life into likeness

messy joy

Sometimes the mess of life makes my order-loving heart beat an uneven rhythm as I dwell on the clean-up to come. 
Not today. Messy is good. Messy is what every day is. Family is messy. Loving each other well when we’re tired is messy. Being kind to each other when our instinct is self-preservation is messy. 

But there is great joy to be found if we choose to look for it. 

There is dying to self in the mess. There’s awareness of who we were, who we are, and who God is calling us to be. 

There is awareness that complacency is death, and desperation can be life-giving if we allow the questions we ask to be answered by our perfect Father.

So… bring on the messy things. The end result is always worth it. 

lavender jade

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“The lavender is more rare,” he told me in the crowded marketplace teeming with voices and noises completely different from those I was accustomed to at home.  I glanced down at the little face, the rare butterfly who flitted into my life and knew the circle of lavender is what I needed. One day, I would be able to tell her the story about why I chose the palest purple rather than the tradition green.  She will know why I hold the cold circle to my mouth to feel it gradually warm against my lips.  It’s a reminder to love the rare things in life; a reminder of those days when our family was first being forged into something new and beautiful.  A lavender jade kind of beauty.

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Earlier in the summer, we had a precious vial of Julianne’s blood drawn in order to undergo genetic testing.  Specifically, we wanted to learn more about the type and sub-type of EB she has.  Epidermolysis Bullosa is rare.  Lavender jade rare.  There are several types and a plethora of sub-types within each type.  Because the physical symptoms vary so much between people even within the same type or sub-type, we felt that knowing more information might help us take a glance into her future; we knew it was information she would one day want to know.

After eight weeks of waiting, we got her results back, and though I had secretly hoped for clear-cut “this is what she has” print on our paper copy, it wasn’t quite conclusive.  The type is conclusive, and exactly what I’ve thought she had since Day One.  The sub-type is the mystery.  A lavender jade mystery.

There are cases where what’s on the inside (genotype) doesn’t match what’s on the outside (phenotype).  These cases are unique, and no one really knows why it happens.  There are guesses, assumptions, and suppositions, but no concrete knowledge.  It looks like she’s one of these unique cases; surprisingly, she’s more unique than even I imagined. Lavender jade unique.

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Why do I mention any of this at all?

Because knowing these details about the way her DNA is bound together has changed me.

I realized a few days after perusing through some medical journals that with the slightest twist, her life, our lives… they would have been vastly different.  With the slightest twist, she may not have exhibited physical signs of EB at all, and chances are strong that she would still be living half a world away from us.  With the slightest twist, she may have exhibited more severe physical signs of EB, and, not knowing anything about it at the start of our adoption process, we may have felt we could not care for her the way she would have needed to be cared for.

My stomach clenched tight at these realizations.  I was not okay with it.  Not okay with her not being here for any reason.  Not okay with remaining unaware of the beauty of the butterfly we call our daughter.

She has caused me to grow and stretch in ways I could have never imagined.  She has taught me what strength in the face of sheer terror looks like.  She has demonstrated bravery in situations that would have caused me to crumble had I not had her steady brown eyes to look into.  Having her has taught me that what’s on the outside 110% doesn’t matter even an inch compared to what’s on the inside.  Her outside screams pain and suffering.  Her inside shines with joy forged in the fire.  It’s a lavender jade kind of joy.

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The lavender circle is heavy around my neck.  Rare things are to be protected, and our daughter is one of them.  The weight of protecting her hums through my brain, through my blood. Protection as a mandate, as a gift to another mama halfway around the world who wore the same weight years ago.

She is a gift.  I know that now more than ever before.  A lavender jade kind of gift.

Rare.  Precious.  Beautiful.

 

 

new perspective

A photo by Jason Ortego. unsplash.com/photos/buF62ewDLcQ

You look at me and tell me I’m awesome.

I look at you and tell you “awesome” means nothing in the face of the kind of tired I feel many days.

***

You see me dealing with medical care, appointments, and therapies and wonder how I maintain composure in the face of a life-long diagnosis.

I see me barely holding it all together some days.

***

You see our large family craziness and say, “That kind of ‘normal’ is not for me!”

I know “normal” is a myth and we all just have to take each day as it comes.

***

You see my child doing well in her new environment.

I see the battles she had to fight to make it to this place.

***

You see us and tell us how well adjusted we all are.

I see us and know this current dynamic has been hard won.

***

You see the dimple creasing her cheek as she giggles and twirls in her favorite dress.

I see her grieving losses she doesn’t completely understand.

***

You wonder how we manage to do the activities we do.

I often see the things we can’t do.

***

You applaud my parenting.

I feel despair in the face of my failures.

***

You say I’m strong.

I know I’m weak.

***

You say we’ve come so far.

I see how far we have left to go.

***

But you know what?

I also see the things you see.

Her beauty, resilience, bravery.  My growing patience, wisdom, compassion.

A year ago, I could only see my side of the story, the things you saw were shrouded in gray.   I could only see how far we had to go.  I could only focus on the ways in which life was upside down.  I could only talk about the fears I had for the future.

I’m glad God calls us to do hard things, because that’s when we see a little more of His heart.

I’m thankful for today and the slow shifting of my eyes; more upward.  Less inward.

I’m thankful that HE sees her.  Broken.

I’m thankful that HE sees me.  Broken.

And he heals.

The journey continues.

 

first day of school

Oh Happy Day 2

It’s official.

Summer of 2016 is in the books, and School Year 2016-1017 is off to a great start!

Oh Happy Day

Oh.

Were you expecting super cute pictures of my kids?

Whoops!

Okay, okay. I did take some pics of them, and, as per the norm, they are adorable.  And one day, I might post a few. But today is a big day not just because it’s their first day of school… it’s MY first day of school, too!   For the past ten years, we have had a child at home in some form or fashion.  Babies, toddlers, homeschoolers, a newly adopted dumpling, and I’ve loved it.  I never ever take for granted that I am able to stay home with my children. Even on the rough days, I know it’s a gift.

I also know I’m going to enjoy this next phase of life.  All four in school right now.  All at the SAME location (!!!), and all excited about their new year.  I can’t wait to be the one who can say “yes” to things I’ve never been able to say yes to before, like helping out with our school’s new dyslexia program.   I am pumped to know that I can make it to every field trip without having to find childcare for the kids still at home.  I can run lunches to them just for fun some days, and *gasp* perhaps even have a lunch or two with the Hubs sans children.  I will be able to hang out and reconnect with friends I haven’t been able to see much of over the past two years, and stroll leisurely-like through a grocery store while pushing a cart.

It’s gonna be good.  A different kind of good.

Oh happy day!

PS – If you love this Oh Happy Day shirt as much as I do (it’s super comfy!) click here to get yourself one!  The proceeds will be used by The Sparrow Fund to help fund orphan care initiatives, among other cool projects.  Check them out!

eighteen months

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I remember distinctly when my first three babies hit the eighteen-month mark in age.  The one-year mark was huge, but for whatever reason, making it to the halfway point on Year Two was just significant for me.

Maybe I realized that I was, indeed, actually DOING THIS THING.

By the time my firstborn reached 18 months old, I already had another baby, aged 3 months.  By the time my second born was 18 months old, we were close to discovering there would be baby #3 headed our way in the next year.  When my third born was 18 months old, I felt settled.

Set.

At peace with the number our family had (quickly) grown to.

*God chuckled*

Now, Julianne is past the 18 months mark being home.  A year and a half.  Though the one-year mark felt huge, this milestone feels big, too.

Maybe I’m realizing that I am, indeed, actually DOING THIS THING.

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Eighteen months comes right at the start of a new stage in life; going to the same school with big brothers and big sister.

Eighteen months comes with some uncertainty.  What will this new school be like?

Eighteen months is full of knowing that the norms are about to change, and needing to draw closer to family things to cope.

Eighteen months looks real.  It’s continually processing fears and grief and anxiety.

Eighteen months is fun.

It’s learning-how-to-swim,

being-read-to,

and wearing-favorite-costumes-to-the-grocery-store.

Eighteen months is loving speech therapy and growing in leaps and bounds.

Eighteen months is singing favorite songs, asking to be called “Princess”, and having a definite preference for Chinese-style noodles.

Eighteen months isn’t by any stretch of the imagination perfect.  

But it’s more familiar.  It’s safer feeling.  It’s more connected. 

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A year and a half.

My, oh my.  Time flies.

**photography by Laura James photography**

going for gold {an end of summer post}

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It’s single digits until the kids go back to school (not that I’m counting).

It warms my heart to hear them talking about how they can’t wait to go back because, let’s be honest, I can’t wait for them to go back either.

I’m introverted.

Deeply, deeply introverted.

I need s-p-a-c-e… and *shhhhhh* quiet time.

I LOVE my people.  Love them so much.  But their combined rambunctiousness drains me faster than the maps app drains the battery on my phone.

School.  I can’t even say the word without grinning like a crazy lady these days.

At the start of the summer, there were lofty ambitions.  And you know?  June was amazing.  And about half of July.

But then?

ALL OF THE CAMPS AND FUN STUFF WERE SUDDENLY OVER,

AND MY SANITY BEGAN TO FALTER.

June = {I love being around all my babies all day long every day!} face.

August = {Why the heck is summer so stinking long?} face.

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I know I’m not alone.

We start out the summer with gold medal ambition, and then there is stuff that makes us just lose it.

Good news, mamas.  There is a gold medal for us on the other side of Summer 2016.  We can do this.  The last few days, we can (swim?) the race we were called to, and we can do it in a way we can be proud of.  We’re not just beginners jumping into this Pool of Summertime Motherhood, we are champions.  We will not falter.  We may feel like we are barely treading water, and truth be told, there are times when we feel like we’re doing good to be treading water, but let’s finish with a bang, shall we?  Power through, mamas, and know that I am 110% there with you.

We’re in the last 50 meters and we are GOING FOR GOLD.

going for gold blog

We are going to find things to be thankful for.  We will write them down and say them out loud when the hard moments try to shatter us.

We are not going to waste the precious days we have remaining with our kiddos at home.

We will not care if the bathrooms continue to grow that funky stuff in the shower.

We will not cringe if they take not even one bath between now and the weekend.

We will label all the school supplies happily.

We will say “yes” to at least some of the crazy stuff the kids want to do before heading back into school year routines.

We can do this.

*fist bump*

And, amen.

 

 

first friend

These two faces.

Be still my heart.

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Today was our last time to get together and play here, because Miss G and her family are moving to another state in a few days.

It absolutely broke my heart to see these sweet two hugging for the last time today.  The sweet clinging to each other, the asking, “You will miss me?” and hearing, “I will miss you really really really a lot!”

I know there will be other friends in Julianne’s future.  Loads and loads of them, I hope.  But this friend will always have a special place in her heart because she was Julianne’s first friend.

Thankful today for first friendships, and the gift of being able to watch this sweetest of friendships blossom.

don’t forget where we have come from

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Our summer is moving along, lickety-split, and if I’m being honest, it’s actually been pretty good. This time last year, I could have not anticipated how much better this year would be. Last summer we were living in the the freshly-home-cocoon.  This summer?  We have broken out of the cocoon, and it is just plain fun to do things again.

We’re getting out a little more.

Playing at parks a little more.

We even went on a vacation to the beach!

We are meeting up with friends a little more.

Exploring a little more.

Trying new experiences.

Letting the schedule become a little more relaxed.

It has been… fun.

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All of this is great, but there are times when we struggle a bit with the lack of hardcore routine.  Julianne is more affected by the lack of routine than the rest of us;  she has experiences in her past that make knowing what’s going on around her a necessity in her world.  She faces new experiences and challenges with a braveness I cannot fathom.  She is SO. BRAVE. But it’s hard for her, too, to live these new experiences for which she has no basis for understanding ahead of time.

She comes away from a week of Vacation Bible School having had a blast, but also needing to stick right by mama for a few days.  Needing to call out “where are you” a little more often to make sure I’m still here.

She comes away from a beach vacation having had a blast and asking to go back, but also needing to be assured that whatever her siblings can do, she can do, too.

She comes away from days with more relaxed schedules having enjoyed the spontaneity of doing things spur-of-the-moment, but needing to plan out ahead of time which outfit she will wear the next day, and needing to know exactly what we will have for snack that afternoon.

She is aware that some kids are doing different camps and activities than others in the family this summer, and so she has started asking, “Can I?“; the question on the surface seeming simple, but the desire for belonging running deep.

I confess, the return to needing to constantly reassure her about her place in our family makes me weary.  I wonder, “when will she completely understand that she is here for good, that we aren’t going anywhere, that we want to and will include her?”

And the answer is… I have no idea.

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And so today, I am being intentional about looking for ways to be thankful in this call to being more than I think I am, this asking for more than I think I have to give.  When she calls out “where are you?”, I choose to think about how sweet her voice sounds.

When she needs to be right next to me and declares she is going to, “follow me all day long”, I choose to be thankful that the dream of a child I harbored in my heart for years is here beside me and wanting to be with me.

When she asks, “can I?” in regards to anything, I choose to be thankful that I can answer “yes, you can!”, and I commit to finding more ways to say yes not only to her, but to all four of my babies.

When she needs a little more structure, I choose to help her pull out tomorrow’s outfit, and write down what we will have for dinner so she can hold on to it, and doing it all not just to make things easier for me, but to help her feel more secure.

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Choosing gratitude isn’t always easy,

especially when we forget how far we have come to begin with.  

Thankful for the sweet reminders of how far we have come in a year.

Thankful for the grace to enjoy today for today.

 

simple gratitude

I had a different post ready for today… but when I woke up and saw that more heartbreak  had been heaped onto a nation already reeling from injustices committed, well, things changed.  My typed words will always seem inadequate to me when compared to the depth of emotion I feel.  And yet to say nothing is not an option.

Today, I don’t take for granted that I was able to see my husband before he left for work today.

Today, I don’t take for granted that when he comes home tonight, I will be able to hug him and ask him how his day was.

There are women in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Dallas who saw the sun rise this morning and knew that they wouldn’t be able to do the same.

Today, I don’t take for granted that my children will automatically understand how to love others without us teaching them.  We sit, we talk candidly at their level, we cry together when our hearts are stirred by the injustices of Alton Sterling’s death, Philando Castile’s death, and the deaths of the police officers in Dallas last night.  We talk about their own right, even as children, to stand up for those who need a protector, and how that sometimes seems like a dangerous choice, but it is always the right choice.  We talk about how even at our own table, we don’t all look exactly the same, but we are all loved by the God who made us to be his image-bearers.

Today it would be easy for me to be overwhelmed by the pain, and trying to shut it off (well, that doesn’t affect ME).  Today I could try to reason it all out somehow with words; words that could never be adequate because I have not walked in the footsteps of the ones hurting.

But I can walk with them.  I can grieve with them.

I am grateful that mourning has it’s place in Christianity.  If Jesus weeps, then surely the tears that fall from our eyes are worthwhile.  And may the tears fall.  May our hearts not be turned to stone when we hear about yet another round of brutality in our country.  May we not brush it off with “that’s just how it is and nothing can change it.”  

Change us, Lord!  Help us see what you see.  Show us how to love like you love.

May we not forget the simple gratitude of being given Today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from the zoo…

It gets pretty hot. 

But I’m thankful there are a few reasonable hours in the morning. 

And for these… my people… who agree to the picture on the hippo every time we are here. ❤️