God, Is He My Son?

Sometimes the best things happen when you step out into blind faith. When you look back on all the little yesses that make it that much easier to that one big yes. When we follow, just one step at a time, listening to that gentle whisper, whether or not it really makes the most logical sense.

I may be partial, but that smile melts my heart.

I may be partial, but that smile melts my heart.

One of these best things just happens to be our son.

Six-years-ago we were on the path to adopting one child from the DRCongo. Six-years-ago we had a plan. And it was pretty simple. We knew we could handle three children. Financially, emotionally, physically, we just had a pretty good handle on three kids.

But God doesn’t always want us to stay where we are comfortable. God doesn’t pat our backs and tell us how wonderful our parenting is or cheer us on like we’ve got everything under control. God pulls us up and out of that place. Over and over again.

He tells us to hang on to Him. And then He places us in the middle of some crazy things. Things that feel really big to us. Things that we don’t really have answers for. Things that maybe don’t make a whole lot of sense.

But that whisper, that tug on our hearts. And we said yes.

So we accepted the referral of the cutest little 18-month-old girl. And we thought we were complete.

Until God said there’s more.

More that I want you to step into. More faith for you to hold. More blessings. More of me.

So we did. We looked at photos of nice vacations. And then photos of devastation. Photos of children waiting for families. And we were a family. Waiting for children.

We made the call and stepped into a great(er) unknown.

“I know this sounds crazy, but are there any other waiting children in our daughter’s foster home? We feel God calling us to more.”

And the answer was no.

Okay, God. I see this. You strengthen our faith. You ask us for more. And close the door.

And then a while later the phone rings.

“You’ll never believe this…I’d like you to pray. Ask God if he’s your son.”

I stared at the cross that Easter weekend, asking God for answers. Is this sick little boy our son? What if I’m not enough for him? What if he’s just too sick? How can you heal him, Lord?

But those eyes and his cheeks. And his need and my heart. My heart breaking open a million and one times, again and again.

And we said yes. Again and again. Against advice and against all reason. Against what some would say, sound judgement. To give this little boy a chance.

Because God gives us a chance. Over and over again. Against all odds. Against all reason.

Because it was time again to give God a chance. With our hearts. Against all odds. Against all reason.

I don’t know why God saved this boy, gave him a second chance at life. I don’t know why he was born with such a big heart and strong faith and brave soul. I don’t know all the miracles God worked in his life even now. But I do know, I do believe, God has a big plan for this boy’s life.

Five and a half years ago, I held him for the first time. After dreaming of what his weak little body would feel like in my arms. I held tight, but gently. I was afraid of hurting him, but squeezing him hard and not letting go was my first instinct. It wasn’t his, though. He actually preferred his new daddy. Calling me, “white mama”, those four-year-old brown eyes danced with laughter. I should have known then what a jokester he was.

And we waited. And waited. And fought for him and prayed. We prayed for protection and healing and health. We prayed for a homecoming, a miracle, more.

Three-sweet-years-ago today, my miracle boy was brought home. He was frail and weak and quiet. He was scared (and so was I). He was six, not four. He was big, not so little. He was my son. He is my son.

And how far we’ve come.

When We Choose Despair

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When we choose despair. 

We curl up in a ball. We don't get out of bed. We lose hope. Or feel hopeless. 

We quit eating. We shut people out. We stop. Stop talking. Stop communicating with our Lord. 

And we tell everyone that are fine. 

How are you? 

I'm fine. How are you?


Oh but God doesn't buy it. That fine business. 

And when we are really fine, we admit that we are not. 

And when we are really choosing hope, we admit that it is hard.

And when we are really fighting for life, we admit that we don't know how.

And when we are really pursuing answers, we admit that we are struggling. 

And we cry out. As Job cries out. And we tell the Lord how it feels. And we do not tell Him we are fine, when we are not fine. We do not thank Him for these things when our hearts are not in that place. 

When we are in the valley, it does not surprise Him. When it feels as though He is hiding His face from us, He knows that feeling. When we feel forsaken, He understands. 

And He longs for us. To be near Him. To come to Him. To cry our hearts out for Him and to Him alone. 

We do not have to explain our heart cries to the ones around us when our heart cries are for Him alone. When our hearts and minds and souls beg for answers from the Almighty but it feels as though He is not answering. 

Tell Him so. 

Tell Him how you feel, with all the emotions and feelings and words you can bare. 

He can and He will take it.

And He will say, "my child. I AM." 

And "you are. You are BELOVED."

And no matter the pain and suffering and lostness and mess you feel and made. It all just trickles into view and fades away. Because God puts it all into place.Because Jesus came to die and conquer death and wipe it all away.

Although it may not feel like it now, I know it will then. When we come face to face. When I meet my Creator and feel His embrace.

It will then. It will all be so small, this earthly pain. And I will no longer wonder or question or feel these grievous things.

And neither will you. Because the glory ahead outweighs any pain and suffering we endure. The beauty ahead shadows the ugliness here. The Lord. I AM.

And the light will shine in all the darkness. And this whole thing, will be but a memory.

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.  Job 12:10

And there will be a day when it's me before God. And you before God. And in our suffering, it is this. 

When all we have left is this. Just Jesus. And all the things and opinions and suggestions and words hold no more meaning. Because it's just this. All earthly things fade away. 

What do we have left? 

Just Jesus. 

When we despair?

God knows. 

And we admit it to Him, just as Job does in chapters 13 and 14. 

And He leads us back to the cross. To Himself. He answers our cries, even when it feels as though He doesn't. He does because we have truth. We have the Bible. We may not hear an audible voice, but we have His words written down for us. 

It's okay to cry out to Him, to be angry, to wonder and be scared.

But we do not stay there. 

We go to Him. The Author of our story. The Perfector of our faith. The Creator of our lives. The Bringer of hope. 

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He Called My Name

He called my name.

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My son. He's my son through and through. I love him fiercely. But in adoption, that love may not be returned right away or ever. 

Today he was hurt. He was stuck and in pain. And he called my name. He yelled "Mommy!! Mommy! I need you. It hurts!"

I went to him. I went to comfort and hug. I tried to take the pain away. I hurt for him. But I was also thanking Jesus because ...

He called my name. He called me mommy and he wanted me when he was hurt. You guys. This is a big deal. And it's beautiful. But it's not always the case. And sometimes I ask myself, if this were going another way, would I still be praising Jesus? If this adoption thing were any more difficult, would I feel defeated? If I was unable to bond with my child, would I feel as though I failed? Would I feel alone? How would I respond if things were not going well? 

I'd like to think I'd cling to Him. I'd like to say with confidence that I would never doubt my choices even if it were difficult and scary and maybe even miserable. But, I'm not in that season right now so I don't know. I know that as I praise the Lord in the calm, peaceful, beautiful days, I am preparing myself for a storm. Because no matter what, storms do come. Some are big and some are small, but as long as we walk this earth, they will come. 

And praising Jesus in the beauty of the everyday prepares my heart for them.

I want to encourage you because maybe you are in a stormy place. It will pass. Cling to Him. And surround yourself with people that will point you to Christ. (Don't have anyone, please let me help you find some! I'm so serious right now. We cannot do life alone.)

If you are in the peaceful, pretty days and life is going well. Enjoy it. Love it. Live it. Praise Jesus throughout those moments. We must not take them for granted. These are our days to prepare our hearts, to strengthen our relationship with Jesus. Because I promise you, the time will come. We all have moments of weakness and He needs to be our strength. 

There is beauty though, in both the storm and the calm. I pray you see both. I pray you cling to Him. I pray for strength for days ahead. 

The Sun Still Rises

Weary mamas, desperate souls, planners, recovering controllers. I am all of these and more. I lose sleep over all the things. I worry when I shouldn’t. I plan when I should trust. I control when I should let go. I seek out when I should rest. I do all the things, when I should be quiet. I talk when I should listen. I write when I should pray. You probably do this, too. Because that is what we do. We are human. We are caregivers. We are responsible. We are busy. And weary and worn.

Maybe you think this is not you? But did you know, you can plan all the things and pull them off well. You can fix all the meals, feed all the people, clean all the bathrooms, wash all the clothes and feel truly happy, but still fall short? Because we are not made to do all the things alone. And happiness is fleeting. It depends on us feeling as though we are right where we need to be in all of the things in all of life. But joy.

Joy comes from the Lord.

The sun comes up early each day, but yet it still rises.

There are a few things we can count on while raising these tiny humans.

One is the sun. It faithfully rises and sets each day. Some days it shines deep and wide into our lives, breathing life in the form of vitamin D and hope and joy and fresh starts and new days.

Some days the sun is what I cling to. Summer mornings are my favorite, bright and beautiful, humid and heavy. Birds chirping a new song, the same song for a new day, singing praises to our Lord. They have young to feed, too. (Luke 12:22-34)

And I am reminded in the early morning, what keeps me up at night? Why must I lose sleep over such things? Am I truly tusting the Lord with every breath, with every life in my care? Am I thinking more about my to-do list, my grocery list, my dinner plans, than I am about what the Lord has done for me? Hasn’t He always done good things for me? Hasn’t He always come through, because He IS good. He IS steadfast. He IS true. He IS always. He is the light in the darkness. He is the strength for the weary. He is joy in the morning.

Morning comes. Each new day, the sun still rises. What a beautiful thing to count on. It doesn’t matter how much money I have or what I’m feeding the kids for dinner. It doesn’t matter if I am resting in my own bed or sitting next to my child in the hospital. The sun still comes up.

Some days the clouds cover it more than others. Some days the light seems dim to us because of rain or storms. But it is still there. Doing it’s job. Steadfast.

Some days I can clearly see our Lord, His goodness, His favor, His blessings. But some days my view of Him is clouded over with the storms of life. But He is still there. Steadfast. Sure. And good.

Today I will watch the sun come up. It will rise just as it does every other day. It rises whether I am watching and aware of it or not. It rises even on days I do not care to notice. The sun does not depend on me or my faith.

The Lord does not need me to trust in Him to do His good works. To bless Him. To draw my children to Himself.

But, weary or refreshed, lonely or overwhelmed, joyful or hopeful or faithful, unsure or confident, poor or rich, whatever I am on the emotional spectrum on any given day, doesn’t change the fact that the sun comes up and the Lord is near and good and stable and sovereign. Thank goodness He does not depend on me to do good things. Thank goodness my faith is not dependent on myself.

Today I will praise Him. Sing the same song on a new day, not always knowing where the next thing I may need is coming from, not knowing when the next storm will stir, but knowing Who holds the day. Who holds all the days. Who causes the sun to rise and sets my heart in place. I may not know what the day will hold, but I know Who holds the day.

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The Sway In My Heart//Job Study

Who can say their faith never waivers? 

Who can say they have never asked God why?

Or doubted Him?

Or struggled to believe that He is good? 

Who can say they've never asked hard or obvious or ridiculous questions?

Or questioned circumstances in someone else's life?

What about the beggar? The homeless? The wandering soul?

But aren't we all just one of these?


At some point in all our lives, we are Job. We are Job's friend. We are in need. In despair. Questioning. Longsuffering. 

It may be black and white. Or a little grey. It may be glaring other's in the face, such as child loss or a housefire. But it may be a swaying in your heart, doubting, "am I really good enough?". It may be that silent anxiety creeping up inside, but on the outside you just look pre-occupied or anti-social. 

I have an entire devotional coming out soon about seeing people through God's eyes. I'm amazed at how well this study fits into that. (But why am I amazed? Isn't God just like that?)

So, I guess I've needed this whole thing a lot more than I even realized. But isn't that, again, true? Don't we always need God more than we know? 

Why do I come full circle? Do I have such little faith? 

And that is exactly what I pull from Job chapters 8-10. 

This sway. The back and forth conversation between Job and his friends. They have the knowledge. God is good. He is Almighty. He is GOD. Have faith, they tell Job. (chapter 8)

But Job does have faith. He had faith before. He has faith now. He knows that God is who He says He is. And Job is no less in awe of our Almighty God than His friends. And he says to them, "Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?"  

Accepting his desperate life, yet not. He wants to plead for mercy, and he longs for "someone to bring us together, someone to remove God's rod from me" a mediator, he says. Because he knows God and his power. He knows his place, our place on this earth. And he knows the greatness of God. 

And he cries out to our God, in this lament before his friends. 

Obviously, this is not meant to show us only good. This is meant to show us bad things happen to good people. This earth is broken and sinful and there is pain and suffering. 

And crying out to our Lord is not wrong. 

Telling Him how we feel, our doubts and thoughts and desires and questions, can be a beautiful form of worship. 

We trust Him enough.

We believe He is good. 

We see what He has done for us. He made us. He knows us. He accepts us. He perfects us. He saves us. He loves us. He is coming for us. 

Our doubts and questions and cries show our great need for Him. 

And as long as we do not stay in that place, will be used for His glory. 

As long as we come out of the depths of despair and into His arms again.

As long as we rest in the promise of His triumph. 

As long as we know full well, this world is not the end. There is more, perfection, glory, beauty ahead. If not here on earth, in heaven with Him. 

And that is worth living for. And dying for. And breathing for. And crying for. And fighting for. 

I pray that you enter into your week with fresh eyes. Whatever suffering you endure this week, it is fleeting. Our days are few. 
And whatever suffering you come across this week, sit with them. Remind them. It is fleeting. 

This whole, entire life may feel as though it can be described as longsuffering. And I am so sorry. This is not how God desired it to be. And that is why He made a way, a perfect and sinless and victorious way. 

And that is how we endure this suffering. This long, drawn out, cutting, dull pain of suffering. We choose Hope. We choose Joy. We choose Jesus. 

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He Provides Rain // Job Study

This Job study. It hits a little hard. It makes me wonder and ask. Mostly about myself. How would I handle this life without God? How would I handle my life if it paralleled Job’s?

I invite you to read Job 3-7 with me.

Job's in a really bad place.

Cursing the day of his birth (Job 3), he begs the Lord for death. Because his life is miserable, even when he lies down to sleep he is tormented in his dreams. 

He asks God why. 

He looks at his life. Is there sin that led to such anguish?

He has this conversation with his friends. His friend seems to be encouraging to him right now (Job 4). He reminds Job of the wonders and miracles God performs everyday. How He sustains life and bestows blessings. His friend reminds Job that he has seen it, too. "So hear it and apply it to yourself." (Job 5). 

And this back and forth, with Job begging God. "Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath, my eyes will never see happiness again." (Job 6 & 7)

Job can't see the whole picture. Did God tell Job why? Did He tell Job He allowed Satan free reign because in the end, the Lord would be glorified even more?

Maybe you're Job or maybe you're Job's friend. 

If you are Job right now, man I am so sorry. If you are in the depths of despair, begging for relief from this cruel world, asking for a miracle, or just wondering "why", you are not alone. You are not the first and not the last. And each moment of anquish provides us a chance to answer the question, are we with God or against Him? Do we trust Him? Will we allow these moments to draw us closer to Him or push us away? Will we allow bitterness to dwell in our hearts? Or the Holy Spirit to take hold of our souls? 

If you are Job's friend right now...I want to encourage you to sit with Job. You can ask those really hard questions. You can encourage. You can lift up. Words carry a lot of weight, especially in times like this. 

He provides rain for the earth (Job 5:10). Help your friend, who is in the depths of despair, and maybe even blinded from it, to see clearly, to remember what the Lord has done and continues to do. 

And then, just be. Be with Job. 

Whether you are Job or his friend, let's move forward pointing each other toward Christ. In truth and in love, one moment at a time. Because this life here on earth is but a breath. Our moments become our lives and our lives our legacy. So when bad things happen, we ask the questions. We choose Christ. And we move on. These moments of despair do not have to define us. It's what we do with them. It's who we choose in them. 

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When Will The Suffering End?

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Right after Thao died I had the fleeting thought that I had paid my dues. The unimaginable had happened. Thao died. I lost my son. 

I had been convinced a few months earlier that I would never lose a child. That the Lord would not allow that kind of pain and suffering in my child's life. 

But I had been corrected. 

And yet I still thought that maybe I was safe. The rest of my life I could rest assured because I had already spent my time in the hospital. I had already surrendered. The Lord asked for surrender. I dedicated my life and my marriage and my family to Him. Done.

Check. Check. Check.

But friends, where in the Bible does it say once you have suffered enough, I will make the road easy for you? Your journey will be full of only good things. Your life will be easy. And comfortable. 

No where. 

The Lord says this world is fallen and broken and sinful and a wreck. Because, sin. 

The Lord also says He gives us the gifts of joy and hope and salvation and heaven. Because, Jesus.

I lost my son. I lost three precious babies before I held them. I waited three and a half years for my Congolese babies to come home. I lost a lot of stuff in a house fire

And none of those things have stolen my joy or my love or my salvation or my Jesus from me. I love my life and I enjoy my days!

Because the things I cling to are eternal, not earthly. The thing I will hold most dear to my heart cannot be bought with money or contained in a house. I hold onto Hope the most of all. 

Because of Hope, I know that I will see Thao again. 

Because of Hope, I know that I will meet my precious babies face to face. 

Because of Hope, I endured the wait. 

Because of Hope, the stuff I lost was put into perspective. 

Because of Jesus, my Hope. 

So, dear friends, when will this suffering end? 

As long as we walk this blessed earth, we will endure suffering. We will walk alongside the suffering. We will bring the suffering into our homes. We will be the suffering. 

It will ebb and flow. Some days just finding shoes for five kids feels a lot like suffering. Some days soggy carrots and messed up meal plans feels a lot like suffering. Some days I feel as though I carry the suffering souls in my own. Some days suffering is holding my child as he takes his last breath or watching my house go up in flames. Some days suffering is holding a hurting child and loving them anyway. 

Do not run from suffering. 

We can't take anything with us, but we can see other souls ushered into Jesus' arms by the way we live through the suffering.  

Be like Job. 

Praise Jesus through the suffering.  (Job 1:20-22)

Be like Job's friends. 

Sit with the suffering. (Job 2:13)





This Is About Hearts

Less than one year ago this bitty baby was born.


He changed our lives before that, though. Those stories are for another day.

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He knew my voice, his daddy’s voice, his siblings’ voices. He raised his head off my chest just a few minutes after being born. He looked straight into my eyes. And then snuggled deep into his daddy’s arms. 

A few hours after he was born he was exercising his right to opinions. He hated being cold, sweaty was best. He wanted held. All the time. Hours old. He knew us. He cried. We met his needs.


My heart breaks with all the news of abortion laws lately. My heart hurts for these precious babies but also for their mamas. Hurt people hurt people. This works is so broken. 

If I could say one thing to a hurting mama today, I would hug them and beg them for life. I would personally find a family to love that baby. And I promise you, adoptive parents can and do love their children the same as biological. Scroll through. I know. 

I know families with empty arms waiting to parent someone else’s child. Because adoption and birth are both blessings. 

I know families that have their hands full in other people’s eyes, but their hearts have more love to spare. 

I hate getting political. But this isn’t about a law or ruling. It’s personal. It’s about hearts. Love. Surrender. Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Breath. Life. 

I beg you, lonely, scared, exhausted, weary mama. I will help you choose life. 

#babies #baby #bittybaby #life #breath #chooselife #foreverfamily #adoption #adoptionrocks #adoptivemama #fullhands #fullheart #hopewriters #bringeroflight #comfortofGod #domesticadoption #internationaladoption #birth #love #mom #mama #rainbowbaby #birthmom #adoptivemom

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On Adoption

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I’ll admit in the world of adoption, with all the extremes and scary scenarios, I believe we have it pretty good.

Maybe I’m just biased but I think we have some really amazing kids. Like strong and brave and gentle and kind and loving. All of them.

There are rough times though. I don’t want to paint a perfect picture. We all have our flaws. And sometimes I think we expect too close to perfection from our kids. Let me tell you something…they forget things. (I do, too.) They get tired. They get frustrated. They get scared. They get hungry. They don’t feel like listening or using their manners or being kind. They need their space. They don’t want to do school. Or clean up after themselves. Some days they don’t want to shower or do their hair. They are human. Like me and you, they often have to do things they just don’t want to do.

Our job is to teach them how to do it anyway. How to do these things with grace and good attitudes. With confidence and joy. To be thorough in our work. And to be kind in our play.

Some days are a little more challenging than others. Some days I’m less patient. Some days they push until I have no patience left at all.

But, God.

And on these rough days I have to remember, somehow, God hand-picked us to be their parents. The ones that were born from me and the ones that came to me. I have to remember none of this is how God intended, but He is making a way. He didn’t want the broken and the loss and the pain for us, but we are not excempt from this hurting world. And bad things do happen to good people and parents and kids…

And for some reason, out of the millions of kids, we got the best ones. (Okay, I am biased.) But, whatever, I’ll take it.

In the midst of a consequence for disobeying today, I put my arm around my daughter and whispered, “You may not understand right now, you may not feel it right now, but I love you soooo much.” My child, again, blew me away. She stopped dead in her tracks, looked up at me and said “I understand that. I know you love me.” And turned back to her chores.

I know not every adoption story looks like this. I know adoption isn’t easy. You guys, parenting isn’t easy. Bio kids may not feel our love all the time. But…

Love.Is.This.

Adoption.

Parenting.

Forgiving.

Consistency.

Love is not giving up or giving in.

Love is hard.

Love is worth it.

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This Is What Seven-Year Grief Looks Like

My sweet Thao

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I stumble on my words. I brush past your photos sometimes. It hurts too bad.

It hurts because of time. It hurts because you’re gone. It hurts because I keep living. It hurts because it shouldn’t be this way. I’ve seen others given another chance, come back from the brink of death and I don’t get it. I don’t understand. And suddenly I find myself asking that question I’ve never asked before. Why? Why my Thao?

And yet I know the answer. Why not? Why not my Thao? Why not my sweet son?

No one really deserves the suffering, I tell myself. But yet, we do. Maybe it’s just that. I feel I deserved the suffering more than he did. Or maybe I feel none of us do at all. But that isn’t the truth, is it? Grief can lead me down these roads…the roads of untruth, of lies, of deep sadness and discontentment.

Maybe this is why. If I didn’t know this suffering, then I wouln’t know the depth of joy. If I didn’t know this grief and longing in the physical, then maybe I wouldn’t know how to be fully satisfied in Christ in my soul. Maybe this is actually mercy.

Because my sweet Thao isn’t suffering. Because my Thao is perfect. Although I would have argued he was near perfection here on earth, I know his body never quite worked right. I know he was physically fighting. I know he faced things I never have. I know that as my children grow they face more heartache and soul punches and gut wrenching pains. Because that is this world. It’s imperfect and sad and hurting.

But, God, I see you in it! I see you in trees with roots so deep. In the sunsets and sunrises. In the gentle giggle of a baby. In the doting older brother and the nurturing sister. I see you, God. You give us joy even in this suffering world. It’s not that bad here. And then I go full circle. Is it really mercy? Dear Lord, I want to see your purpose. I want to see the why. Seven years without….

I prayed for that child. I wanted him. I long for him. I miss him.

And once again, I can’t help myself. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of that precious life. You didn’t have to give us five beautiful years with him, yet you did. You didn’t have to allow us time for goodbye, but you did. You didn’t have to give us minds to remember, photos to treasure, more children to surrender, but you did.

And as deep and as painful as this open wound of death is, I would do it all over again. And again. And again.

Because love is deeper than all this pain.

Dear Thao,

I will never forget the way you looked at me the moment you were placed in my arms. All I had ever wanted was wrapped up in you. I had no idea what you would put me through, but I can easily say no, your strong-will was a gift.

It’s been a really long time since I woke in the night looking for you, or since I thought I heard your voice calling for me. I hate to even admit it but it’s true. I’ve gotten wrapped up in this life now. The past feels so far away. I’ve been without you longer than I had you. And somehow the pain runs so deep today. It doesn’t feel this way everyday anymore, something I also hate to admit. But I keep telling myself seven years without you means I am seven years closer to eternity with you.

What is perfect even like? I’ve tried to picture it a thousand times and I still fall short. I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to spend one more day with you. What would I say? What would I tell you? I’ve come up with million things and all of them fall short. Even in my daydreaming, I stumble over my own words.

If I had just one more day, I would hold you tight. I would wrap my arms around you, smell your perfectly round head and listen close. I wouldn’t say anything at all.

You know how deep my love runs for you. That is all. That is enough.

I treasure the memories. I am thankful for the gift of your life. I know what a blessing you still are. I will never stop aching for you. And i could never be more thankful for the hope of heaven.

I love you, dear sweet Thao.

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What Fills My Soul // speaking

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I didn’t schedule many speaking events last year. We began our year adding sweet little Luca to our family and it just didn’t seem to be the right time to schedule a whole lot of things. But as I reflect on things that fill my soul, speaking to groups of women is high on that list. Why though? Being in front of people, on stage, with a microphone has never been a dream of mine. I do believe, however, God planted the desire for me to share. To share my story, to share my words, to encourage and mostly to be competely dependent on him through it all. My word for this year is satisfied. Satisfied in Christ, above all things. Like a newborn babe resting contentedly with a belly full of milk, like enjoying a favorite meal after being hungry for so long, like a cold glass of water on a hot summer day, I long to be satisfied in Christ. So whatever I do and where ever I am, I am asking the Lord to bless my moments, to show me his face, to draw me close as I wash dish after dish, teach phonics and match, read aloud to a busy baby or gently pull him close. As I filter through the things that do not leave me satisfied in Christ, I am also reflecting on these things that do.

That being said, I’m not sure what God has for me here, but I will say yes if I am able. I will say yes to the Lord as he leads me. Sharing this from an email I had written just after speaking at a women’s luncheon a couple of years ago. I hope it encourages you as it did me!

It is always such a blessing for me to meet women and hear their stories, to reunite with women I knew so long ago, to start friendships, to be with sisters in Christ. But as always, the biggest blessing of it all, is to be pulled closer to Christ. Every single time I get to speak, to share the story that God has laid on my heart, I know that He is always speaking to me.


And I so often ask Him, "Why am I speaking to these people? I know nothing. I am learning. This is more for me than for them? Who am I, Lord, to share anything at all? "  

He ever-so clearly says to me, "because I call you and equip you, Tiffany. This is exactly where I want you to be, in utter dependence on me." 

Believers, the Holy Spirit lives within us, we can offer joy to the mourning, hope to the hopeless, a spirit of praise instead a spirit of fear, we can offer strength to the weary...and it's not because of anything we've done or said or accomplished. I am so humbled by this. It is only because of Jesus, His sacrifice and great love for us, that we even have the breath to speak the words of hope. How beautiful! How freeing!

Do you speak freedom and hope and love by the way you live?

Have you surrendered your ashes to the one who makes them beautiful? 


From my little luncheon talk this weekend: 

Our ashes are not always so evident. There is so much to surrender to Him. 

Our ashes. Anxiety? Illness? Loneliness?

Our ashes. Pain? Suffering? Job loss?

Our ashes. Loss? Struggles in marriage? Failed expectations?

Our ashes. We give them to our Lord and he promises beauty, redemption. But not necessarily beauty of the world, but beauty of eternal, heavenly things, spiritual things. 

Peace in the midst of chaos. Rest in the midst of strife. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Hope in the midst of despair. 

Calm in the midst of the storm.


What are we waiting for?

We will never be good enough. We are human and we fail but the Spirit of the living God lives within us. And what is more beautiful, freeing, equipping than that? I pray that today we walk forward in faith, sensitive to that still small voice of strength inside of us, pursuing the hard, tackling the impossible, planting seeds. Jesus is enough. I hope you start your week believing that. Because of Jesus...I am enough. Live with open hands, surrender your ashes and start your week with boldness and bravery and strength in Christ. 

-Tiffany

 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of a faint spirit;that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3


 

Christmas Letter 2018//Remember

Christmas letters seem to be a thing of the past since now we have all the social media at our fingertips. We know everything about everyone, including what they had for dinner last night and where they traveled in June. 


There’s just something about a letter, though. Something cozy and Christmasy and sweet. Something that makes me remember when things seemed a bit more simple. And I guess I kind of like that. 


So here’s a Christmas letter. A letter to remember. A letter representing all the things I want to remember. 


Christmas 2018 // Remember


January- Jeff and I celebrated fourteen beautiful years of marriage. We left our four kids for two nights and had a little baby-moon. It was lovely (and cold). We mostly ate food and watched movies, but we ventured out enough to get coffee and go to a used bookstore. Remember when we were just babies walking down that aisle? I can’t imagine it any other way. I love this married life.

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February - We welcomed our sweet baby, Luca Nehemiah on the 13th. He came on his due date! Luca means “bringer of light” and Nehemiah means “comfort of God”. He is both those things! He is such a joy. We are all in love with him and a little sad to see him growing up so quickly. It’s been quite fun watching the bigs with a baby. He has them wrapped around his little finger. He follows them wherever they go and wants to do all the big kid things. He has been a very laid back baby. Remember when people asked us as we stared at him if he was our first? And remember when we answered no, he’s number six? He is just such a gift. 


March - Isa Jenny turned seven-years-old! We cannot believe how quickly time goes. She is growing up so. She’s a wonderful big sister. She’s caring and gentle and very entertaining. She loves to build tents all over the house! And making up new songs is one of her favorite pastimes. Remember when she would light up at the sight of all the birthday balloons? And sing in Lingala? Sweet thing. 


April - Crusoe Jeremy turned nine. And time won’t stand still as much as I will it to. I’m not even sure how any of this is possible. He’s almost as tall as me now. He’s always a willing helper, a hard worker and he’s a really fun brother. This kid loves to make people laugh. He enjoys being outside and with his friends. Remember when I could give him a piggy back ride and he would walk straight out the front door to explore? We’ve come so far, he’s grown so much. 


May/June - We didn’t really have any big events these months. We finished up school for the year. We planted a garden for our first spring and summer in our new home. It’s such a blessing to be able to play in the woods and grow food right in our own backyard! We also enjoyed quite a bit of time at the river. The kids love to fish (although we haven’t really caught much!). I want to always remember watching all the kids play outside, climbing trees and riding bikes and getting into all the mischief. 


July - Liam Asher is seven now! He made the transition from youngest to big brother so well. He loves hugs and is always quite concerned for the safety of his family. He is finally taking violin lessons, after asking for them for over a year. He is really enjoying taking lessons from his cousin. Remember when he would say “destruction” instead of instruction? Remember how we didn’t want to correct him because it’s so cute? Remember when he’d sneak into our bed in the night? 


August - Ava Lilly turned ten. TEN. As she rejoiced in the double digits, I lamented the fact that my oldest daughter is now ten. Just kidding. I really am happy! I just cannot believe it. She’s a huge help around the house, an avid reader and she’s really enjoying the baby. It’s fun to watch all of them grow! Remember when ten seemed so far away? When she was three and pretending to be ten? Remember when all she wanted was a doll? Just kidding. She wanted a phone when she was three to put in her purse along with keys. 

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August was also Thao’s birthday month. He would have been twelve. Remember. Remember each birthday is a gift. Remember what was. Remember the hope we have. Remember his laugh. Remember to keep on living. Remember to always put chocolate chips in the banana bread and sprinkles make all things taste better.


September - School began for us with all the grades and all the newness. Homeschooling four kids and having a baby at home has proved to be quite challenging, but rewarding. And fun and beautiful and also very exhausting some days. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, though! It’s a great fit for our family. It has been a great way for our family to bond (adding three kids in less than three-years, we’ll take all the extra bonding time we can get!). And it really works with Jeff’s job. We are so happy with this greenhouse life. It’s a little unconventional, but we love it. Jeff’s really loving running his own business building greenhouses. We hate the times we are apart but we look forward to traveling more with him in 2019. This year has been crazy busy, but we know to be thankful. It’s such a blessing to have the opportunity to travel and work and spend more time with family. Remember each year passes quickly even when the days may feel long. Remember the legacy we are building. Remember our ministry.


October - Marked the one year anniversary of owning this home! We love it here. Remember this home is a gift, a blessing and to be shared. 


November/December - Preparing our hearts for Christmas and the new year. We’ve enjoyed some wonderful visits with family and friends. We are learning how to balance this crazy life. And learning all the time how to love each other more. I have been (slowly) working on some new writing projects that I hope to complete in 2019. All in all, we are enjoying each day with our family, growing and serving each other. Since the theme of my letter is remembering, I hope that I can leave you with this one thing, remember baby Jesus. As we continue to live each day the best we know how, I hope that you don’t stay where you are but continue moving forward, pressing onward and growing. I hope that as you grow you always remember who you are and Whose you are. 


Because you are who Jesus came for. You are the beloved. You are a child of the King. And I hope you remember that. I hope you believe that. I hope you cling to that. 


This season as the busyness threatens to drag us each down, I pray that you remember the One who lifts you up. Out of the despair and guilt and regret, He brings hope and grace and freedom. Out of the exhaustion, He brings strength. All wrapped up in the small babe in a manger. He holds the hope for weary world. He brings love. 


With love,

Tiffany

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those hands

Today I’m remembering the pudgy fingers and round little toes. Even at five years old, he had the best little hands. Hands that scarfed down the sweet treats as fast as he could swallow. Hands that gripped tree branches and legs strong enough to climb. His hands hid vitamins inside couch cushions and underneath table tops. His hands found tiny spaces and hid candy wrappers in backs of closets. His hands gently pet his dog and wrapped around his blankets tight. His hands chose stuffed animals and rest on top their fuzzy heads at night. His hands pulled on shoes, left in dragon costumes for me to find. His hands.

I can still see the dirt under his fingernails as he laid still in the hospital bed. Dirt that was proof he was an adventurous boy. He had fun. He had a childhood. At one time those hands fought me hard. Many times those hands wrapped around my legs at just the right height for me to bend down and kiss his head.

I sat next to the hospital bed, willing his hand to squeeze mine. Waiting for just one sign, clinging to every single breath. His hands lay still at his sides. I tenderly placed his hand in mine. Rubbing it as I read to him. Holding it tight as I reminded him of all the adventures we had planned. Kissing it softly as I said goodnight.

Sometimes we just have to write things down to remember. Sometimes we just have to share them to make them feel real again. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever foroget. And sometimes I’m terrified I already have.

So today, I remember his sweet little hands. The hands that scratched up his face as a newborn. The hands that held him up as he crawled. The hands that helped to steady him as he learned to walk. The hands that learned so quickly how to pick up food and pull it into his mouth. The hands that held a pencil and a baby brother. The hands that wrote his name and a Christmas list seven years ago. The hands that worked so well.

Lord, thank you for giving my sweet boy hands that worked. Hands that moved the way he willed them to. Thank you Lord, because we didn’t have to think twice about any of those things. We just knew he was able. He got into a lot of mischief and he showed a lot of love. Thank you for those chubby little hands.

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whisper of grace

I kissed him on the head and tousled his hair. I zipped up his coat and handed him a baggie with snacks. Always. He always carried snacks with him “just in case”. Jeff was taking all the kids birthday shopping for me and giving me the gift of a few minutes of quiet alone time.

I had just whispered birthday ideas to Jeff as he headed out the door. Brave man, he was taking a five-year-old, three-year-old and five-month-old shopping for my birthday. He is always so good at guiding them to special gifts for mommy.

I stood in the kitchen and waved to them as they stepped out into the old. The image is, I hope, imprinted into my mind forever. I don’t know why I slowed down. I don’t know why I paused for that moment. I have no idea what made me watch them. Taking mental notes of the way my little ones walked, their smiles, the way he glanced back before he followed his daddy.

Thao’s coat was too big. I bought it so it would last for two seasons. The little things. His hair was shaggy then, he wanted to grow it out. His eyes always sparkled, but I knew he was sick.

How could I have known how sick he really was?

How could I have know that would be one of the last?

What good would it have been anyway?

If I had really known. What would I have done except maybe cry through the day, lamenting the last of all the things? Maybe it’s better to have not known. Now I have fond memories of normal. Normal days. Normal moments. Normal mom things.

Now I can think about those quiet moments I had and think that maybe the Lord was preparing my heart. Because I was not one to slow down. I was not one to pause. I was not one to be still.

And yet, throughout that year, moment by moment, He whispered grace to me. He called me in and held me close. He taught me to open my eyes to those of my children. He taught me to let myself get down, kneel down, lay it all at His feet. He taught me to notice the moments with my little ones. And to long for Him more.

I’m not really sure how God got through to my heart in those months leading up to the hospital, but I’m pretty sure it was just the consistent gentle whisper. I’m pretty sure it was through my kids. I’m pretty sure God was planting seeds in me through my Thao and his sincere observations about life and heaven and God and love.

This season always takes me back. The sounds, the smells, the sight of bare trees. Thanksgiving and my birthday, cheesecake and rice chex cereal. Chocolate chip pie and candles. Coats hanging off little shoulders, baggies full of snacks. Baking and remembering.

And listening to that whisper of grace.

Don’t ignore that whisper, friends. I beg you. Lean in, fight the urge to get it all done.

Sit down. Pause. Be still.

I am pacing myself to get all the things done, and slowing down to remember. I’m pausing to be still and be present. I’m thankful for the moments I’ve had and the moments yet to come.

I’m taking pictures of the everyday.

I’m rolling the ball to my baby.

I’m snuggling close to the cold seven-year-old all wrapped in a blanket.

I’m watching the show with the ten-year-old.

I’m listening to the story.

I’m watching them play legos.

I’m rejoicing. I’m here another day. Tomorrow is not promised and today is a gift.

photo credit: Lindy Belley, thewayyouarephotography.zenfolio.com

photo credit: Lindy Belley, thewayyouarephotography.zenfolio.com

To My Baby I Never Got To Hold

I wanted to share more of my story this month. That was my plan, anyway. But life happens. And things come up. And if I’m going to be completely honest, at the end of a long day, it’s hard to go to this place. It’s difficult to talk about the sadness. Some days I just want to rest in the joy that the Lord has so graciously given me

But the truth is, there are hurting hearts (including my own) and I need to go to this place. It’s so good to see where I’ve been so I can see where I am now. And how faithful God is, even in the depths of despair. Because that’s what it felt like after my first loss as a mama. The little one who made me a mama. I never held her in my arms. I never listened to her cry. I never knew her the way I’ve known most of my other children. But her death left such a hole. The feelings I had after losing this baby were big. And scary and sad and lonely and to be quite honest, I’ve just never felt so low. It was a very difficult time for me. Now I understand that’s what depression feels like. Now I understand how real those feelings are, even if they don’t make much sense. Even if you know truth. Even if you have support and community and an awesome understanding, loving husband. Loss is hard. And you cannot predict your grief. This is my story. My first pregnancy. My first baby. My first miscarriage. My first loss.

My surprise pregnancy.

God knew all along about you, sweet baby. God created you in my womb and placed you in our hearts. We would not have chosen the timing, but that was just a gift from God. Because we were planning to wait until...the house was finished. The money was there. The time had passed. The traveling was done. We were waiting to have it all together. Everything checked off our list.

Isn’t that a joke? To be ready? We weren’t ready. But we were willing. And we were so in love with you from the moment we knew.

We both had a feeling you were a girl. So we began to dream of you. I dreamed you had dark hair and dark eyes. I dreamed of holding you in my arms. I dreamed of feeling your soft skin against mine. I dreamed of raising you. Watching your daddy hold you close. I dreamed a lot while you were inside of me, precious one.

You were my dream come true. I dreamed of being a mommy for as long as I could remember. You were my answered prayer. My adventure. My baby.

And then suddenly you were gone. I can’t explain it but, I just knew. One day I felt you. And the next day I didn’t.

I don’t have any photos of you. I don’t have any photos of my growing belly. But I have vivid memories of deep grief. I have memories lonely days and scary nights. I have memories of feeling despair. Of feeling withdrawn. Of feeling like I didn’t know how to feel better. I wanted to be normal and happy and find joy. But I was just so, so sad.

And I remember your daddy crying with me. Holding me. And wanting to care for me, fix it, take away the pain, comfort me. I sobbed into his chest. We were just heartbroken losing you.

I remember the exact outfit I was wearing. I remember the exact moment they told us. I remember the kind midwife, with tears in her eyes, telling us to try again.

I remember losing you, my baby. 

I remember daddy telling me that you will always be our first.

I remember being thankful. I was thankful because your short life gave me hope. 

There was a time I wasn’t sure I’d be able to carry a baby inside of me. Just to know that you were there, gave us a glimmer of hope. To hold our own baby someday, to pray for life. We are still so thankful for you, precious Lucy. 

I lost you here, little one. But you wait for me. You are safe. You are whole.

Oh Lucy, dear, you gave me such hope in those few weeks of knowing you. You left such sorrow.

Thirteen years have passed now. I am so thankful to have known you, even if it was mostly dreaming. I am so thankful for the promise of heaven. I am so thankful to know that some day you and I will embrace. You are remembered. You are precious. You are hope. You are a little light to me. You are so loved.



photo credit: my hubby. he rocks.

photo credit: my hubby. he rocks.

To Be Content

It was 6:45 a.m. and hear a little voice through the monitor, “Ma Ma”, he says. I peek in at him and he’s standing at the side of his crib looking at his sleeping brothers.

I went to bed at midnight last night. In between I was up a bit with this standing one. Another one had a belly ache. And yet another wet the bed. Two out of five sleeping through the night last night isn’t bad, is it?

And the thing is, I did it all myself. I was the one to get up each time. I was the one comforting the bigs and feeding the baby.

I am a greenhouser’s wife. It’s much different than being a single mom. He may be gone now, but he comes home. He may be gone, but he’s working to provide for our family. He’s working so that when I have nights like that when he’s gone, he can give me a break when he’s home. And for all of that, I am thankful.

I am also thankful for this small voice calling me while the house is still so quiet. I can’t help but smile at the sight of his small frame standing at the side of his crib. I wonder if he’s debating waking his brothers. I walk in and his smile lights up the dim room. His eyes shine. He’s so happy to see me. He knew I’d come for him.

And for a moment I think of all the babies that stopped calling. The ones that don’t even cry anymore because no one comes for them. The ones that don’t bother to stand at the side of the crib and wait for their mamas. Because they don’t have a mama to come for them. They don’t understand what it’s like to just need a little snuggle or to rest their heads on a soft shoulder. Or to be fed when they are hungry. Or to find comfort in another person when they are hurt. My heart drops. I wish I could go to them. In the orphanages, in the homes. I wish I could bring them all to me, find them families, hold them close, whisper to them like I do my own. But I can’t. So instead of pray for them. Lord, be their comfort.

When I put my baby back in his crib just a little before this I debated on just staying up. It was 5 a.m. and I knew that might be my only quiet time for the day. So I thought about staying up then just for the quiet time. I settled on reading a verse in my Bible and going back to bed because I needed sleep. But with that verse I asked the Lord to show me something.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamites. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

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I rested my head back on my pillow. Paul is content with pain and persecution and all the things I would be really struggling with. Paul is content with hardship and I struggle to stay content with my house. I struggle to stay content with my warm in the winter, cool in the summer, big, new to me house. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for my house. I actually really love my house. But I always come up with something new to do or something to change or add to or shop for. Why can’t I just be content with it?

I drift to sleep with that thought. I wake to that small voice over the monitor. I can’t help but smile when I hear the “mama”. He is seven months. He’s calling for me. I am so thankful.

Today I will be content. With little sleep. With being the main caregiver. With breaking up fights. With cooking meals. With cleaning up spills. With folding clothes. With the mundane.

Because there was a day I longed for the mundane. The normal. There was a day I would have given everything up just to be able to hear my son call for me in the night, yet again. There was a day I still had some fight left in that hospital room. Before he took his last breath in my arms.

I know what it’s like to wake in the night to nothing. No voice at the other end of the monitor. No wet bed. No belly ache. No one to comfort. I prayed for and wanted these babies. I cried when I lost babies still in the womb. I dreamed of a large family. I left the hospital without my son. I planned his funeral. I walked away from his still, quiet body. There was once life. And then there wasn’t.

I have dark circles and gray hair. I have less than perfect skin and I really want to work out more. I come up with house projects when I shouldn’t. I want them to go to sleep at bedtime instead of practicing spelling words. But.

I am content. Because I am their mom. I am thankful because they call for me. Because I can go to them. Because I’ve been on the other side. I’ve come home to a quiet, empty house after losing a baby. I’ve woken up in the night only to remember that my reality is death and death is permanent. It wasn’t his voice I heard, I remind myself that part of my life is over. He lived with me his whole life. He is safe.

So, when they call for me in the night, i will go to them. When they wake early, i will do my best to greet them gently. When they need me, it is a pleasure, a blessing to be able to meet their needs.

I may be tired today, but there is plenty of time to sleep later in life. Nothing lasts forever. Soon they will be sleeping through the night. Soon they will not call for me when they wake. So today I will drink coffee, smile sweetly, and power through. Today I will sit a while longer, listen intently to the stories that I’ve already heard and turn to make eye contact when I was busy doing something else. Today they are still little. They are still here. Today I am blessed to have another day to be their mama. Today I will be content.

when my “twins” were just so little. i always woke with them in my bed.

when my “twins” were just so little. i always woke with them in my bed.

He Whispers Be Still

Well, we are a third of the way through September and I am over here wondering where all the days have gone already.

You guys, I have SO much to do. SO much. The regular homeschool and cooking and cleaning and laundry and writing and parenting. 

The other projects I started like painting and organizing. 

And. We are heading out on a big trip soon. All of us. My hubby builds greenhouses and travels. We go with him when we can. Well, there's a build coming up that requires him to be gone for a long while. So we are packing up and heading out. No biggie, ya know. 

Except I procrastinate when I get stressed and have no clue how to pack for five kids for two-months and twenty-two-ish hours of travel. Yep. I'm out. See ya. 

We'll just figure it out as we go, right? I wish I could tell my brain to stop. Oh but isn't this exactly what I say all the time? Be still. Isn't this what God whispers to my soul? Day in and day out, be still. Beloved, find rest.

This is my life, ya'll.  This is yours. Be still. In the mundane. In the everyday decisions. In the health issues. In the big things. In the small. In the sorrow. In the joy. In the pain. In the dancing. In the fears and planning and unknowns. In the comfortable and stable and secure. 

Through it all, God you are good. Through it all, God, you are sure. Through it all, God, you are steadfast. Through it all, God, you are with us. You are God

And then of course through all the busy as I am driving home today, I pass the cemetery. It hits me hard yet again. And I don't even want to go there to his barren grave. I don't want to go there because I don't want to go there.I don't want to face the reality that so many days have passed. That I never visited his grave on his birthday. 

And yesterday I was asked if I was ever angry. I am hurt. I am sad. I am almost thirty-five. Why was I given thirty more years than him? T H I R T Y. Why so many? Why so few? Why did he even get sick? Why is this earth so full of hardships and heartaches? And why must we even question? Do we trust Him? Do we...believe in heaven and perfection and healing?

Oh yes. I do. I do believe and I cannot wait. 

So here I am full circle. Be still, He whispers. Be still. Today is not the day to do it all or fix everything. Today is the day to do what I can with Jesus. To let Him do His thing in me and through me. To take one step at a time. To rest. 

So today I turn it all over. The worry. The guilt. The to-do list. The sorrow. The pain. And also the joy and dreams and future. 


where I let Him overwhelm my soul. be still. find rest.

where I let Him overwhelm my soul. be still. find rest.