hears or even cares when I cry every month, and I’ve asked why He’s given me a desire to be a mother and yet no children to mother.

18921049_10208712360595615_580868139006225646_o

In April, after the first potential adoption fell through, I was reminded of a devotion from She Reads Truth. In 2013, during a study through the Book of Daniel, Hayley Morgan wrote, “And if not, He is still good.” That phrase became an anthem, or a rally cry, for women and readers of She Reads Truth, including me. In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar demanded Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to worship false gods or be thrown into a fiery furnace. The trio refused to worship false gods, and they believed that God would show up and save them from the fiery furnace. And if not? They would still only worship God.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s faith wasn’t conditional on what God could do for them. So maybe I’m not facing death by fire—whew!—but I don’t want my faith to be conditional on what the Lord can do for me. I believe that the Lord hears my fervent prayers and will answer them in His timing.

And if not?
If I never experience pregnancy …
If an expectant mother chooses another family instead of us …
If this process takes longer than we anticipated …
If life stops going according to my plan …
If we face rejection time and time again …

I will believe He is a loving father.
I will remember that His plans are better than my own.
I will worship Him for His goodness, grace and mercy.
I will cling to the promise that He is better than any earthly treasure.
I will trust that He is good.

 


Necklace: Dear Mushka || Bracelet: Grace While We Wait

The Worst Day Became the Best Thing

The Worst Day Became the Best Thing

Today marks three years since I lost my job.

I remember it like it was yesterday: I was sitting in my office with my earbuds in, listening to Ellie Holcomb’s album, As Sure as the Sun. I was doing my first reading of a manuscript for a Bible study that had just hit my desk the day before. Not editing yet, just reading. I always read through once before I start editing. Around 9 a.m., my two bosses knocked on my door, asked if they could come in, and then shut the door behind them.

I froze.

Closing the door couldn’t be a good sign, right? I immediately started going through the previous days, trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Did I leave work too early one day? Did I make a major editing mistake that somehow got published? Did someone overhear my thoughts about just how much I, an introvert who gets anxiety about phone conversations with random people, disliked calling churches to talk about curriculum? I couldn’t think of anything horrible that I had done. I absolutely loved my job (despite those phone calls) and I enjoyed going to work. I was dedicated to my job; it was my “dream job” and one I had worked hard to get.

I don’t think I truly heard the words they said to me that morning. Something about budget cuts, lay-offs and “this isn’t personal and we’re thankful for the work you’ve done.” I was in a fog. This couldn’t actually be happening, I thought to myself. I just knew I wanted them to stop talking and get out of my office. I wanted to talk to my husband, call my mom and get the heck out of there. I felt like a failure—I had been hired and let go in a span of 15 months. I cried to Stephen and my mom, asking them what I did wrong.

I was in a daze the rest of the day, and even the weeks (and months) that followed as I adjusted to a new pattern. Instead of waking up at 4:45 to make the commute into Nashville, I was doing freelance work in my pajamas at 11:00 a.m. and going to the grocery store at 2 p.m. I baked, I baby-sat, I wrote, I edited and I searched for a new job.

It was a hard, difficult season, and I used to say it was one of the worst of my life.

But now, looking back, I can say it was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Here’s why:

If I had not lost my job, I would not be working where I am today, gaining new, valuable skills.

If I had not lost my job, Stephen and I would not have learned how to scrimp and save on one paycheck and still make it work.

If I had not lost my job, I would not have had the extra time to spend with friends, babysit their kids, learn to bake or get to know our new church family on a deeper level.

If I had not lost my job, I would not have learned to fully rely on the Lord for His provision.

If I had not lost my job, I would not have learned the pain that comes when the Lord takes something away and the joy that comes when you can still say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

He gives and takes away,
But my heart will choose to say,
Blessed be the name of the Lord

I’m so thankful I lost my “dream” job. It was a terrible season in my life, yes, but it led me to something beautiful. I love what I do today.

But that terrible season also taught me something else: We all go through difficult seasons. Walking through that awful time of unemployment prepared me for even more difficult seasons of life. As I wait (often impatiently) to be a mother, I’ve reminded myself how important it is to continue praising the Lord in the valley and on the mountain. This season I’m currently in—infertility, longing to be a mother, waiting to adopt—is hard and emotional and difficult. But I have confidence that one day I’ll be rocking a baby and look back on this season and say, “That was a difficult time in my life. But the Lord is good, and He drew me close to Him. This wasn’t my plan, but it was His, and it is beautiful.”