The following blog post is adapted from a very raw journal entry I made earlier this year. In times like these, I think maybe we are all hungry for honesty over pretty. I hope God uses it to encourage those of you in dark and painful seasons.

I’ll get right to the point: 2017 is a year I’d sooner forget. It’s been a year full of sorrow, grief, failure, doubt, confusion, identity crisis, darkness, loss, and pain. I’m certain that this will be a period of life upon which I will reflect back many, many times in future years. We have been through many difficult seasons, and I know each one has felt like the hardest yet…but I can say with certainty that this one wins the blue ribbon in that category. And it has not been because of any one thing so much as it has been a barrage of relentless stripping away, as the Lord has exposed and then toppled idol after idol in the darkest recesses of my heart. Saying the words, “Jesus is all I need” is easy. Living like you believe it, in times of trial and tragedy…well, that’s a different story. It would take me a hundred posts to explore and explain each scenario, each struggle, but the truth is that the “what” doesn’t matter nearly as much as the “why”, so I will instead share that, as it is summed up in one agonizing phrase: refinement.

refinement- (1) the process of removing impurities or unwanted elements from something
(2) the improvement or clarification of something by the making of changes

Those are the definitions that Webster’s gives. The Bible offers an explanation of the reason for this refinement process, found in Hebrews 12: The Lord disciplines the one whom He loves”…”for our good, that we may share His holiness”.  

This has been a year of refinement. Discipline. And wow, has it been excruciating. For a long time, the pain of it has been so intense that I couldn’t make out the hope in it. Have you ever been there? When you are suffering so deeply, maybe even due to your own choices and disobedience, that you can’t even see past the pain? Maybe you know the truth, that something good will come of this…that God is working, moving, sanctifying…but that knowledge feels hollow because your soul can’t summon up the strength to believe it? I was there for a long time. Thankfully, GRACIOUSLY…God didn’t let me stay there. Finally, friends, a light is piercing through, and that light is Jesus Himself. There are yet things to be hopeful for. How can that be amidst such pain? Only God knows…but I’m learning that the most beautiful things seem to be born out of the ugliest and most hopeless beginnings. That is how God likes to work.

You’ve heard the phrase beauty from ashes…but if you’re anything like me, you’ve never taken the time to understand the full picture and meaning behind that phrase. Until this year, I would hear this phrase and picture two scenes or stages: the ash… and then the beauty. I imagined something like a dark pile of dark dust sitting in the dark, then suddenly light and color burst onto the scene as the dust swirled away. Gungor’s Beautiful Things always played in the background of my picture (“you make beautiful things, you make beauti-FUL things out of the dust”…if you’ve never listened to it, it’s worth the listen, but be warned: it will never ever get out of your head. ever.) Dark, cold, lifeless, useless, gray dust. Ash. Into exquisite life and beauty. It’s really not that hard to picture, is it? But the problem is, if we start with the ash, we are missing the full picture of just how beautiful this transformative reality is. We must dig deeper. The full picture involves zooming out to see how the ash got there in the first place, and there is only one answer: through fire.

The ash phase is just one stage away from vibrant beauty. In that cold, lifeless phase, we know and maybe can even believe that beauty is on its way, ready to swirl away the dust  into oblivion. But I have learned that it is hardest to believe that beauty might come, not when everything is in ashes, but when you are in the fire. When life feels like an endless, slow burn…or a raging, angry, out of control force of nature.  When the pain is agonizing. When you couldn’t care less about whether beauty is in your future because you’re just begging to get to the ash stage, where the burning has finally stopped. Dark, gray, lifeless dust sounds like relief when all you feel is the searing pain of the flame.

The full picture involves us seeing all of it: the fire that destroys what needs to be gone forever. The ash that appears cold and lifeless. And then the beauty…the exquisite, incomparable beauty that comes after the fire and ash.

I don’t know yet what the beauty will be. I’m catching glimpses of it, so I know it’s coming. In the thick of the flames, I still believe that God is good. The faith I have in Him is FROM Him…I could never conjure it up myself. In His grace, He is planting seeds of hope in my heart. Hope for what I don’t actually know. I would like to say that I have been given a vision of the future, a concrete image of something glorious: a fruitful ministry born from the sorrow of this season, in which the pain has become a tool for rebirth. But I have no such vision, no specific promise of the result. What I have, and what I’ve had, is the presence of God. Only one other time in my life have I been so acutely aware of and comforted by the presence of Jesus. I sense Him here with me, moment by moment, experiencing my pain with me, holding me together.

Yesterday, I had a moment of acute agony inside my heart, when the sorrow of it all felt too great to bear. I cried out for an answer, waiting for the Spirit to answer with a word of comfort from the Psalms, or an inspiring promise of victory from Romans. His answer was neither. The answer came immediately, and it was not what I was expecting.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or rulers or dominions or authorities-all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

At once I knew: His power and His presence were enough to hold me together. And so He has been. Jesus, my faithful love, my fierce protector, my never-failing, ever-chasing God, is so carefully and tenderly holding all of the broken pieces of me together. My body may feel broken, my heart may be shattered, but not one broken piece has been lost or allowed to slip through His strong and steady hands. Here He stands, arms around me, His voice in my ear, reminding me that I can endure the flames because I’m never alone. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I walk through the scorching heat alive and with my future before me, because His power preserves and protects me. The flames will not last forever. The ash will be but a season as well. The beauty, however, will be eternal. This dear, sweet, merciful taste of the presence of Jesus makes me long for the day when I can experience His presence fully, perfectly…absent from flesh and the curse of this broken body and wayward heart. I may walk through fire now, but it is a light and momentary affliction compared to the weight of glory ahead. I walk through the flames now in the presence of Jesus…and I have only to look to Him to remember the truth that I will never have to endure the fire alone, nor is there fire in my eternal future. The fire I’m in now is not a punishing fire but a merciful one, administered by the Refiner, and though it comes with great cost and great pain, there is greater beauty coming. The pain of the purification process will pale in the glow of the gold that will emerge.

Beauty is coming, yes, but it’s also already here. Within the light of this refining fire burns another Light that is brighter still. How beautiful Jesus is to me! How merciful His chastening. Even now, He fans the flame of my affections for Him with the warmth of His love for me. What a kind and gracious God He is, that He would see fit to burn off all my rough places in order to make me more like Him. That He would remain at my side through it all, walking with me, holding me together, giving me glimpse after glimpse of the beauty that’s coming…it’s the very definition of grace. Because of His love, His sacrifice… His discipline does not mean His distance. Because He was forsaken for me, I never have to be. He stays with me, reminding me that this purifying fire flows out of His love for me. His refining leads to redemption, to restoration. His presence is my portion.

How loving is my Jesus.
How faithful is my Jesus.
How merciful is my Jesus.
How compassionate is my Jesus.
How precious is my Jesus.
How near is my Jesus.

This is my prayer in the fire, in weakness, or trial, or pain…
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold
So refine me, Lord, through the flame.


When Mother’s Day Is Not Happy

Happy Mother’s Day. 

How those words fill my heart with such a mix of emotions. For many of you, your heart is bursting with the happy of it all. Your plates are full, but so are your arms and your hearts. You feel so blessed every time you look at your sweet children (especially when they are actually being sweet). There have been struggles, yes, but today rolls around and the clouds fade and the sun is shining…shining through the breakfast in bed brought by earnest dear ones, shining through the ugly flower pot covered in sloppy hand prints that you will treasure long after the tulip in it has withered. Today is your day. You work hard, you love hard, and we honor you. Your work is kingdom work. You are making an impact for eternity. You are amazing and wonderful and so beloved.

But this post is not for you. 

As a mother now, I share your feelings of happiness and bliss. But I also feel deep sorrow, raw ache, and a tidal wave of grief every time this day hits. And the reality is that there are so many others for whom that is true.
You see, four years ago on this day, I sat in church feeling like I didn’t belong, churning with bitterness and longing and despair. Instead of a child to love, I had a prognosis of infertility. Instead of hope, I was filled with discouragement and doubt.

Three years ago on this day, I woke up aglow with the secret of the child growing in my womb, so excited for my first Mother’s Day as a mama, only to have a nightmare unfold. As quickly as the joy came, so also came the loss and the debilitating grief as my body began to turn against me and fail the young life I carried. Losing my first baby on the morning of Mother’s Day–a morning in which my heartwrecked husband had to leave me to go lead a church body in worship–seemed to me the cruelest hand that life could deal us. The bitter irony of it was more than I could bear.

Two years ago on this day, I sat in church weeping, grieving my first child in heaven, longing for the two children that had been matched with us for adoption, wondering when–and if—they were ever going to join us.

Today my pale hands stroked the tears from the sweet brown face of my son as he wept out his sadness and confusion over the birth mother he lost and the foster mother he left. I felt his pain, raw and real and ever present, and realized my love will never be enough to completely bind up all the wounds of his sorrow. 

And I thought about how many of my sisters around the world feel anything but sunshine and happiness on this day. 

For those of you that woke up dreading this day, questioning whether you could summon the courage and energy to drag yourself to church and plaster on a fake smile and utter “Happy Mother’s Day” to dozens of women, all while aching with the hollow rattle of bitterness and injustice and sadness and loss in your heart…
For the sisters who decided to just stay in bed because your grief feels so lonely and overwhelming and out of place…for you who just couldn’t dig deep enough to find a fake smile, and knew the word Happy would taste sour and wrong and insincere coming through your lips…

This post is for you. 
To you, I will not say Happy Mother’s Day. It’s not. For me to say so would serve only to rub salt in an oozing wound. And I know from experience that there is little I can say that will comfort you and meet you in your grief. But I also know that saying nothing can be far worse. You know too well the awkward dance of others’ avoidance and tiptoeing and whispers and changing the subject, when they don’t know what to say to your sadness and so they make every effort to go out of their way to say nothing about it at all. And the avoidance, the lack of acknowledgement is often as painful as the grief itself. For me to say nothing would serve only to solidify your belief that you are less than…failing…alone…invisible. So I will say something to you, to my beautiful fellow image-bearers of God, because you deserve to be acknowledged. 

To my sister who has been trying to get pregnant without succeeding…the one who feels like a failure. Who feels a stabbing pain in her stomach with every pregnant belly or baby announcement she sees. Who has waited countless times for the longest ten minutes of her life, staring at that pee stick and willing the second line to appear, only to be disappointed yet again. Who feels like infertility is both a death sentence and an off-limits topic in such a momcentric world…
You are enough.

To my sister who has nurtured a child in her womb, lovingly changing her diet and taking her prenatals and planning her birth announcements. Who fell in love the minute she saw that pink line, and dreamed a thousand dreams of her life with her baby…yet never got to see him take a breath. Who feels like her body and her God and the universe all failed her…
You are cherished.

To the hopeful adoptive mama waiting to be matched…waiting and waiting…and waiting. Who has filled out mountains of paperwork, and held her breath a thousand times only to release it in the painful exhale caused by another gut-punching failed match. Who wipes a thick layer of dust off the windowsill of a nursery that’s been ready for one year, two years…ready and empty. 
You are not forgotten.

To the birthmama who carried her baby for the better part of a year, and then handed her to someone else. Who questions her choice a million times a day. Who longs to see her eyes, her mouth in the face of her offspring who calls another mama. Who weeps with the grief of her loss and yearns for what might have been….
You are so brave.

To my sister who has birthed and nursed and nurtured and loved her child…who poured her heart and soul into her offspring, dreaming of who and what he or she would become. Who then had her dreams stolen from her when that child preceded her in death. Who has experienced the pain of loss in a way none can understand and words cannot describe. 
You are stronger than you know.

To my sister who is single, who feels like each year is a ticking clock in her heart and body. Who feels a thousand steps away from ever being a mother. Who feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere, and wonders if life will always feel this lonely. Who feels invisible in a sea of wives and moms.
You are valuable.

To the woman who has dedicated her life to loving littles who may never be hers, in blood or in name. Who handles the appointments and the visitations and the court dates and the tug of war of bio-parent reunification. Who sacrifices her heart on the chopping block to be a steadfast pillar of light to a child who has only known darkness. Who knows that “foster” is just a word that doesn’t even begin to explain the depths of how much of a mother you truly are. 
You are fierce

To the mama who is doing it all without much help. Who never dreamed that she would be doing this without a partner. Who doesn’t have time to stop and kiss the boo boos because she is just trying to put food on the table. Who has to choose between a new coat that actually fits or school supplies because both aren’t an option. Who serves as sole breadwinner, disciplinarian, protector, and nurturer. Who worries about her sons needing a male role model and feeling the sorrow of not being able to provide that. 
You are incredible.

To the mama of the child who is ill, be it physically or mentally. The one who worries about doctor bills and therapies and clinical trials. The mom who wishes others would stop complaining about the little things because she would love to be able to worry about bad grades or tantrums or the mean kid in class, instead of wondering if her baby will make it to next year. The one who feels like every day is a gift but also a slow torture of watching her child suffer.
You are inspiring. 

To the brand new mama with the sweet newborn whom everyone oohs and ahhhs over…who is weathering a secret storm fraught with guilt and despair. The mama who feels she can’t talk about the deep depression that is assaulting her daily because everyone expects her to be glowing in motherly bliss. Who looks at the baby she delivered and wonders why she doesn’t feel as connected to him as she imagined she would be. Who is wracked with guilt because her motherly instincts just don’t seem to be kicking in amidst this sorrow. Whose hormones are betraying her day after day. 
You are an overcomer.

To my sister whose mother is no longer living. Who reaches for the phone to call her best friend, her mom, only to remember the shocking reality that no one will pick up on the other end. Who aches and wishes for just one more chance to hug and chat and laugh with the woman who raised her and loved her. Who has lost her confidante, her advice giver, her listener, her biggest fan. 
You are beloved.

To the adoptive mama who understands that the beauty of adoption comes with the cost of your child’s tragedy. Who continually sacrifices herself to put her child’s feelings first. Who unflinchingly absorbs the screamed “you’re not my real mom”s and then cries in the closet alone. Who uses words like attachment and trauma on a regular basis, and fields questions to which she never really knows the right response. Who prays every day that her love can undo deep layers of damage, but knows the reality. Who forever shares her child’s heart with the one who gave that child life.
You are resilient.

To the mama whose child has chosen to walk down a dark or wayward path. Who sits back helplessly watching her baby self destruct, begging God to answer her prayers and bring the prodigal home. Who relives her life a thousand times in her mind, asking herself what she could have done differently. Who would give anything for a do over. 
You are not a failure.

To my sweet sister who is wracked with shame and burdened with the guilt of a decision she made to end her child’s life. Who was deceived by the enemy’s lies that our culture has fed her, and has been paying for it ever since. Who didn’t realize that freedom of choice meant a lifelong sentence to the prison of regret. Who feels she will never be able to do enough pittance to make it right. 
You are forgiven and so loved. 

To the child, young or grown, whose idea of what “mother” even means is marked by pain and confusion. Who has felt neglected or abused or rejected or alone. Who has been wounded deeply by the one who was supposed to protect her from all wounds. Instead of safety and nurturing and security, her life has been uncertainty and loneliness and a hunger for love. 
You are precious.

To all of you, for whom Mother’s Day is many things, but not happy….

You are seen. You are worthy. And you are loved. 

May this hard day for you be filled with the grace to keep breathing in and out. May God show you beauty amidst the ashes. And may you know that you are not alone.

21 Wisley Family Updates

Our family has gone through a significant number of changes over the last few months. Short version: we discerned that the Lord was calling us to lay down full-time ministry for a season in order to completely pour into the three kiddos He blessed us with (in a six month time frame), and God opened a door for us to move back to Kentucky to be close to our families. All of this happened very quickly, but we are FINALLY feeling a little bit settled and getting accustomed to our new routine. I have had a number of friends ask for family updates, and I thought this might be the best place to provide those. I have more than enough content to be able to write several blog posts about each member of our family, each transition, etc., but I would have to interrupt my time sitting around eating bonbons and watching soap operas to do that (#stayathomemommisconceptions), so instead I thought I’d provide a quick list of updates for those who are interested. I wish I could say that there was some clever reason I picked the number 21, but alas, my scrambled egg mom brain feels largely devoid of creativity lately, so I must confess that the number 21 was a fairly meaningless choice based solely upon today’s date flashing in the lower right corner of my computer screen. Such is life. Nonetheless, I will attempt to summon up the meager fumes leftover from old creative juices of the past and try to be witty clever mildly interesting in my updates.

  1. Husband is still in training for his new position with the company, but is enjoying it and is excited for his store to open. The grand opening is expected to occur sometime in November.
  2. The kids started at their new school and are LOVING it. Ji has been placed for the first time in a mainstream classroom, and she is thriving beyond what we could have imagined. Thank you, Jesus!
  3. Baby C has a tooth. Other mamas out there, you know this is big news. Other breastfeeding mamas out there, pray for me.
  4. A friend inspired me to clean up my eating through the Whole 30 diet. Despite being scornful of dieting trends in the past, I was just so ready to get rid of the baby weight and increase my energy level. The verdict: in all honesty, after 52 days without added sugar, dairy, gluten, and some other stuff, I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Guess I’m riding the bandwagon and eating my humble pie for previously being so disdainful of the Whole 30. Actually, humble pie probably has sugar…so I guess I’ll just eat humble lettuce or something.
  5. After lots of “church shopping” (something I hope to never have to do again), we found a church home. It feels amazing to be back in community again. God never meant for us to do life alone! We are so grateful for the way the Lord is already growing us through this body of believers.
  6. The kids are immensely enjoying making memories with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They get lots of one-on-one time with family members, and it’s a joy to watch their confidence grow as they begin to see and believe just how incredibly loved they are. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.
  7. JJ has made some wonderful Christian friends in the neighborhood, and we are slowly giving him more freedom. It has been challenging for this mama’s heart to let go and trust God as he navigates these new relationships and gets to enjoy being a little boy, but such a blessing to watch him flourish as experiences all these new things. Seeing him come home sweaty and dirty with bugs and rocks and skinned knees and all the stories is something that makes my heart soar.
  8. Ji had her sixth birthday in August, and her little family party was a smashing success! Our big crazy families got together at Gattitown and celebrated all day long. JiBaby got more presents than she knew what to do with, and is OBSESSED with her new makeup. I’ve always considered myself more of a tomboy, so God blessing me with this extreme girly-girl for a daughter just reminds me what a sense of humor He has. Our lives revolve around lipstick, poufy skirts, giant hairbows, nail polish, and all things pink and “so pwetty”. Lord, give me strength.
  9. Our good friends from Ohio visited us here in Kentucky with all their kids. Six kids and eight adults in the same house is fun and crazy, and we had an absolute ball. But I think we have all agreed that a vacation without kids would be delightful well-earned necessary  something worth considering.
  10. Husband, JJ, and I returned to Ohio a few weekends ago for a wedding we all had roles in. We had an amazing time during the weekend and were privileged to jump back in and serve with our Ohio church family, with both of us leading worship Sunday morning and Husband preaching Sunday night. Prior to the weekend, I had been nervous that serving would be painful for us, as our departure from ministry has been very hard to get used to. However, we enjoyed it more than I can explain. God gave us such a peace about where he has us, and the whole weekend was a balm to our souls in more ways than I can count. God is so good!
  11. GIANT PRAISE: While we were in Ohio, our house sold! Yay! Shout out to our amazing realtor Michelle for all her help!  NE Ohio residents, I highly recommend her. She is the real deal. If all goes as planned, we will be returning to Ohio next month to close on the house and pack up all our stuff. So thankful for God’s faithfulness in answering this prayer.
  12. Baby C is officially into EVERYTHING. He crawls at warp speed, and it literally takes him 0.3 milliseconds to get into all sorts of trouble. Among the things I have pulled/scraped/dug out of his mouth in the last month: a pistachio shell, a guitar pick, 326 pieces of paper towels, plastic wrappers, a bobby pin, a wad of Ji’s hair, 4 hair ties, a bread bag clip, a long piece of string, a piece of an eggshell, a bottle cap, numerous clothing price tags, and a fresh pile of dog poop. That last one really messed with me. I screamed, freaked the freak out, and scrubbed that kid’s mouth with a vengeance. I felt like the worst mom in the entire world till I googled it, primarily to make sure he wasn’t going to die of dysentery or the bubonic plague, and realized there were about 65 million more #badmomstories #mykidatedogpoop. Then I just felt like the worst mom in Kentucky. So that’s good.
  13. Husband and I finally decided it was time to stop talking about wanting to be more healthy and do something about it, so we joined a gym. I wish I could say that I now enjoy working out, and that the shiny new machines and high energy classes were exactly what I needed to make me love to exercise, but alas…I still mostly hate working out. However, the multitude of babysitters at our disposal=the loss of all my excuses, and the cost of a gym membership=all the guilt if I don’t use it, so I’m working out. Not enthusiastically…but I’m doing it. Yippee skippy. Hubs is loving it, though. Except when he accidentally goes into the weight lifting room where all the mega body builders go to dead lift 1,000 pounds and watch their gargantuan muscles bulge in the mirrors. Then, not so much.
  14. I’m certain that I’m way behind on the times here, but y’all…video baby monitors are game changers. We never got the chance to use ours in Ohio, but we finally hooked it up here, and two months later we are still oohing and ahhing over being able to stalk our child even when we are not home.Although it is significantly less fun when Husband is at work and I’m home trying to teach the little butterball to cry it out (cue the mom shaming, to which I say, he’s almost nine months old and I’m okay with it for fifteen minutes, and yes I’ve done the research, and no he is not going to be permanently traumatized, and sometimes it’s good for babies to learn they can survive without being Stage 5 Clingers). Anyways, inevitably, the moment Baby C starts to fuss, I get four rapid fire texts saying, The baby has been crying for 1.5 minutes…Are you going to get him? …Do you have the monitor alerts on? …Now he has been crying for 2 minutes. And then I’m over the magic of the video monitor.
  15. Because of our somewhat up-in-the-air living situation (we are staying with family while house hunting), we were unable to utilize the school bus system this year. Thus, I was introduced to the wonderful world of the carpool line. Two thoughts on this. (1) I need to repent of all the times I complained about having to be home in time to get my kids off the bus. Because that only took 37 seconds of my day. And the car pickup line takes 37 minutes…which feel like 37 hours when your baby screams in his car seat for all 37 of those minutes. Bless. (2) Not judging…but sincerely asking: How do some of these parents have enough extra time in their day to sit in line for an hour before school lets out just so they can be among the first ten people in line? It blows my mind! Coming from the chronically sometimes late mom who is always occasionally among the last ten cars in line, I assure you that I am only even aware of this phenomenon because I had to pick my kid up from school an hour early for a doctor’s appointment once. There were fifteen cars in line! I felt a brief moment of disbelief, which was quickly followed by denial, bargaining, and finally acceptance that I was always gonna be the mom in the back of the line, and that’s okay. We can’t all be good at everything.
  16. Ji has a number of issues that can make extracurricular activities a challenge, but Husband and I both felt that she needed an outlet. After some research, I gave her a few options, though I’m not sure why, because OF COURSE she picked Hip Hop Class, which she calls KidzBop class. She starts tomorrow. It’s going to be epic. I’m already planning weekly gifts for her teacher in hopes of bribing her into letting Ji stay in the class even if she doesn’t cooperate. Stay posted for videos.
  17. JJ started attending karate lessons with his uncle, who is a brown belt. He walks around all day showing me the four moves he’s learned. So far they are all just stances without any real action moves, but he is proud as a peacock. I think I only have about twelve more Wow, that looks great, buddy!s in me before I lose my ever-loving mind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Parenting is not for the faint of heart, friends.
  18. My phone decided to kick the bucket a couple of weeks ago, and Husband was all too eager to go pick out a new toy to replace it. When he brought back my new phone, I decided to finally follow through with something I had been wanting to do for awhile. I deleted Facebook from my phone. Although I kept my account open so that I can check it periodically on the computer, I do not miss having constant access to it at all. It has been so eye-opening to realize how much time I was wasting on it every day, and to recognize how often I checked FB out of mere boredom. Removing access to it on my phone has helped me be so much more present in my daily activities. I made a commitment to myself that every time I thought about checking FB, I would pray instead, and it has grown my prayer life in tremendous ways.
  19. Speaking of prayer life growing, I joined a women’s Bible study which is centered around Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God. Ladies, it is SO GOOD. So good. It is revolutionizing my walk with Jesus. Real talk…buy the book. You won’t regret it.
  20. Ji has become much more verbal and this has resulted in people trying to engage in more frequent conversations with her. Unfortunately, she has subsequently developed a new habit of dismissing people when she doesn’t want to talk to them. The other day, my dad was trying to talk to her about an activity she was doing. After a few one word answers, she finally looked at him and said, “Pop, go to Pop’s room!” In other words, scram. It’s seriously so funny, although we of course technically are obligated to teach her that this is a bit rude. But mostly we are so thankful to hear her vocabulary growing. She has come so far.
  21. When we were in the midst of the adoption process, one of the things our social worker kept telling us was how important it was for us to learn how to take care of our kids’ natural hair. Doing African-American hair is a totally different ballgame than what I am used to, and it has been quite the learning process. Right after we moved, JJ decided he was done with mom combing/picking out his hair every day, and asked for dreadlocks. For whatever reason I decided to take on this task myself. After lots of Youtube research and some advice from some other mamas of black kiddos, I bit the bullet and dove in. Five and a half hours and many, many tears later, he had a bunch of twisties all over his head that sorta kinda resembled dreadlocks. According to all the tutorials,this was normal, but I was still pretty nervous about how it would be perceived. While we were in Ohio, we stopped by JJ’s old barbershop. The owner and another barber, both African-American, immediately asked me who did his hair. Sweating, I owned up to it. The owner looked at me in surprise and said, “You did a good job!” Hallelujah! Best compliment of my life. I successfully created dreadlocks on my kid and got the black barbershop stamp of approval. I am officially adding to my resume under “Achievements”: 2016-Created passable dreadlocks. 

And that’s all for now, folks! This SAHM needs to get back to her bonbons and soaps…that is, if I have time after digging the junk out of my baby’s mouth and cleaning the sparkles and mascara out of my daughter’s hair.

Ears To Hear

We have been and will continue to be very careful about the things we share about our children. They have a right to privacy, a right for the world not to know every detail of their backgrounds, histories, diagnoses, challenges, and personal information. I want to protect them, to make sure that I am being very careful to guard their lives and stories with care and intentionality. But I struggle to hold it in when there are monumental breakthroughs, critical turning points, undeniable victories in their lives. I want to shout these to the world, to remind everyone that the hard days are SO WORTH IT, and that God is a big God who does big things worth celebrating. Sometimes, those do need to be celebrated quietly, privately. But other times I feel prompted to share, because maybe there is someone out there who needs to be reminded that God is still working miracles today, every day. I know…because I watch them unfold in my daughter’s life all the time.

Our daughter Jianna is a completely different person today than she was when we met her. I don’t want to go into too much detail about how hard things were for her back then, but I will say this: she was a prisoner in her own world. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, she had a vocabulary of about 16-20 words at age 4. She didn’t know how to connect with other people. Her entire world was wrapped up in her iPad, which she was using all the time. She much preferred technology over human interaction, and she rarely made eye contact. 

When Husband and I decided to move forward with adopting our two kids, we knew it was going to be challenging. We knew the facts: children with an ASD diagnosis were very hard to match. People were afraid, unfamiliar, intimidated by something that is so mysterious and hard to understand. To be honest, after we met her, we were afraid too. We loved her, because we had chosen to love her, but we didn’t know where to go from there. How would we connect with this child? How could we unlock this little girl from the isolated world she lived in? We prayed. We prayed A LOT. 

The answer came quickly. As we spent more time with Ji, the key to reaching her became increasingly apparent: music. That girl was born with a song in her soul. Anytime a song with any kind of beat came on, she would rock and  bump her head against her chair in flawless rhythm. She would sing in her sweet little voice the words she didn’t understand, usually mispronouncing them, but singing them all just the same. Likewise, if a non-preferred song was played (aka anything without a fast, driving rhythm), she would LOUDLY verbalize her disapproval and clamp her hands over her ears. 

The problem was that most of the music she favored didn’t lend itself to meaningful interaction or true emotional connections. You can only sing nursery rhymes and the finger family song so many times before you want to chop your ears off. And we were more than a little horrified at some of the words to Beyoncé and Ludacris songs that our 4 year old was singing. We needed to find music that could help her connect and engage with the world around her, and even more importantly, music that was full of truth and hope and light. So one day, before she even came to live with us, my husband added the Hillsong Young and Free album into her iTunes. At first she showed no interest, but over time, she was drawn to the music. She was drawn to Jesus in the music. Suddenly this little girl was singing about freedom in Christ and chains being broken. It was beautiful. I wasn’t sure she truly understood any of it. But I knew it was good for her heart and mind and soul. We prayed that the Gospel truths she was listening to would penetrate her heart well beyond the fun rhythms. We prayed that she would be given ears to hear the hope in the words she sang. And God is answering that prayer. 

A few weeks ago, Vertical Church Band released their latest album Frontiers. Ji has liked VCB’s stuff in the past but this album has had a different effect on her. This album has taught my girl to worship. I was sure, like all the music she has listened to in the past, that she would be most drawn to the more upbeat songs. And while she does enjoy those, the two songs she asks for most are entirely unexpected. The first is Come Holy Spirit. Y’all…I have never seen this child worship like she does with this song. Eyes closed, hands raised, singing so loud I feel like the car windows are going to shatter. I cry almost every time. From day one, we have been praying for the Spirit to engage her heart. Watching that prayer be answered is the most beautiful thing in the world. “COME HOLY SPIRIT COME….FALL AFRESH ON ME!” she sings with all her might. She senses the presence of God all around her and she is beaming. Her countenance is full of joy and life and the assurance of belonging as she worships.

I’ve always believed that people with special needs which affect their minds have the potential both to be more vulnerable to spiritual attack and more in tune with the Spirit’s prompting and movement. We have prayed daily for special protection for her mind, for God to speak to her in a way she can understand, and for her to be drawn to Christ in her soul and spirit. It’s very simple for Ji…when she worships, everyone else disappears except her and God. There is something very special happening between her and her Creator, something that I may never comprehend this side of heaven, but feel so grateful to be able to witness. I believe God is speaking to her in those moments, reminding her who He is and how deeply He loves her, teaching her the truth of His Word.

 Is that hard to believe? Maybe this will convince you. Just last week after a time of worshiping in this way, her eyes popped open and she looked me right in the eye and declared with utter certainty and calm confidence, “Jesus is God. Jesus loves Jianna.” It took my breath away. Immediately she said, “Mama, Always Have!” Still stunned, I complied and hit number 10 on the CD. Her eyes closed again and she settled back in her seat. Unlike literally every other song she loves, this song is very soft and slow, with mostly acoustic guitar and no loud dominant drum part. When this song comes on, everything changes. She stops rocking  and banging her head against the seat. All of the self-stim behavior slows and she becomes still and peaceful. Her face lights up. And she sings: 

You love me, You always have
You choose me, just as I am
You love me, You always have 

Yes. Yes and amen. 

Thank You, Jesus. 

Highs and Lows and Other Paradoxes

Take a minute and try to remember the biggest mood swing you’ve ever experienced. Perhaps one moment you were on a mountaintop rejoicing about something incredible, only to receive horrible news that plummeted your heart into utter despair. Maybe you found yourself feeling incredibly angry about a situation, only to be hit by a wave of humor that sent you into a fit of hysterical laughter that continued until tears were rolling down your face, melting all the angry away. As your emotions settled back to someplace in the middle, maybe you recognized the irony in it all. If you are anything like me, you may have secretly wondered if you were are a little crazy for swinging across such a broad pendulum of emotions in such a short time.

I’m learning that adoption is like that. All. The. Time. You find yourself perpetually swinging between emotional extremes, caught in a world of irony and paradox that makes just a little sense and a lot of crazy in your head. For every mountaintop, there is a valley (okay, let’s be real…nine valleys). For every moment of exquisite joy, there is one or more of excruciating pain. You will swing from deep feelings of rage and frustration and injustice and fear into uncontrollable laughter that is senseless and necessary and life-giving and liberating. You will wonder a thousand times over if you might truly be crazy, and conclude almost as many times over that you are. Sometimes this self-diagnosis of insanity will bother you. Sometimes you will embrace it. And amidst all the feelings, there will emerge moments of intense confusion that will send you into a tailspin. But there will also be epiphanies of life-altering clarity, and these will be so eye-opening and gratifying that everything crazy suddenly seems sane…at least for long enough to hold you until the next clear moment.

Every night at dinner, Husband and the kids and I do what we call “Highs and Lows”, in which we share the best and worst part of our day. Our son loves it so much I’m pretty sure the actual game is his own personal perpetual high. The moment dinner is on the table, he starts chirping, “Highs and lows! Highs and lows!” Ironically, I feel like this could be the title for our family life as a whole.  Every day is made up of a hundred highs and lows. Some days the highs outweigh the lows. Other days, lows win by a landslide. Sometimes there are weeks of lows, in which you long for just one high to keep you going. But these are the weeks that make the highs that much sweeter when they do finally come. You see, a fight that is easily won merits a fairly inconsequential celebration. But a fight that is won through blood, sweat, tears, and after many prior losses is worth throwing a party for. Most of our highs are party-worthy. From the outside looking in, it may be hard to understand why a child who openly admitted he did something wrong is praised and rejoiced over. But when you discover that he has FINALLY just told the truth and taken responsibility after 27 previous lies, it suddenly becomes a big deal. A five year old stating that she is sad while crying may not seem of any real significance; to most, it appears obvious. But when you become aware that that same child has never once been able to identify a single emotion she was feeling, or even that she was feeling, you cry happy tears alongside her sad ones because you feel almost ecstatic at the sheer humanity and normality of what she is experiencing. Joy amidst sorrow takes on a whole new meaning.

You will experience situations of mortifying embarrassment, when your daughter throws a screaming tantrum in a store that nearly brings the roof down and commands the attention of every living being within two miles and makes you want to crawl into a hole and die. This will happen at least 46 times in three months. You will learn to appear calm, but inside, you will be screaming along with her, wishing you could cry as loudly as she does. Somehow, even as you are ready to pull her your hair out, you will feel a strange connection to her as you realize how alike you two actually are. Unexpected empathy and compassion will wash over you, and you will grasp at these as the God-given gifts that they are, lifelines in a world of swinging emotional extremes. Your heart and your mind will war with one another as you attempt to understand the source of her feelings and actions: Confusion? Frustration? Transition? Inability to communicate? Plain ugly sinfulness? Some combination of all of the above?

And then the moment of clarity, the high you’ve been desperately waiting for, unfolds so quickly you never saw it coming. One day you will find yourself checking out in a store like so many times before. You will approach the dreaded moment when you have to take away from her whatever thing she has latched onto and decided she wants (—As a side note, this is typically not a toy but more likely a roll of pink duct tape or a cooking magazine or a picture-hanging kit or a package of fish food or something equally mundane and bizarre and yet treasured by this unique little munchkin…is it weird that it’s not even weird anymore? Don’t tell me if so—). You will go to take this treasured object away from her, knowing that you have prepped her and explained to her at least eleven times throughout the course of the shopping trip that this item will not be purchased for her, and knowing equally well that all this intentional preparation will not matter whatsoever when she feels the sting of the loss and all ever-loving heck breaks loose. But she–and God’s grace–will surprise you in that moment. As you pry it from her fingers and wait for the piercing wail, you will watch a small miracle unfold instead. She will scrunch up her face in protest, but then start to chant to herself the script you have practiced with her a thousand times over. In her sweet little voice, she will comfort herself with not getting her way in one of the most healthy, self-controlled, appropriate demonstrations of coping you have ever witnessed. “Dat’s okay, baby. No fussing. Dat’s okay. No fussing. All done. All done. Dat’s okay, baby.” Your jaw will drop in shock and awe as you wait for reality to set in, for the tantrum to begin, for the spell to be broken. Instead, she will beam up at you, face full of joy and decided acceptance. You will feel like your heart is bursting with pride as you marvel at the giant leap she has just taken forward (as you inwardly talk yourself out of buying her every weird knickknack in the store as a reward for this incredible accomplishment). Every prior tantrum, every past moment of humiliation and mortification will fade into oblivion as you soar on the wings of this high that is ever so much higher than any of the previous lows.

And the extreme paradoxes will continue. One evening, your son will choose for his bedtime story a book about Rosa Parks that you chose from the book fair, hoping to create space for the conversation about race that you’ve been trying to have with him for over a year. You will read it together and watch the confusion chase across his features, followed by fear. You will feel shame, realizing that you have never once felt the weight of years of prejudice and oppression that he is subconsciously feeling now. You will feel the guilt of knowing that you were born into privilege, and that while he has been grafted into it, there will always be an unspoken divide between the two of you–unwanted and yet created by years of brutal and agonizing history–that will not be healed this side of heaven. You will be struck by both the beauty and the tragedy of the picture of adoption: this beautiful boy’s brown hand in your white (or according to him, “peach”) one…while you ponder just how amazing it is that you get to call him yours and yet how devastating it is for him that he was never given any other option. You will share in his confusion, and ask yourself why it had to be this way. You will find yourself swinging the pendulum again as your heart feels like it could never imagine life without him and then you simultaneously wish, for his sake, that you could. It was never supposed to be like this, you think. His presence in your family is the result of a fallen world, and yet together you both get the opportunity to share in the grace and redemption reflected in the mirror of adoption. This paradox is too complicated and terrible and wonderful to even comprehend, and you are struck by both the privilege and responsibility that you have been given to live out that truth on a smaller scale in your daily life.

As it has done so many times before, this paradox will turn your attention once again to the cross…the ultimate low. God in human form, bringing himself low, making himself nothing, for undeserving sinful scum like you and me. The unprecedented, indescribable low the disciples must have felt as they watched their beloved Jesus breathe His last. How fear and despair must have won the day that day! But how sweet the high–the sweetest of highs–when sorrow was transformed to joy at his resurrection! He is alive!

If you have had a day, a week, a month, maybe even a year of lows, remember that there is a high that is constant: the God of the universe, the King of Kings, stepped down to earth and humbled himself to die on a cross…for you. Then this Servant-King rose to life again so that you could walk in victory towards a future where lows will no longer exist.

So, really…when you think about the fact that His whole life was the greatest paradox of all…there is great comfort in living a life defined by paradoxical extremes.

Some Favorite Biblical Paradoxes
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:17-18

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The Sea Creature In the Mirror (And Other Deep Dark Confessions)

Have you ever had one of those days in which you were: 1. on edge the entire day, 2. (as a result) acutely aware of how prone to sin you were/are, 3. completely helpless to get “off edge”, despite bountiful prayer, time in the Word, prayer, godly parenting books, desperate prayer, reminding oneself of applicable Scripture, and did I say nonstop prayer? That was today. Today was one of those days I’d sooner forget (so of course I’m recording it in the permanent ink of the Internet… go figure), and yet here I am, with nothing left to do but follow the tiny tug inside that says, writeI could attempt to wax eloquent about the grace of God and how trials are so good for the believer and how His mercies are new every morning, and it would all be very true and very biblical and very applicable and currently very un-heartfelt. Just being honest, folks. How thankful I am that God doesn’t wait for my feelings to catch up before He starts digging the ugly out of me. And He’s doing that even now–something I know more from past experience and a dependence on the truth of God’s Word than from a feeling of being cleansed and renewed (hopefully I’ll get there!)–and I am so grateful that I can count on His character that seeks to continually refine and purify me even as my own attempts fail me for the 15 billionth time. Praise God for 15 billionth +1 chances.

I was texting with a fellow trench mama earlier (if you don’t know what I mean by this, please ask me), and I was confessing to her something that God had recently shown me about parenting. As a little background into the way I tend to learn, I’m a big imagery/analogies person and have always enjoyed finding a tangible picture to represent the abstract. Lately I have been thinking a lot about mirrors. The imagery of mirrors (HA! I’m also a fan of irony, even ridiculously punny irony) is used a lot throughout Scripture to help our vain little minds understand things about our selfish selves. I Corinthians talks about our limited understanding and insight here on earth and how much clearer all will be in heaven, and compares our earthly view to a dim mirror. Similarly, Husband and I have been reading through the book of James with our son, and he loves the part about being doers of the Word and not hearers only, like the man who looks in the mirror and goes away and forgets his face. Our son always remembers that analogy. As I think about mirrors and how they apply to my life (in addition to these two passages, obviously), there is only one thing that comes to mind. Ursula the sea witch. (Hey, I didn’t say my analogies were deep or insightful or admirable…they just help me, okay?)

If you’ve seen The Little Mermaid, you might remember how Ursula the sea witch–who is, by the way, one of the most terrifying and interesting villains Disney ever concocted–steals Ariel’s voice and transforms herself into a beautiful woman to entice Prince Eric to marry her. Because she is so beautiful, no one suspects she could really be the hideous, octopus-ish witch…until the mirror incident. Ariel’s seagull friend is flying by a ship where Ursula is getting ready for her wedding, and he sees her looking into the mirror. However, her reflection does not display the beauty everyone else sees; instead, it shows her as her true self: an ugly, bloated, dark fishlike creature. What does this have to do with me, you may wonder? Well, I have come to realize that parenting is the mirror that reflects the deepest, ugliest parts of my heart.

Husband and I have counseled quite a few couples preparing for marriage, and we still maintain that marriage proves to be a great mirror into one’s own selfishness. But parenting? Wow…it reveals sin in my heart that goes beyond selfishness, deeper than insecurity…parenting exposes things in me that I don’t want anyone to see or know about me. Fruits of the Spirit that I thought were the “easy” fruits now seem entirely unattainable. Peace? Not with the constant worrying I do about my kids’ academics, social skills, adjustment, behavior, boogers, sugar intake, future, you name it. Kindness? Doesn’t come so easy when you have wiped someone else’s poop off your arm…again. Goodness? You wouldn’t think me a good person if you could hear the sarcastic and ungrateful stream of commentary running through my head as I wash urine-soaked sheets for the fourteenth morning in a row. Gentleness? Try being gentle after your five-year-old slams the overloaded and uber heavy grocery cart into your pregnant belly while simultaneously running over your bare baby toe. Bless it.

Being a mama puts me into situations that tend to feel like an out of body experience, in which I’m watching someone else’s children drive some other poor lady crazy and watching her sanity unravel, taking all her sweetness and godliness with it. I find myself saying, thinking, doing things I used to say I would never do, back before I was a parent (read my post on giving up plans for more on how that falls apart after the fact). Y’all, I love my kids. I love them in ways that I never even knew existed. None of this has anything to do with my love for them. But it has everything to do with my own sinful heart and the sanctification that comes with REAL HARD LIFE. And parenting is REAL HARD LIFE. Parenting means sacrifice and exhaustion and total laying down of self. Parenting requires patience on steroids and grace out the wazoo. It involves letting go of agendas, plans, and all feelings of self-preservation. Parenting equals more tears, more prayers, more work, more joy, more love, just…more.

Parenting is also recognizing that you are still just a child. A child who still needs frequent discipline. A child who still has so much left to learn. A child who gets it wrong so much more of the time than she gets it right, but who has a Father that never gets it wrong. Parenting is realizing that even though I am utterly sinful and flawed, and that most days I feel like I’m groping around in the darkness and tripping and falling flat on my face, I can…no, I must…depend on MY Father to teach me how to mother. When my eyes are on Him, I don’t have to stare back at the ugly reflection of the depravity in my heart that is mirrored in my sinful parenting. Instead, I get to see myself through His eyes: as a beloved child sealed with the blood of Jesus.

Tomorrow is a new day, with new mercies in the morning, and a clean slate. But more importantly, with my Father as my example and my eyes where they should be, I will also have a clearer mirror. And by His grace, its reflection will show less of me and more of Jesus.

Plans Unraveling

It’s funny how preconceived plans tend to unravel when real life hits. I’ve had predetermined plans about so many things, both large and small, and so many  of them have been changed, altered, or completely abandoned when reality arrived. God has a sense of humor, and I feel more thankful than ever that I was pushed as a young child to recite my dad’s mantra of Be Flexible, Be Patient over and over again 147 times a day like a robotic parrot. Somehow, at some point in my life, it became less of a meaningless, repetitive phrase that was forced upon me and more like a tightly gripped lifeline connected to my sanity. It has literally served as my inhale and exhale in moments in which the plans that I was *sure* would unfold in my life (ever so perfectly and effortlessly, I might add) were instead surrendered, all out of necessity, either willingly or kicking and screaming-ly. Among them were these:

  • I will homeschool all my children, right away, for their entire childhood
  • I will make my children eat fruits and vegetables at every meal (HA!)
  • I will do a Fun Project every day in the summer
  • I will make my children do thirty minutes of reading every day in the summer
  • I will write super meaningful blog posts documenting every event related to adoption, including bringing them home, finalization, and every trauma and celebration in between and after
  • I will never let my children have more than thirty minutes of screen time in a day
  • I will plan weekly fun “field trips” to entertain my children in the summer
  • I will purchase a family membership to the pool to ensure SO MUCH FUN for my children
  • I will join a gym to get into better shape as a Mama
  • I will make exciting and nutritious meal plans every week
  • I will be SuperMom, SuperWife, SuperMinistryLeader

Behold: all the plans. So well-intentioned. So noble. So well-thought out. Unfortunately, this naïve mama forgot to account for the unexpected while she was making all the plans. Like the fact that the adoption process can take away some of your choices about education, at least for awhile. Like adopting one child that hates to read (the thought physically hurts this die-hard reader), and another that doesn’t really need to try to conquer reading when we are still learning to pronounce the word “frog” in a way that doesn’t sound like a profanity . Like the fact that some special needs mean that fruits and vegetables are out of the question, and most days you are just happy that the kid ate goldfish, pizza, and gummy bears and hopefully got enough calories to survive. Like the reality that field trips to the zoo are awesome…unless sensory meltdowns (inevitably) ensue because you unwittingly go on the day when it’s free admission for the whole county and so of course the whole county DOES THE ZOO in loud, pushy, overstimulating and unsympathetic droves, and then nothing is awesome and  nobody has fun, not even the monkeys or the overfed giraffes. It is finding out that a summer spent at the pool is only fun if your children aren’t either (1) terrified to the point of catatonic paralysis by the thought of being in the water, or (2) ready to throw themselves with reckless abandon into the deep end the moment you let go of their hand, despite not knowing how to swim whatsoever.

The unexpected also includes getting pregnant two months before your long-awaited adopted children come home. It is unexpected when you find out you are one of those pregnant women who is ALWAYS nauseous and PERPETUALLY sleeping tired, so that when the kids arrive smack-dab in the middle of your first trimester, it’s pure survival mode and a whole lot of yes, you can have a sixth popsicle and sure, you can play your iPad for another hour because Mommy will puke if she moves and sorry, babe, but it’s cereal for dinner again and please pretend to be happy about it because otherwise I’ll have an emotional breakdown that I promise will rival our daughter’s zoo hysteria. The unexpected is finding that having time to blog is a big amusing joke and that there are some memories you’d sooner forget than document forever for all posterity to see.

But when you are learning to be flexible and sometimes patient (confession: this trait only shows its pretty face when I’ve had lots of coffee and Jesus time), you also learn that throwing out the preconceived plans is not always the worst thing. Sure, it can be painful for a bit, but there is also some serious relief and considerable freedom that accompany letting them go. And if you can learn to stop feeling the need to justify your changed plans to others AND to yourself, you might just realize that it’s okay to let yourself off the hook a bit and rest in that wonderful hammock of grace that was so lovingly stretched out for you by the One who actually knows all the plans. You will suddenly understand that the only thing worth planning on is to trust a Sovereign God who knows a lot more about your kids, their needs, you, and your needs than yours truly.

Letting go of all the other plans in favor of surrendering to His Ultimate Plan doesn’t mean the unexpected stops occurring. On the contrary, the unexpected is (forgive the bad pun) to be expected. But through the lens of grace and flexibility, the unexpected brings some pretty fantastic surprises. Like watching a little boy’s confidence shoot through the roof when he learns to ride a bike without training wheels in three days. Like seeing a little girl go from being mostly nonverbal to a happy little chatterbox in the span of a few months. Like finding out that public school teachers can be kind and loving and compassionate and invested in your child’s emotional well-being. Like learning that a projected lifelong heart condition has been healed (glory to God!) and no longer requires medication or treatment. Like finding out the baby who has been quite literally sucking the life out of you is a little brother for your son who so desperately wanted a boy. Like a hundred thousand laughs and happy tears and moments of sheer joy that you never knew you could experience this side of heaven. All things that were never written into all my carefully crafted plans.

But I wouldn’t change a single thing.