To My Daughter: More Than Just A Pretty Face

Lies have been infiltrating the thoughts of women for centuries now. Some of the lies are: “If I become more successful or make a name for myself I’ll be happy. If my life looked more like hers or if I had that job I’d be happy. If I were married or if I could get pregnant I’d be happy. If I could lose a few pounds I’d be happy.” I’ve sat across from many successful and beautiful women. The world would say, “Their life must be perfect. They have it all: beauty, job, husband, children, etc.” More times than not each of these women have bravely shared with me about their struggles and the lies they fight not to be consumed by. The lies that tell them they aren’t ________ enough- not successful enough, not worthy enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not a good enough wife, mother, friend, employee etc.

Satan is the king of the “Lie Factory.” Since the beginning of time (literally), he’s aggressively been trying to lure women into doubting that what God says in His word is true. It all started in the garden. “Did God really say that?” Not all that much has changed. Satan still roams around like a roaring lion plotting to devour little Eves through lies about ourselves, God and others. He wants us to question God’s promises. He wants us to think we aren’t worthy enough for God’s word to hold any value for us. He wants us to be so focused on ourselves and consumed by our insecurities and self-perceived failures that we forget God’s ultimate purpose for our life-to make much of Him.

I believe Satan uses  “the comparison trap” as his biggest ally.  I remember falling into that deadly game dating back to middle school. The scars left on my body from cancer and the health issues I battled as a result made me feel so different from my peers and seemed to be in stark contrast to how I perceived the world to define a woman. And so, all though my teenage years and early college, I permitted others opinion’s of what is beautiful, valuable and worthy to define me. And so when I examined my life, I felt in many ways that I didn’t measure up. Through years of therapy, prayer and being really honest with those closest to me, I experienced freedom from the lies that used to torment me. And as God’s word transformed my mind, I came to realize how God would use all things in my life for my good and to bring glory to His name.

But, I’m not too far removed from that time that I’m not distinctively and overwhelming aware of the societal pressures placed on women. Even though I have experienced freedom, I still feel the pull sometimes towards those worldly standards and the lies that once consumed me. And it is because of my experience and knowledge that raising a daughter in this generation gravely concerns me at times.

Lately, when my 2-year gets up in the morning she has been proclaiming as soon as I walk in the room, “Morning, Mama! Hey, I a princess!” The other day I was cooking dinner and Ruby found a picture of her and her twin brother and brought it to me and pointed to herself, “Hey, I’m pretty!” I smile, as I know she has been listening to every single word we say.

In a world that is telling little girls and women of all ages, “you’re not enough” and “you’ll never measure up,” I want my daughter to know that her value extends way beyond what she sees in the mirror. Do I want my daughter to know she is beautiful? Absolutely. But most importantly, I want my little girl to be confident in the very person God uniquely made her to be. I want so much more for Ruby than self-confidence with her reflection in the mirror. I want her to know she is fearfully and wonderfully made and that God has a wonderful plan for her life.  In an ever-changing world of social media, standards and perfection, I long for her to know that the one thing that never changes, the one thing that remains constant is God’s unconditional love for her. In a world that is telling everyone that their value is found in what social media thinks about them, their appearance, employment or martial status, I want my daughter to not be fooled by this notion.

My prayer is that Ruby would know for certain that beauty isn’t just found in a pretty face. Rather, beauty comes in many forms-extending kindness, love and patience towards others, using the mind to bring about change in this world, being a strong voice for the oppressed and those who can’t speak for themselves, using humor to make others laugh, befriending those who don’t “fit in,” or using talents to bless someone. Instead of focusing all of her time and attention on cultivating outwardly beauty, my prayer is she would invest her time and energy in cultivating a beautiful soul, which can’t be done a part from Christ.

Some of the most beautiful people I’ve met had one trait in common: they cared less about what others think of them and invested their time directing others towards the ultimate source and creator of beauty-God. The National Geographic listed Antelope Island State Park in Syracuse, Utah as home to one of the most beautiful summer sunsets in the world. After a long day of traveling to this glorious spot, would it make any sense to pull out a mirror to look at yourself just as the sun is setting?  No, that would be considered foolishness. As the gorgeous colors were filling up the sky you would stand in awe and you would stare. You would realize the magnitude of beauty that is right before your eyes, as you point to your friends, “Wow! Look at that. Isn’t it the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen?”

Many of us have become so consumed by our insecurities and shortcomings that we forget our ultimate calling on this earth-to bring glory to God. We are constantly in the presence of the creator of beauty, the One who spoke the stars and sky into existence, and yet like the person pulling out their mirror during the most beautiful summer sunset, we forget. We forget that our calling on this earth isn’t to make a name for ourselves, but rather to move all attention and honor to Jesus. Do I still struggle with insecurities? Absolutely. But now I know where to fix my eyes-the author and perfector of my faith, Jesus Christ. God has the power to redeem us, transform our thinking and make us more like His Son, through His grace that was poured out for us. We forget because we stop looking at Christ. We forget because we look to other things and only find momentary satisfaction. In a world that is screaming, “Hey, look at me, look at me,” I want my daughter to know where her value comes from and to be able to say with confidence, “No, look at Him. Look at Christ.”

As mothers, this starts with us. If we long for our daughters to be confident that their purpose on this earth goes far beyond trivial things, than we have to lead by example. What is my daughter observing that I place my value in? Is she seeing that I treasure Christ above all else? Is she hearing me speak words of life and truth into our home?  Is she hearing mommy speak well of herself and other women? Or is she seeing a mama who is swayed by opinions and expectations of this world? I know for certain that our daughters are watching. They watching and they are listening. After all, my two-year-old daughter knows she’s a princess. I wonder who she heard that from?

Anxiety: How God Used It For My Good

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just snap our fingers and by doing so all of our present concerns and worries would just be eliminated into thin air? As a self-professed “professional” worrier, I’ve often thought about how great it would be if someone had a “worry wand” where they could just zap away all of my anxieties with the flip of the wrist. Am I the only one who has thought this? I mean, wouldn’t that be awesome?

As a childhood cancer survivor, I dealt with medical complications on a daily basis related to the treatments and surgeries I received. I still deal with some of those issues today, but they’ve become as normal to me as breathing air into my lungs. As a little girl, however, they were a great source of embarrassment, anxiety, and sickness. Throughout elementary school I had to be excused from class by my nurse multiple times a day to take care of these issues. Kids were curious and I would get nervous about how to answer their questions about where I was going or what I was doing. I was sick often all throughout school, constantly concerned about making up tests, missed assignments and how I would ever graduate. Although I participated in many extracurricular activities, there were times I was nervous and constantly on edge about whether or not these medical issues would flare up during an event or a performance-and a few times they did.

 After an emergency appendectomy in high school, my surgeon walked in the hospital room to inform me that the likelihood of being able to have children would be slim due to the scarring and treatments I received from my previous cancer surgeries. Instead of worrying about what dress I was going to wear to homecoming that year or my grade on a math test, I was, at age 15, filled with worry and fear over the likelihood of my inability to bear children.

When I was younger I tried to convince myself through “pep talks” not to worry over these things. The more I told myself not to worry, the more I became consumed by anxiety-ridden thoughts. I had stored up Bible verses in my heart such as “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…” (Matthew 6) but I was conflicted because I was worried and I really didn’t know where to go from there. Even though I was a believer and clung tightly to promises that God was in control, He was keeping me, He hadn’t forsaken me, He had a plan for all things-I wasn’t immune to fear.

Six months after my husband and I started dating I was diagnosed again with cancer. While waiting for further tests to be concluded, we took a family vacation to Florida to get away and enjoy the sunshine. I was so fearful about what my future would hold-would I even have one? I had read Matthew 6 about a thousand times at that point, about how I shouldn’t worry, but my faulty understanding of those verses left me struggling with guilt and condemnation over the anxiety I had. Can anyone relate to that?

One morning I woke up early before my family and stepped out onto the balcony of our condo. The morning sun greeted me and I just took in one big deep breath and exhaled, “I’m scared God. I’m so scared. Help me.” As I turned around to go back inside, a little yellow bird caught my eye. It was sunbathing on a white chair on our balcony. I knelt down to get a closer look and held out my hands. Assuming the little guy would fly away, I was surprised when he jumped right into my hands as if he belonged there. I thought back to Matthew 6 and realized my faulty understanding of those passages had been influencing the way I dealt with fear and anxiety. 

Jesus wasn’t telling the people not to worry in the absence of worry. That would be absurd! He wasn’t telling them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, get rid of all of their anxiety and then come to Him. Jesus was telling them not to worry because He knew them well. He knew they were prone to struggle with anxiety and fear. He knew they were prone to forget God’s promises. But, you see, He didn’t just stop with a an empty suggestion. He pointed them towards their heavenly Father. “Don’t worry about your life…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6:25-26) Then, He reminded them that they are more valuable then these things. If God provided for these things, would He not also provide for them? Through studying the scriptures I learned I wasn’t alone in my anxiety and contrary to my initial interpretation, I wasn’t any “less of a Christian” because I struggled with it.

Just as I had learned to recognize that God has used my physical weaknesses to remind me of my need for a Savior, he has used (and continues to use) the anxiety in my life to draw me closer to Him. My worry throughout the years has led me into a dialogue of prayer with God. My struggles with anxiety have actually pushed me closer to the Lord because I am constantly aware of my great need for Him. Instead of trying to “self-help” my way out of anxiety, instead of trying to ignore it and act like it isn’t there (come on, we’ve all done that), I’ve learned to do what the author says in Psalm 55, “Cast all your cares on the Lord.” And God has met me there. God has met me in my honesty, and in my vulnerability and in my tears, and in my mess. He has met in my fear and in those dark places where I felt outnumbered by my thoughts. He picked me up and breathed life, His Word, into my lungs and He sustained me. And He continues to do so everyday.

If God hadn’t renewed my perspective through His word when He did, and if I hadn’t been able to see, through His grace, how He was using all of these difficult trials for my good and His glory, I know for certain I wouldn’t be equipped to handle the journey before me. It’s not that worry, doubt and sadness don’t exist anymore. They do. How could they not? I’m human. It’s just I’ve learned where to take with these feelings when they come pouring in-to the foot of the cross. And I’ve never been turned away. Christ always meets me where I am and greets me with His grace, truth and unconditional love. And He offers the same to you, my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

The Flood Will Not Consume You

Two years ago today I wrote a post on the The Great Flood of 2016 that hit our home and community in Denham Springs, Louisiana (see below). Last week I wrote a post on the importance of looking back on what God has done in our life to give us strength and confidence to trust Him with our present circumstances and future. This is me practicing what I preach…

Six weeks after we adopted our twins, the Great Flood of 2016 hit our community and our home in Denham Springs, Louisiana.  The Washington Post stated that this flood dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. According to the Red Cross, this was the “worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” and FEMA reported that over 150,000 homeowners/renters applied for assistance.

Moments leading up to the evacuation I was cooking chicken fajitas for Obbie and I. While I was feeding our boy I looked out the front door and noticed the water line had risen quite considerably. At the time I wasn’t nervous because we weren’t in a flood zone. I showed Obbie and he went out to talk with all of the neighbors who had gathered at the edge of their driveways. When I stuck my head out the door, I saw Obbie’s face from a distance. I will never forget the concerned look on his face. I knew it wasn’t good. He came back inside and said, “Kelly, we need to pack everything up. The water will probably be entering our house soon.” I started crying. I didn’t want to leave. This was our home.

I couldn’t find a suitcase so I brought a large empty black trunk and dragged it into the twins room. As I walked in, I began to tear up. I had spent so much time preparing, decorating, dreaming and hoping in this room. As I began stuffing all of their clothes and diapers into the trunk I looked to the right and saw the huge frame that read, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him…” I turned it around and saw all of the names I had hand written with a sharpie marker-probably 500 or more. Every single person who helped us bring our babies home has a place in our hearts and on the back of the frame. I hoped that it would serve as a future reminder to our children of just how loved they are-not just by us but by an entire community! Little did I know that on Saturday, August 13, 2016 the Lord would use something I had intended for my children to minister to me. In those scary moments I felt like He was saying, “trust me with this Kelly…remember how I brought you through the other storms and valleys…remember…even when you can’t make sense of what is going on…trust me…”

We threw as much as as we could into the back of our neighbor’s big white truck. Although I don’t remember a lot from that day, I will never forget the drive. At that point the water was so high I could feel it splash my face. And as I looked down at the twins I began to cry as we slowly waded through the water.  There were moments when I felt like I was in a nightmare and I just wanted to wake up. I prayed, “Dear Lord, protect our babies. Please keep our babies safe…”

A few hours after we arrived at our neighbor’s house the waters began rising there too. We made the decision to evacuate their house because if we waited too long we wouldn’t be able to get out. We took the twins and two back packs full of diapers and formula and headed to the one of the only dry streets left in our neighborhood. Preparing to sleep in our mini van, we parked behind our friends on the side of the road. A few minutes after we arrived there a young woman approached us with a concerned look on her face.  “Please come stay with us.” We spent that night and the next day camped out in her living room. Her entire family welcomed us and fed us.

After a few days the water subsided. When we realized our house was going to be unlivable for a few months due to the flood damage, we thought it would be best if I took the twins up north to stay with family. (We ended up staying there for a few months while my husband continued gutting and rebuilding our home with the help of friends and strangers.) Many families lost absolutely everything.  Later we learned that many families had to be evacuated by boat because the water was so high. They had to leave everything behind. Can you imagine that kind of loss?

To the flood victims: I know so many of you are exhausted and you just wonder when things will go back to normal. You walk into rooms that you barely recognize. You try to salvage a decades worth of memories in print. You wonder how you will provide for your family because you didn’t have flood insurance and government assistance hasn’t covered a fraction of what it will cost to rebuild your home. I am hurting with you. But, one thing I do know for sure is that we will rise from this and we will grow and become stronger through it. I don’t say that to diminish the loss or pain you/we are going through. I say to encourage you and remind you that there is hope. And that Hope is Jesus Christ and that is what I am clinging to.

It can be overwhelming when you look around at what is left of your house. Memories may flood your mind of what used to be there; the room that you rocked your baby in for the very first time; that special corner in your living room where you put up your Christmas tree every year; the kitchen table where you shared meals together. Although the flood may have destroyed the physical things-those waters will never be able to take your memories. But more importantly than those precious memories is the overwhelming reminder that this place is not our eternal home. The Lord has always used trials in my life to remind me of this. I am not going to sit here and try to make sense of the flood. I can’t wrap my mind around it. However, I am quite certain through my own trials, that God does not waste anything. He is sovereign and in control of ALL things. God didn’t waste my cancer. God didn’t waste my miscarriage. And we can be confident that God is still at work right now. God creates beauty out of the mess and muddy waters.

Perhaps you’ve never been through a natural disaster. But I know through personal experience that it doesn’t take an actual flood to bring on a storm. In the pain and chaos it is difficult to see God’s plan. When you are knee deep in the waters  it is easy to think that God has forgotten you and sometimes that makes it difficult to trust. But, believe this my friend: the flood will not consume you and He has NOT forgotten you. He is worthy of our trust even when we can’t comprehend or understand the chaos that surrounds us. Whatever flood or mess currently has your attention, my prayer for you is that you would cling to your Savior. When you look around at all of the unrecognizable mess, my prayer is that you would fix our eyes on Christ. Ask Him for strength. Ask Him for patience. Cry out to Him. He is listening and He is near. He will bring you out of this storm. Why? Because He is a faithful God who promises to never leave His children.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” -Isaiah 43:2

Remembering God’s Fingerprints In Your Life

The other night, after I sang my sweet 2 year old baby girl to sleep, I walked into her twin brother’s room to tuck him in. I laid on the floor with my arm around him on his new, big boy, toddler bed. I was exhausted from the day and thought perhaps I could get away with just singing one verse of his favorite song. After I finished and I tried to get up, he wouldn’t let me go. He wrapped his little arm around my neck, pulled me in close, and said, “No mama, song! Stay. Snuggle.” He was so confident that mommy would stay with him and sing a few more songs because He knows me and that’s what I do every other night. My heart melted into a puddle right there on the floor as I continued singing to him and watched him slowly drift off to sleep.

I don’t have to look too far back in my life to see God’s fingerprints and be reminded of His provision and faithfulness. But unlike my son, who can remember how many songs I sing to him every night, sometimes I forget. Can you relate? After 430 years in slavery (Exodus 12:40), God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and out from under Pharaoh’s rule in a mighty display of His power, dominion and glory. He sent 10 horrendous plagues, parted the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to escape from slavery into freedom, and when they were hungry God made bread fall from the sky (literally) (Exodus 16:4). But, they quickly forgot, complained and traded in the promises of God for broken cisterns that could not satisfy. And 2,000 years later, not really all that much has changed. We still behave like the Israelites who completely forgot and dismissed what the Lord did and said because our present circumstances aren’t quite unfolding the way we expect them too. 

Francis Chan refers to the forgetfulness of God’s promises and provisions as spiritual amnesia, an epidemic that none of us are immune to. You may be thinking, “If spiritual amnesia is inevitable than what can I do?” The author of Hebrews continually reminded them, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away (Hebrews 2:1). And again in Hebrews 3:6 and 3:14 he encourages them to “hold onto their original confidence.” Why would the author continually remind the Israelites to hold onto what they already know to be true?  He knew they needed to be continually reminded to REMEMBER what God has done and REMEMBER what God has said. The author of Hebrews knew the antidote for spiritual amnesia: remembering.

1. Remembering what God has said.
As a Christian, spending time with God in His word and through prayer are vital to your spiritual health. But, how can you remember what you do not know? As a busy wife, twin mom and adoption consultant, I’m constantly struggling to prioritize my schedule in such a way that allows for time in the Word and prayer. It’s tough and I’m sure it’s an art I will always be growing in. But, what a difference spending time in the Word does for my soul! During times of sickness, uncertainty, tragedy, doubt, loss, worry, fear, sadness, broken relationships, etc., God’s promises come to mind because I’ve buried them in my heart through continual reading and remembering.  Promises such as:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
-Isaiah 43:2

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:19

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”
-Ephesians 3:20

2. Remembering what God has done. 
In Joshua 3 we see how God, once again, parted the waters which provided access for the Israelites to walk through the Jordan River onto dry land.  They placed 12 stones from the riverbed and stacked them on the other side (Joshua 4), which served as a reminder to them and others of God’s faithfulness and provision.  I believe God places “Stones of Remembrance” in our life because He knows we are prone to forget. Remembering what God has done in our past, give us hope and confidence to trust Him with our future. Can you think of any “stones of remembrance” in your life or perhaps a time you remember where God was with you in a very tangible way?

  • Remember how God sustained you through a very difficult time.
  • Remember how God healed you or a loved one from physical illness.
  • Remember how God saved you from your sin and brought you into new life.
  • Remember how God provided for you in a very specific way.
  • Remember how God comforted you through a time of loss.

Roman and Ruby cry in the middle of the night because they know mommy and daddy are coming to rock them back to sleep. Roman runs towards me with arms wide open from across the room because he is confident that I will catch him! Ruby points out her “boo boo” to us because she knows we will make it better.  How can they be so sure that we will follow through? Our children know us and their confidence in our response comes through remembering.

Whether you’re sitting in the unknown and waiting, struggling with physical illness, trying to mend a broken relationship, experiencing financial issues, struggling with infertility or loss, dealing with the death of a loved one or in the process of adopting a child, whatever your circumstance may be; my prayer for you is that you would remember to remember. Remember what God has said. Remember what God has done. As stories of God’s faithfulness come to mind and you look back on His fingerprints in your life, I hope it will provide you with strength and confidence to trust Him with your present circumstances and your future.

Walking Through The Adoption Process With Joy

Are you discouraged because the adoption process isn’t what you thought it would be? Are you exhausted hearing “no” from expectant mothers/parents? Have you let the disappointments in the adoption process consume your mind? Are you bitter from comparing your adoption journey with another family’s recent match? Did you recently walk through a failed adoption?

Difficulties are certain in this life. In fact, if you are a child of God, hardships are a guarantee. Similarly, the adoption process isn’t immune to challenges. I will never forget the day I got a call from one of my close friends telling me that an expectant mama had chosen them to be the parents of their baby! We had been walking through the adoption process together, and this is the call I had been anticipating from them for a while. However, a few months later their situation seemed to be taking an unexpected turn – the kind that so many adoptive parents fear. The mother had decided to parent. Initially, they were angry, hurt, sad and confused. After the failed adoption, they wondered if God even desired for them to be parents. They felt hopeless and many tears were shed. But as they mourned the loss, they remembered God’s promises to them.

Even though the situation had taken them by surprise, it wasn’t a surprise to our heavenly Father. Even though their circumstances seemed to be changing in a scary direction, God’s promises were no less true. And because their ultimate joy was rooted in Christ and not a specific outcome, they were able to keep moving forward. They were able to keep pressing on with joy because they trusted in God’s sovereign hand. They trusted that His promises were true for them despite the twists and turns of the adoption process.

The day-to-day stress of life can be exhausting. But when you add the unknowns and emotions involved with the adoption process, it can become even more difficult to manage. Having joy in the adoption process can be challenging, but it’s a critical part of the journey that is sometimes overlooked.

Defining joy is important. Today, when we think of joy, we often think of surface-level happy, rainbows and butterflies-type of attitude or perspective. But the joy I’m referring to is a Christ-centered, all- sustaining, all-consuming joy. It’s the kind of joy that will hold you up through the deepest trenches and darkest nights. This is indestructible joy.

Psalm 16:11 tells us that, in Christ’s presence, there is a fullness of joy and in His hand there are pleasures forever more. Scripture makes it very clear that, for Christians, our ultimate joy isn’t found in this world but rather in Christ. However, as someone who has struggled with infertility and walked through several bouts of cancer, this is something I’ve really struggled with through the years. How am I to have joy while I’m walking through the really really messy and difficult stuff? I know the Bible says my joy is found in Christ, but how to do I get there? How do I walk this life with joy when I’ve waited years and years for a child with what seems like no answer from God? Perhaps some of you have asked similar questions. How do I have joy when I’ve been told “no” for the 15th time from an expectant mother? I know the Bible says a lot about rejoicing through my sufferings, but how? How do I do that?

Romans 5:3-5 provides a good explanation. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” There is a distinct connection between joy and hope here. Do you see it? Hope is the anchor to our joy-the expectation, the longing, the knowing. “For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles (1 Corinthians 4:17).

As Christians we can rejoice through our hardships because we hold tightly to the hope and promises we have in Christ. As believers, we can rejoice in our difficulties because our hearts have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. His promises are true for us regardless of what we encounter in this life. Lately, I’ve been learning that it’s quite difficult not to rejoice as I reflect on the promises of God to me poured out all over scripture. These promises may not align with our timetable or be granted in the way we expect them to, but God ALWAYS has our best interest in mind.

  1. Thinking about His unconditional love for me that sent His son to a cross for my sins so that I could come to know Him. John 3:16
  2. God is committed to making me more like Christ. Philippians 1:6
  3. My inheritance is in Christ. Ephesians 1:11-14
  4. God has promised to never leave me. Hebrews 13:5
  5. God has promised to be close to me when I’m hurting. Psalm 34:18
  6. God will withhold no good thing from me. Psalm 84:11
  7. God will renew my strength. Isaiah 40:31
  8. God will meet my needs. Philippians 4:19
  9. He will give me the desires of my heart as I delight in Him. Psalm 37:4
  10. God’s peace will guard my heart and mind. Philippians 4:6-7

Although my husband and I didn’t walk through a failed adoption and we had a fairly quickly match, our journey was not without its delays, hardships and unexpected twists and turns. Having joy in the adoption process (and in life) doesn’t mean that you only see the world through an inauthentic, rose-colored lens. Instead we can have joy as we are walking through the hard stuff because our hope is found ultimately in the promises of Christ.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Hope: Your Anchor In The Adoption Process

Hearing “no” from an expectant mother or expectant parents is one of the most difficult aspects of adoption for hopeful adoptive parents.  I would venture to say it’s one of the most difficult things I have to share with my families: “She/They chose to move forward with another couple.”  Even though I’m grateful the expectant mother connected with a different family, it’s never easy to share the news with my families who were not chosen.

When my husband and I were walking through the adoption process a situation was presented to us that we immediately connected with. I remember receiving the information while I was at work, and I couldn’t wait to get home to write a letter to this amazing couple that was considering an adoption plan for their child. We were excited and hopeful to present our profile. About a week later, we were informed that the expectant parents chose to move forward with another family. It was not easy news to process.  Even though we were happy that the expectant parents connected with another couple, and even though we trusted God and knew He had a plan, it was still difficult to hear those words: “They chose to move forward with another family.”

In many ways, I believe the heartache we dealt with in infertility prepared us in some ways for the adoption process. Initially, when we began trying to grow our family, I felt as if every negative pregnancy test was God telling us, “No.” Every month became torture. It was very painful for me because I was placing all of my hope into the prospect of having a child. It consumed me. I’m grateful that I was reminded through my infertility to stop placing my hope in external circumstances (having a child or a positive pregnancy test). But instead, I learned to place my Hope in my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Although we were matched very quickly after signing on with Christian Adoption Consultants, we weren’t immune to the heartache of waiting, loss, and those all-consuming questions like, “Have you forgotten about me, God? Do you hear my prayers?” But, it was through those tear-filled pillows and sleepless nights that I learned how to hope and where to place my hope. It was through the storms where I came to know the depths of God’s grace, love and kindness and learned there is no end to it. It was through infertility and miscarriage that I learned that even the most devastating circumstance does not have the power to steal my hope because it is rooted in Jesus Christ. That kind of hope is unshakeable and unwavering. That kind of hope isn’t titled when the storms come. It stands firm. It’s my anchor.

If our journey had transpired any differently then Roman and Ruby wouldn’t be our son and daughter. Every negative pregnancy test, every no, was leading to our yes. I can’t imagine our life without them in it. Being their mother is by far my greatest joy and blessing. I’m so grateful that God reminded me through the adoption process that His plan is far greater than anything we could ever imagine for ourselves. And I have two little reminders of that promise running around our house and filling our hearts to the brim each and every day!

We serve a good Father who loves us more than our minds can fathom. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins, for your sins, for her sins and for his sins so that we might come to know Him. I pray that wherever you are in your adoption journey you will never forget His great love for you; a kind of love that always has your best interest in mind even when you can’t comprehend or understand what He is up to.

The wait is never wasted. I can’t promise you an easy journey or that there won’t be bumps and turns along the way. Nevertheless I can with full confidence remind you that God hasn’t forgotten you. He has heard your prayers. He sees you. He is with you. He promises never to leave you.  Place your hope in Christ, friends. For nothing, not even the rushing waves, will be able to tip your sail over. 

“Never was a faithful prayer lost. Some prayers have a longer voyage than others,  but then they return with their richer lading at last, so that the  praying soul is a gainer by waiting for an answer.” -William Gurnall

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Another Holiday Pregnancy Announcement That Isn’t Mine

As a child, I anxiously looked forward to Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought my sister and me. When I was six years old, I remember thinking I heard Santa’s reindeer on our roof. I excitedly ran into my sister’s room and jumped onto her bed and said, “Did you hear that?!” Playing along, my older sister said, “Yes!” The remainder of that conversation has drawn blank on me. But, I can still see two little girls giggling and smiling just thinking about what the next morning would bring.

For many, the Christmas season exudes a sense of celebration, joy, excitement, awe, and wonder, and it should. After all, over 2,000 years ago our Savior was born. If that isn’t something to celebrate with family and friends, then I don’t know what is. But, for some, this holiday season is a reminder of great loss and pain. Perhaps the mother who used to greet you on Christmas morning with a pancake breakfast is no longer on this earth. Perhaps sitting in the living room on Christmas Eve reading the Christmas story feels different this year with the passing of your father. Maybe you were looking forward to sharing your pregnancy announcement with family and friends, but instead you are grieving the loss of your unborn child.

One of the most difficult holidays for me was Christmas 2014. Our baby’s due date was near the end of November, and I remember the anxiety that was building in my heart as the days moved toward Christmas. We were living in Louisiana at the time, and it was 70 degrees all during the month of December—bright and sunny. But I remember my heart felt very cold. I didn’t want to put up a Christmas tree, but Obbie insisted. And so, I obliged begrudgingly. I felt like there was absolutely nothing to celebrate. The baby who was supposed to be less than 30 days old and snuggling in my arms wasn’t there.

The influx of holiday pregnancy announcements filled my newsfeed. It was complete torture, but there I would find myself in the late hours of the night scrolling mindlessly through Facebook with a sad heart. Another holiday pregnancy announcement that isn’t mine, I would think to myself. Then the Christmas family photos would come—the ones with young couples and their children smiling.

Later that night, I saw a picture of six-year-old Kelly from Christmas smiling ear to ear. In that moment, I felt so distant from that little girl who was filled with so much awe and wonder. Those feelings were foreign to me. Obbie and I spent Christmas of 2014 with friends, and even though I was surrounded by a ton of people with their excited faces and giggling voices, I felt sad, empty, and alone. 

Although I am medically deemed infertile and though my womb is barren, my heart is full. And it isn’t just because our hearts (and hands!) are filled to the brim with the sweetest and silliest 18-month-old twins running around the house. After our miscarriage and before we started the adoption process, I was reminded that joy would never come through a positive pregnancy test, a child, or anything that this earth has to offer. The ultimate joy I was looking for, hoping for, and so desperately longing for was something that had already been given to me. It wasn’t a gift to be opened under the tree; it was found in the arms of my Savior. God was faithful to heal our hearts, even though our circumstances didn’t change. And as we continually ran to Him and (sometimes) fell into His arms, He filled us with the fullness of His joy. Not a temporal kind of joy, but an eternal one, the kind that enables you to sing, “It Is Well with My Soul” through life’s deepest wounds.

The holidays can bring about a sadness that on an ordinary day may exist, but during the holidays, it can seem more apparent. You are not alone. Perhaps you feel hopeless in your sadness. Perhaps your heart couldn’t feel farther from that warm, sunny, and 70-degree day. If you need to take a break from the holiday festivities, then do so, and don’t feel guilty that you have to step away from all of the excitement. But as you step away and as you grieve, my prayer for you is that you would not grieve without hope. May Christ give you the strength to grieve with hope knowing that God is the healer, protector, and redeemer of your heart. Grieve with hope knowing that God’s love for you is insurmountable and goes deeper than the pain and hurt encompassing you. Grieve with hope knowing that one day, the load you carry will feel lighter as you continue bringing your burdens to the cross. Grieve with hope knowing that the winter won’t last forever and the sun will come out again.

Through The Storm {Trusting God With Our Kids}

Do you ever lay in bed worried about the future of your children? Do thoughts plague your mind about them getting sick? Is your child suffering from an illness or mental health disorder and you wonder how you will make it through the day? Are you worried that your child isn’t hitting all of the developmental milestones like the other kids? As parents, there are a hundred fears we could let our thoughts be consumed by. I know this to be true from personal experience.

Eight weeks after we adopted Roman and Ruby, our home, city and the surrounding area were unexpectedly hit with the Great Flood of 2016. The Washington Post stated that this flood dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. According to the Red Cross, this was the “worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” and FEMA reported that over 150,000 homeowners/renters applied for assistance.

Moments leading up to the evacuation I was cooking dinner for Obbie and I. While feeding Roman, I looked out the front door and noticed the water line had risen quite considerably. I frantically pointed this out to Obbie, who quickly ran out the front door to talk with all of the neighbors that had gathered at the edge of their driveways. When I stuck my head out the door, I saw Obbie from a distance. He had a very concerned look on his face. I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. I knew it wasn’t good. He came back inside and said, “Kelly, we have to pack everything up. The water is rising and we have to evacuate immediately.”

I couldn’t find a suitcase so I dragged a large empty trunk into the twin’s nursery. As I walked in, I began to tear up. I had spent so much time preparing, dreaming and hoping in this room. I had flashbacks to all of the countless hours I spent on the floor praying for our baby that the Lord would bring into our home. As I began stuffing all of their clothes and diapers mindlessly into the trunk, I looked to the right and saw the huge frame that read, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:27). I stopped. I took a deep breath. And I was reminded that it was God who brought these precious children into our life. They were in His hands and there was no safer place to be. 

We threw as much as we could into the back of our neighbor’s big white truck.  As we slowly waded through the flood, I looked down at my children and began to cry. The water was continually rising, our neighborhood was completely surrounded and there were only a few dry streets left. Those moments didn’t feel as if they belonged to me. It was like we were the characters in the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” where they rushed to the top of the building to prevent from being consumed by the water. I felt completely helpless. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed, “Dear Lord, protect our babies.” It was a prayer of surrender, as I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the flood. We were in God’s hands.

We were prepared to sleep in our mini van on the side of the road with our friends who evacuated their home too. It was dark, hot and humid. Many people in the area had been rescued by boat and that knowledge was looming over us as we waited. Not long after we arrived, a young woman ran out of her house with a concerned look on her face. “Are y’all the ones with the newborn twins? My husband is working a late shift so the house is empty and our street is still dry. Please come stay with us.” We spent that night and the next day camped out in her living room waiting for the streets to clear. These kind people welcomed us and fed us. God took care of us through the kindness of strangers. As soon as the waters subsided, the twins and I headed 12 hours north to stay with family, while Obbie began gutting our home with the assistance of friends.

We anticipated a lot as parents of newborn twins: sleepless nights, excessive crying, dirty diapers, a messy house, but we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for this disaster. Once the twins and I made it to my parent’s house, I fell on the couch in complete exhaustion. This was not how I imagined the first few months of parenthood. If I’d had known the flood was coming for us I would have said, “I can’t do that. I’m not strong enough.” And I was right. I wasn’t strong enough. There is no way I could have walked down that road without God breathing grace into my lungs.

When we first brought the twins home I was afraid that something terrible was going to happen to them. I would stare at them throughout the night and rarely slept. Sometimes when they’d cough or make what I interpreted to be a weird sound, Google and I would spend some time together. However, through the storm I was reminded that God is not only the Creator of all things, but He is the Keeper of all things. Our heavenly Father has entrusted us with the most precious gifts, and as parents we have the privilege of loving and shepherding our children. On the other side of the flood, I came to understand that one of the most important things I can do as a mother is to remember to whom my children belong. Surrendering my children everyday to God is the best way I can love them. Surrender releases you from fear and worry. It doesn’t eliminate every fearful or worrisome thought, but surrender reminds you where to take them- at the feet of your Savior.

Parents, when you remember that your heavenly Father is the ultimate Keeper of your child’s soul, an overwhelming peace consumes you, a kind of peace that will get you through life’s biggest storms. When worry comes for you as a parent (because it will), I pray God will illuminate your mind with His truth and bring your heart to a place of surrender. My prayer is that you can see what I did as I was holding my children,  with floodwater so high I could feel it splash on my cheeks. God is not only with them through the storm, He is keeping them safe, and upholding them in the very palm His hands.

I’m Not the Empty Woman

My infertility once defined me. Every negative pregnancy test became a reminder of what my body couldn’t do. Baby shower invites would come in the mail and my heart would be overwhelmed with bitterness, jealousy, and a reminder of the brokenness I felt in my soul. A stroll through the maternity aisle at Target felt like walking onto a stage before a mocking crowd, as if a giant spotlight was shining on my empty tummy, reminding me that I was somehow less of woman because of my barrenness.

My entire life I was told the likelihood of having biological children would be very slim due to the cancer treatments I received as a baby. Even so, after we were married I was still optimistic and hopeful that somehow God would heal my body and make it do what He created it do. After all, my God is a God of miracles. I’d seen this to be true in my own life, as He healed my body of cancer more than once.

After a few years of struggling with infertility, to our surprise, a positive pregnancy test appeared. Obbie and I celebrated for days, and a small warmth filled our home. However, the baby announcement was never made. Tragedy struck as quickly as the news came in, and we were only able to keep our little one on this earth for a moment. A few weeks after learning I was pregnant, I miscarried. The weight of that loss dragged me to the bed for hours everyday. I was completely overwhelmed with sadness. My tears bathed the pillow every night, and my eyes were swollen most days from crying. Every ounce of my body was grieving. I felt hopeless. And all of those feelings of brokenness came flooding back over me as heavily and quickly as my tears hit the pillow.

The death of our unborn child felt much to me like being stuck in winter. Although some days were easier than others, certain events and dates would trigger memories and tears would follow. Anger and sadness came in ebbs and flows. But, I continued talking about the loss with God, my husband and close friends. Coming to terms with the death of our baby and the finality of my infertility hasn’t been an easy journey. But, it’s one our heavenly Father has been lovingly walking me through every step of the way. Grace gives me strength to trust Him through the pain, knowing that He is a good Father, who loves me even when I can’t quite make my way through the storm. Although most days I failed to see Him-the Son was always there. And eventually He melted the ice away and replaced my barrenness with hope- not hope in a positive pregnancy test or a child, but hope in Jesus Christ.

A doctor would tell you that I’m infertile, that statistically my chances of getting pregnant are impossible. But, I see it quite differently. God healed me. He just healed me in a different way than expected. God healed my heart to be at peace with my circumstances. Though my heart is content that doesn’t equate to immunity from sadness over our loss or my infertility, but it doesn’t consume my thoughts or define me like it once did.

As healing continued taking place in our hearts, we were continually seeking God about how He wanted to grow our family. We always knew that adoption would be a part of our story some day. However, we didn’t realize that “day” was just around the corner. We signed on with Christian Adoption Consultants and shortly after our paths connected with a brave birth mom who chose us to be the parents of her children. Their birth mom lovingly carried the twins for 9 months in her womb, while God was growing unconditional love for them in our hearts. If any part of our story had unfolded differently or been altered just slightly, Roman and Ruby wouldn’t be our son and daughter. And I can’t imagine our life without them.

For women struggling with infertility or loss you are not defined by a statistic. Perhaps a doctor told you the chances of getting pregnant are slim to none. I understand the magnitude of that loss and the feelings that come with it. But, I also know that our joy can’t be completed from a positive pregnancy test, a child or anything found on this earth. Your body isn’t broken, but Christ’s body was broken for you. An empty womb is not the end of your story, but a Risen King from an empty grave is the beginning.  Christ came to this earth so we could have “life in abundance” (John 10:10). This fullness is explicitly and solely found in Christ alone.

Last night both the twins awoke at the same time, and I lifted each one out of their crib. I rocked them to sleep in the brown leather recliner beside their cribs. One in each arm. As their sweet chunky cheeks rested on my shoulders, they fell asleep with one hand each on my chest. I grinned as I looked down at my son and daughter. Tears of gratefulness filled my eyes as I thought about just how much I love being their mama. As I sat there rocking our little sweeties to sleep, I thought back on our journey to becoming our family of four. I can assure you that there was nothing barren about the women rocking her sweet little ones to sleep last night. Her heart is full. She found her hope in Christ.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

 

Children of My Own

“Are you going to have any of your own children?” he asked. Confused, I looked down in the double stroller at my beautiful children and then directly back at the older gentleman. I could tell by the innocent look in his eyes that he didn’t know what he was asking or implying. I could only muster up five words: “Yes, these are my children.” As I walked away, my stomach churned, and I regretted not taking a few minutes to explain why his choice of words was hurtful. But I had a long list of groceries that day, with 6-week-old twins up every two hours, and exhaustion prevented my lips from expressing what my heart wanted to say.

I’m not so naive as to be surprised by questions like these. However, that doesn’t take away the sting. Perhaps, as a transracial family, it’s just something we’ll have to get used to. But I hope not. I know that my children’s beautiful brown skin looks different than ours, and I love every inch of it. But I also know these differences evoke questions and comments. I don’t want anger or bitterness to linger in my heart after these inquiries. In response to their ignorance, I desire to extend truth and grace. After all, Christ calls us to do so. I don’t believe these people intend to be rude or malicious. However, regardless of the intent, these questions are unsettling because they reveal something deeper. Whether they realize it or not, by their choice of words they’re indicating that they don’t think Ruby and Roman are our “own” children. Even as I type that sentence it feels troubling.

Ruby and Roman are our children. They’re not any “less” our children because they didn’t grow in my tummy for 9 months. They’re not any “less” our children because they don’t have our DNA. From the moment their amazing birth mama told us she wanted us to be their parents, God birthed love for them in our hearts. Roman and Ruby are our son and daughter, and we couldn’t be more proud to be their mom and dad.

I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on my son and daughter. It was on Father’s Day, and they were less than a day old. When the nurse brought in our little man I felt like I had to pull my heart off the floor. He melted me, right then and there with just one glance. As I was holding Roman the nurse wheeled in our little lady. She was so tiny, but even so, she had the cutest chunky cheeks. We held them and just stared in amazement at our two beautiful children. As Roman’s little hand gripped my pinky, I tried to slow down time and soak in those fleeting moments. A few minutes later, I asked Obbie if I could hold Ruby, but he wouldn’t let her go. “Just a little bit longer,” he insisted. There is nothing quite like watching the unconditional love that a father has for his child.

Watching Obbie’s fierce and unconditional love for our children continually reminds me of the love of our Heavenly Father. And it should. Earthly adoption is a beautiful depiction of the Gospel and the heart of God. In Christ, we have been spiritually adopted and welcomed into the family of God. John Piper puts it well, “When Christ died for us, the price was paid, and when we trust him, we are legally and permanently in the family. “ When the twins adoption was finalized, the judge ended the ceremony by stating, “the children shall hereafter be the legal children and legal heirs of the adoptive parents and entitled to all right and privileges…they are your son and daughter as if they were born to you.”

DNA doesn’t make a family-love does. I know just what song to sing to help them get to sleep at night, and I understand that their “I’m hungry” cry is distinct from their “I want my paci” cry. I know they would eat mac n’ cheese everyday for lunch and dinner if I let them. I know just the right song to get them grooving to the beat. I know Ruby loves to read books by herself and Roman prefers sitting in my lap and being read to, as long as I let him turn the pages. I know how to make them giggle just with one silly look. We know them better than anyone on this earth because they are our children.

When we stand before the judgment seat of God, it won’t be our DNA that gets us in to heaven, but the blood of another. The question isn’t one of heredity, but of authority. Does He know us? Are we His child? And if we have been adopted in Christ into His family, we are then legal heirs to inherit all the promises laid out for us in Scripture. Language speaks volumes, even when we’re unaware of our words. The simple question “Are you going to have any of your own children” directed towards an adoptive family betrays a lack of belief and hope in the validity, reality, and finality of our own relationship with Christ and our understanding of the Gospel.