Monday, November 9, 2015


For a few weeks now, I've found myself begging the Lord for mercy. I'll admit that I often spend a lot of time thinking about His grace, but never really contemplate or ask for His mercy. Recently, though, I've felt like a kid on the playground, lying face-down in the dirt, crying "uncle" as she continually gets pummeled by all things big and mean. 

It hasn't been pretty, and I've not been the prettiest person to be around. In fact, a few nights ago at dinner we were comparing each other to Dr. Seuss characters and, without hesitation, Ethan boldly and bravely stated that I would be The Grinch. About fifteen minutes later, Jeramie found me upstairs, sobbing on our bed. Who knew a six-year-old could give his mama such hurt feelings?! 

(I had wine with a friend later that night.)

But, back to mercy.

These days are HARD, y'all. On any given day, I feel as if the walls are closing in on us and we'll never escape the madness. The noise level in our home remains at a constant nails-on-a-chalkboard level, and someone is always running, crying, needing their bottom wiped, wanting to eat, asking a question, sitting in time-out, fighting sleep, fighting over a toy, fighting for attention. Fighting, fighting, fighting! Some days, Jeramie gets home from work and finds me all but curled up in the fetal position, rocking in the corner. 

One night, after a particularly difficult day, Jeramie was praying before bed and the only thing I remember him saying is, "Lord, have mercy."

Have mercy. Throw us a bone. Give us a break. Have compassion on us, Lord!

After praying that prayer for a few days, it become clear through a variety of people and ways, that we needed to take a break. I was craving space to breathe, to think, to rest. I wanted to stand on the shore of a massive ocean and be reminded of how small I am compared to my great, big God. I wanted to be dazzled by the rising sun and reminded of His faithfulness. I needed time away from the kids, and time with my husband.

So we did just that.

We left the kids in the care of family and friends and spent two uninterrupted, restful days on the coast of our beautiful state.

And it was amazing.

And the mercy the Lord showed us over the course of one weekend sweetened His goodness and softened our hearts.

He renewed our spirits and strengthened our bodies for this race we're running.

And we didn't deserve it.

But He gave it to us anyway.

Because He loves us and He hears the cries of His children.

And His mercies, just like the rising sun, come abundant and free every morning. 

Yes, Lord, we are thankful.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
-Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health

Do you remember back in April of 2009, when Ethan's heart stopped and everyone involved with bringing him back to life thought he wouldn't make it through the night? 

Do you remember the desperation Jeramie and I felt as we watched our son fight for his life yet again, without even having the chance to come home from the hospital? 

Do you remember the fear and sadness that loomed heavy in our hearts, along with the hope in our God who sees, loves, redeems, and restores?

I want you to remember, because I want you to see how big our God is.

Ever since Ethan's cardiac arrest, my prayer has been that the Lord would see fit to restore Ethan's heart to its healthy state. By no means was his heart "normal" or "perfect" prior to that night, but it would allow him to live a very long, full life. On April 22, 2009 -- at six and a half weeks old -- that all changed. Ethan's life-expectancy went from decades to hours, and his quality of life took an unknown turn for the worst. 

But God.

He sees the sad mama all alone in the pumping room, pleading on behalf of her child who may never live to drink the milk her body provides for him. 

He hears the cries of those who mourn for what might be. 

He comforts fearful, saddened hearts. 

He listens to the prayers of His people and He is mighty to save!

This morning, Ethan had a routine check-up with his cardiologist. These visits have become increasingly more "boring" recently, especially since his surgery last summer, and any heart mama will tell you that boring visits are the very best kind! Today's was boring in the most exciting way, though...

After an echo, EKG, and pacemaker interrogation, Dr. I came in to share the news with us: Ethan's heart is doing phenomenally well! The pressure across his conduit is in the normal (NORMAL!) range, and the pressures of his branch pulmonary arteries are not of concern anymore. He even went as far to say that if it weren't for the pacemaker, Ethan would be switched to yearly (YEARLY!) visits. 

The heart that struggled to beat even months after it stopped is HEALTHY. Restored. Dare I say, healed? The Lord has taken that six-and-a-half-year prayer of mine and has turned my mourning into gladness today! He is healing not only Ethan's heart, but mine as well. 

Do you see how good He is?

Thursday, July 23, 2015


In more ways than one, our family has experienced a tremendous amount of growth since the last time I published something to this space. Who knew that just two days after I wrote about the day Ethan's heart stopped, that the Lord would teach us a little more about grief and grace and tension and trusting Him?

I sure didn't, but He did.

For a long while now, I’ve attempted to put words to the past three months of our life, but they just haven’t come -- not in written form, at least. I still don’t feel as though I can adequately string together enough nouns, verbs, and adjectives to express just how much our lives have been impacted over these ninety-some days, but a friend has ever-so-gracefully challenged me to start somewhere, so here I am.

Most of you reading this have lived these days with us, experiencing our stress and exhaustion first-hand, injecting truth and encouragement into our souls whenever possible. Some of you have watched us at a distance, most likely admiring our “strength” and simultaneously thinking you could never do it. Then, there are a handful of you who have no idea how our family has changed since April 24, 2015. No matter which category you identify with, I pray the Lord will use my inadequate words to display His glory and strength -- not our own -- through what I have to share. We play just a small role in His grand redemption story; please hear me when I say this is not about us.

In August of 2013, after three weeks of fasting and praying about growing our family, Jeramie and I said “yes” to adoption. It was very clear that God had led us individually to that decision, and right away we began pursuing all of our options. “Orphan care” was a very broad subject to us at the time and we quickly became overwhelmed with where to start. Thankfully, the Lord knew where we’d end up, and He kept our hearts open and sensitive to His promptings and direction.

To make a very long back-story very short, we thought we were to pursue domestic infant adoption, but that door was closed for us rather quickly. Around the time I went to India in February 2014, Jeramie and I both sensed the Lord was leading us to our county’s foster care program.

(It’s worth mentioning here that when we answered the call to adopt that August, my response sounded something like this: “Okay, Lord. I’ll adopt. BUT. I will NOT foster. Mmmkay?”)


In March of 2014, after I returned from India, we attended a foster care information session offered by our county. By the time we pulled out of the parking lot that night, both Jeramie and I were fully convinced and convicted that this was the path we were to take. Our training was pushed back due to Ethan’s surgery last July, but by November 2014 we were “graduates” of our county’s MAPP class and became fully licensed foster parents in March of this year.


On Thursday, April 23rd, on my way to pick up Ethan from school after lunch with a friend, I got “the call”. A social worker from the county needed to find a home for a four-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother, and we were the last option for keeping them together. With a mix of hesitation and excitement, we said "yes". On Friday, April 24th our family grew by two children.

Here’s where I lose my words. It’s easy to state the facts, to relive the dates, and to remember where I was "when". It’s a heck of a lot harder to explain the emotions, to put words to the trauma, and to wonder what God is doing through all of this.

I can’t tell y’all a lie. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, second only to Ethan’s birth and nine-and-a-half week hospital stay. There are many parallels to that time we spent with him in the hospital, and many of those same emotions have resurfaced, but it’s so different, too.

The second night the kids were with us, around 3:00 in the morning, I sobbed into the hair of our two-year-old, rocking him in my arms and pleading with him to sleep. I muttered something along the lines of “we can’t do this” and fought with the Lord about why it seemed as if we were being punished for being obedient. I felt abandoned by the very one who had led us into this mess and I was deeply grieving the the loss of "family" as we knew it. The darkness outside our window seemed like daylight compared to the darkness within my heart that night. I will never forget walking into church the following morning as a family of five, sleep-deprived and desperate for some sense of normalcy. I wept on the shoulder of a dear friend of mine within seconds of walking through the front door, and the tears continued to flow well into the worship service.

To this day, I still can’t pinpoint exactly why I was so sad that first weekend. There was just so much to feel -- from my own grief, to the sadness I felt for our new children, to the fear our family was somehow being “ruined” by the whole thing. I was a mess and, to be perfectly honest, I still have those moments three months later.


While Satan attacks me with confusion and doubt and exhaustion and fear, Jesus remains true and steady and ever-present. That first Sunday morning at church, when I could not open my mouth to sing a single note, and I had no words to pray other than “why, Lord?”, the voices of our church surrounded me and I could feel Him quieting my heart and singing over me. He is so faithful and so good, despite how badly the enemy would want me to believe otherwise. This whole experience is giving intense perspective to how Jesus may have felt on the cross, forsaken by His own Father as He followed Him in obedience, bearing the brunt of my sin so I wouldn't have to.

It’s hard and sad and exhausting, and some mornings I wake-up wanting to give-up. Some nights, after putting three children to bed and falling onto the couch in a heap of frustration, I find myself wanting my selfish life back. But how can I give up on these children and live in disobedience to the Lord after all Jesus has done for me? When the two-year-old has a nightmare and finds comfort in our “sh-sh-sh”, or the four-year-old finally learns how to form the “I love you” hand, or I find Ethan snuggled on the couch, reading them a story, it's as if God is gifting me with moments of tangible grace to help me remember. In those moments I am reminded that this is not about me. This is not about us.

This is about the extravagant, redeeming love that has been shown to us by our good and perfect Father. It’s about the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf so that we can experience that love in its fullest form. Every single morning, I make the choice to give-up or to take the opportunity to share that amazingly generous love with two children who may never share my last name. Every morning, I die to myself a little more than the day before and ask Jesus to lead the way. 

Most mornings, I try to regain control before the sun has fully risen in the sky. Most mornings, I get it wrong. But, man. On the days when I get out of His way and watch Him work in and through this family He has created, it is one of the most beautiful messes I’ve ever seen.

I wish I could say that our days are filled with more "beauty" than "mess", but that wouldn’t be true. We are still very much experiencing fierce growing pains, and I think this is where the Lord wants us. We are learning so much about ourselves individually, as a family, and as believers. Obedience has a funny way of  highlighting sin, and some days it seems like we have the world’s biggest magnifying glass over our home, exposing the depth of our ugly hearts.

On those days, I am reminded of Paul's words in Romans -- where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Y'all, it is only by the grace of God that I put one foot in front of the other and choose to be obedient to the call He has placed on our lives. I often question if we're the right family for the job -- if I'm the right mama for these kids -- but His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in my weaknesses. I cannot say that I abide in that truth day-to-day, but I'm getting there.

We do not know how long the children will be with us, or if they'll go back home at all. We don't know if there will be lasting effects of the trauma they've experienced, or what those would be. There is a lot that we do not know, so we hold fast to what we do: that the Lord has gone before us and is not leaving us to do this hard work on our own; that He has created the inmost being of these children, knowing that one day they would be in our home; that His grace is sufficient and His mercies are new every morning.

Please pray for us. The days are long and hard. We are tired. Patience runs out quicker than it used to and tempers flare hotter and stronger than before. We do not want these children to merely survive in our home, we want them to thrive. We want them to know the depth of Jesus' love for them.

Above all, we want God to be glorified in the words we speak and the actions we show.

Will it be easy? No.

Worth it? Absolutely.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Around mid-April, as the warm air moves in and the trees begin to bloom, I can feel it coming. The calendar pushes forward and I sense a heaviness in my heart that sinks deep down into the pit of my stomach. I attempt to push it away -- because what good is there in grieving a day that ultimately has a happy ending? -- but, thankfully, my attempts are futile. No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, some days are just going to be harder than others, and that's okay. For our family, April 22 is one of those days.

For the first time since 2009, this date has fallen on a Wednesday and I think about what that Wednesday morning looked like for us: Ethan was six weeks old and had not yet left the hospital, Jeramie was back to work while Ethan and I snuggled and played, home was just days away. Later that afternoon, Ethan woke up from a nap and it was obvious something wasn't right; tests were run, prayers were prayed, fears were calmed. Then, later that night: alarms blaring, nurses running; Ethan's blue and white gown thrown haphazardly across the room, yelling, syringes, CPR.

Over the course of eleven long minutes that Wednesday night, the Lord breathed new life into Ethan's body through the nurses and doctors who manually pumped his heart and expanded his lungs. I can live to be one hundred and five years old, and I'm certain the memories of that day will never fade.

But. Compare that scene to this Wednesday -- today: Ethan is six years old, Jeramie is at work while Ethan and I snuggle before school, I wash and fold his t-ball jersey for his game this weekend. He was diagnosed with the flu on Monday, but he's back to school just two days later. He's the healthiest, strongest, and funniest he's ever been.

So much grief.

So much grace.

At times I've tried to reconcile the grief of almost losing Ethan with the grace of getting to keep him, but it's not possible -- and I've learned that I don't really want to. The tension between the grief and the grace is the place where my faith grows. It's where I continually put my trust back into a good and gracious God and remind myself that Ethan is his more than he's mine.

When it comes to the hard days, I remember, but don't dwell. I grieve, but not without hope. I let the grief push me towards compassion, the grace towards humility. I thank Jesus for the new life he offers, the mercy he shows, and the grace he extends.

Because Lord knows, without him, days like today would be a whole lot harder.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Six Years Later

Dear Ethan,

Six years ago, your Daddy and I nervously found ourselves in the labor and delivery unit of the hospital where you would be born.  We didn't know when you would come, exactly, but we were so eager to meet the baby who had been keeping me up at night -- by both your kicks and punches, and the uncertainty of your health.  Of course, we knew nothing about your heart at that point, but we fervently prayed that God would safely bring you into our world. He faithfully answered our prayers and the next morning you came quickly, with a fierce determination that hasn't relented in the six years you've been here.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate all that those years have held for you -- the accomplishments and the challenges, the good days and the bad, the joy and the despair.  We will remember your first days in this messed up world, though it be painful. We will thank God for allowing you to remain here with us and we will never cease to give him glory for how far you've come.

I hope you'll remember this once you're older, but a few weeks ago our family had the honor of attending a fancy event to raise money for the American Heart Association (or, "for special hearts", as you put it). You were, by far, the star of the show and the story of your life impacted hundreds of people that night. Ethan, I want you to know those first, heartbreaking days of your life have propelled change and enacted laws.  They have offered hope.  They have been specific places on our family map we can point to and say, "God was there. And there. And there. And here." Nothing is wasted, Ethan. God can take even the ugliest, saddest moments of your life and use it for good -- and he already has. As your mama, I look forward to seeing how he'll continue to use you and your story for his glory. 

As you get older, kids can be a little more mean, questions can be harder to answer, and feelings can be more difficult to sort out. My prayer for you is that you will continue to face your days with the determination and optimism that you've had ever since you were a baby, knowing that the Lord is with you and has gone before you in any circumstance you may face. He is so good, Ethan, and the best decision you can ever make is to know him deeply and intimately. Your daddy and I, and even your friends, will let you down many times in this life, but God never will!

My prayer, as your mama, is that I will not hinder the good work the Lord is doing in your life. There are many times I want to minimize your vigor and strong-will, but I'm often reminded that those God-given qualities have served you well up to this point, and that he has woven them together, with all the other things that make you unique, to create something beautiful. My best moments as your mama are the ones in which I see you through his eyes.

And what a beautiful boy you are.

Happy birthday, my spunky, spirited, sweet, silly, six-year-old! You are so loved.

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