For the Love (of Jen Hatmaker)

This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

This spring I was able to read an advance copy of Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards that releases TODAY! I had enjoyed Jen’s other books (7 and Interrupted), so I was excited to get my hands on her new book to preview it.

Oh my word, y’all. Jen is so funny. (You already know this I’m sure, because of her viral goodies like Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.) But Jen also has a serious side. She touches on a lot of topics in For the Love: turning forty, marriage, parenting, church, leggings and yoga pants, supper club. Really, this book is a gem. I laughed so hard sometimes, I’m sure the other Starbucks patrons thought I was a nut job. And I cried so hard I shook (and was thus glad to be in the safety of my own bed) at parts like teaching our kids what is really important (teaser: Be Kind. Be You. Love Jesus.)

So, go get you some Love today, For the Love that is. And then go look for my name listed in the acknowledgements section!

Too much? I’m sorry, not sorry. Happy Launch Day, Jen, my imaginary BFF! MUAH!

Let’s lay down our junk, our wonky junk that messes up relationships and community and togetherness. We won’t let our own crazy stop us from affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters. -Jen Hatmaker

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When Your Thankful is Broken

DSC_0792Almost three years ago I glimpsed this little sign in a bookstore while my husband and I were visiting our college town (without kids, hallelujah!!!!!!). We had returned to the States from Turkey mere days earlier, so I was jet-lagging and reverse culture shocking (it’s real, folks), and I ran my fingers absentmindedly across its textured surface. It was only $10, but I was feeling overwhelmed with all of the STUFF in America, and refrained from buying it.

Days later, I found myself thinking of the little sign and wishing I had forked over the ten bucks. I remembered my brother-in-law’s mom worked at the bookstore, and asked my sister to ask if she would get the sign for me.

Months later, we were back in Turkey and I unpacked the sweet little reminder to Be Thankful, and sat it on top of our monstrosity of a television (it was bulky and took up tons of space, but I loved I could set stuff on top of it!).  I thought that way we could see it constantly, and be reminded to approach life’s circumstances with thankfulness.

Weeks after returning home, some heating pipes needed to be redone in our apartment and it turned into a stressful day for me since I was kicked out of my house with very little warning while the workmen tore apart each room in our apartment systematically to redo the piping. While the workers were moving the television stand, my Be Thankful sign toppled and broke. My husband knew I would be upset about my precious sign, so he hid away the pieces and tried to glue them back together, hoping I wouldn’t even be able to tell. He was able to recover most of the parts, but although he searched all over, he never found the top of the ‘n’.

I found a new home for my little reminder, and it has stayed constant through life’s ups and downs these past two years. When we faced grief over failed adoption attempts and hard culture stress, it faithfully perched on top of a bookshelf in the living room. When we played rounds of UNO and laughed ourselves silly over dance parties, Be Thankful twinkled over those moments. When we had puking kids, and raised voices, and homesick hearts, our reminder prevailed. When we hosted guests, served meals and tea, when we just held each other in sadness on the couch. When friends moved away, and kids learned to read, and blanket forts covered the whole room. When we giggled, and snuggled, and rested, and watched, and enjoyed, and talked, and argued, and sang. When we hid and waited to be sought out in play, when we had pizza and movie nights, when we first saw the photos and videos of our little girl– Be Thankful was the anthem over all these moments and more.

Recently, my beloved sign found a new home. (I have this crazy nest-maker tendency to tweak and move and rearrange our home which absolutely endears me to my sweet husband, as I’m sure you can imagine.) Less than a week in its new home, my Be Thankful reminder had another collision with the floor. Bits of letters were again broken off.

I wanted to be sad because I love this little sign that has been a part of our home for years now. Hubby worked his glue magic and restored broken pieces again. But you can see the cracks. Which kind of bothered me, and I thought about how I could maybe find another sign when we are in the States this fall. But then I really looked. And really thought about what it means to Be Thankful. As believers, we aren’t thankful only when life is going our way. Our joy is not dictated by circumstances dipping in our favor every time. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of exactly the opposite– Paul exhorting us to rejoice from a prison, David singing about sacrifices of thanksgiving, Habakkuk determining to be joyful in the Lord no matter what. If we’re honest, it’s the tragedies, hard things, and the sufferings that pull us closer to the Father and make us more like Jesus.

Our thankful is more beautiful when it’s broken. When we bear the scars of trials and grief and yet our hearts are joyful in the Lord, we bring glory to Him.

It’s not easy to Be Thankful when life is cracked and hard. But a broken Thankful is precious in the eyes of Jesus, who is our greatest example of giving thanks for hard things,

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

My Be Thankful will be missing a piece of a letter forever. And it has some cracks where glue is holding the broken parts together. But I don’t think I’m gonna replace it. It’s an even better reminder now, that a beat-up, stressed out, fallen down, and aching Thankful is the way we are supposed to live out our time here on earth.

12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90)

And then I Held Her Hand

We ate lunch and I felt like I was floating. I seriously couldn’t stop smiling. I ordered creme brulee after my meal because it just felt like we should be celebrating. Celebrating life. Celebrating growth. Celebrating a beloved daughter.

Our attendant walked with us to the notary, where we signed forms that gave us permission to take photos and videos of Lovebug and then we walked through a little local grocery. I love seeing international grocery stores, it gives a special glimpse into culture to see where people buy their food. And what kinds of food they buy. (I bought some peanut M&Ms.)

We meandered back towards the hotel, taking pictures of the small(ish) town where our girl was born. The sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot and we had plans to meet Love and her foster mom and her social worker at the park after her nap.

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At 3:30, we met the social worker in front of our hotel, and she walked us over to the park for our meeting. Doodlebug was thrilled because the park had lots of American Ninja Warrior-esque equipment. He immediately got to work on training :)

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Pretty soon a kinda grumpy little girl was pushed up in her stroller. Her foster mom said she had to be woken up early from her nap for our meeting. Poor baby girl! The psychologist was back and she released Lovebug from her stroller and walked her around the park by her hands again. She seemed to cheer up walking around. Pretty soon, she was passed over to me. We walked, I held her. Andrew walked her, he held her. We watched Doodlebug do his ninja warrior stuff on the playground.

At one point, I thought Love would like to slide. I carried her over and began to lean down to place her on the slide. She wrapped her arms and legs around me and squeezed so tightly. It was such a sweet little hug. There were several times when I was holding her that I had this impulse to make a run for it. That might sound crazy to you, but after waiting so long and knowing at the end of the week I would leave this sweet baby and board a plane home with empty arms, I wanted to make a break and just run away with her. Of course, I wouldn’t have made it far and that would have been frowned upon by the authorities.

We fed her a snack of yogurt. (This girl eats all day long, I love it! Bring on the chub!)

We snapped pictures on both our phones and videoed her walking around with us. It was so awesome just to be spending time with our little girl (finally!). At one point, I was walking behind Lovebug holding both of her hands (her preferred way to walk– she goes super fast that way since she feels steady!) and Andrew was “chasing” her to tickle her. Oh my goodness– the beautiful giggles that were coming out! She was laughing to hard when he would catch up to her, that she would lose her balance and kinda drop to her knees. It was really fun.

Our attendant told us later that during this meeting the foster mom and social worker began referring to us as “Mommy” and “Daddy” to Lovebug. I guess we passed their inspection during the morning meeting and they figured we were gonna be okay parents for this sweet girl!

There was this interesting statue at the park and Doodlebug and Lovebug’s foster brother, decided it was their “clubhouse” and they crawled all over it. It was really fun having Lovebug’s foster brother around for Doodle. They bonded instantly and had a great time playing all week together!

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Sadly, our two hours flew by and we had to say goodbye again. I knew Lovebug was tired though, we had played so hard! (Her foster mother told us the next morning that she fell asleep while her hair was being dried after her bath because she was so tired!)

And then I Saw Her Face

Truly, I am overly sentimental. I think deeply about things, and cherish the moments right before changes happen. I like to note how I feel right before something big happens, savoring the butterflies fluttering around my insides. And the butterflies were going crazy that morning!

That day, I showered, dressed, ate breakfast in the hotel resturant and found myself with extra minutes. (Strange, I never have extra minutes!) I sat on the unmade bed to think and pray and I hastily scribbled in my journal about how eight years previously I had been waiting to meet my first daughter, and now I was awaiting my first introduction to my second. I could hardly steady my hand to write for all the butterfly migration happening between my liver and my lungs, so I left off the thought with a …

Finally, it was time to head downstairs. Our attendant suggested we have our meeting at the outside terrace of the hotel, so we picked out a table and sat down. She was explaining what we should expect of the first meeting. All of a sudden, she was gazing outside of the hotel cafe and time slowed considerably. Was this it? Oh my goodness, this is it! I took a deep breath, exhaling my nerves. This was it. This group of people moving our direction represent a moment I have been waiting over four years for. This is what it feels like for your life to change in an instant.

A little face was peering at us from the stroller, and I bent down to say hello to my daughter. Her foster father said something to her and she began to giggle. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, so I backed up to my chair as everyone took places around the table and we were introduced to Lovebug’s entourage. The foster parents, the foster brother, the social worker, the psychologist. Small talk was exchanged and I kept sneaking peeks at the sweet little face as the conversation swirled around us in two languages.

The psychologist began to walk Lovebug around holding her hands, so she could explore. I focused my attention on the questions about us, and then we were invited to ask whatever we wanted. I searched the depths of my brain trying to recall what I was supposed to ask. What would Lovebug ask one day, that I would want to have an answer for? What did the adoption books say to ask? What had I read about gaining good information about your child? I had nothing.

I didn’t realize it but the psychologist had walked Love up behind me, and before I could react, she plopped my daughter into my lap. Lovebug squirmed for just a moment when she realized she didn’t know me. I offered over the dolly we had brought her as well as a play bottle and a musical mirror. She relaxed against me as she began to explore the spoils I held.

Her hair smelled like magic. Pure baby magic.

Her chubby hands worked over the surface of the mirror, and I was thankful to feel how solid her little body was. Her foster mom began handing her chunks of chocolate bread and I realized with a smile how she is so chubby. :)

The schedule for the week was discussed, among other things, I really have no clue. Because I was holding and smelling and kissing and enjoying my baby girl. After four long years, dreams were being birthed into reality.

I got up to walk Lovebug around. She grabbed my hands and began walking (maybe it was more of a chubby baby jog– she is FAST!) and she was saying something over and over. The attendant with us told me she was saying, “Come on! Come on!” and my heart melted like a Popsicle on the 4th of July. Because Baby Girl, I would walk forever behind you, holding your dimpled hands and laughing at your sweet little voice.

Soup was ordered for Lovebug’s lunch about noon, and she sat on my lap while I fed her a gruel of soup and bread. She ate like a champ (thighs like what!) and began to fuss when she realized her portion was finished. I reluctantly handed her back over to her foster mom and said good-bye…

 

 

Throwback Thursday

I thought I’d dish up a little post and throw it back to October when I last posted– in the middle of the 30 Days blogging challenge I didn’t finish. Oops.

I attended a homeschool conference (BY. MYSELF. GLORY.) in mid-October and it was exactly the encouragement and push I needed. I had been schooling Ladybug and Stinkbug for a few months at that point and it still felt like a crazy juggling game to jump from Kindergarten reading to Second Grade math and back and forth and leap frog all over the curriculum map. I was exhausted and felt like I had no idea what I was doing. (So much for that $26,000 degree in Elementary Ed, I guess!)

I really needed to hear those speakers tell me to major on the majors and minor in the minors. Get the reading and the math done and it’s OK if that’s all we get to in a day. Relax and enjoy these moments with my little ones. I am thankful for that week, I came back with fresh perspective in my heart and Jenga in my bag for the kids. :)

Every year I feel like I’m on a roller coaster in October– click, click, clicking to the top and then WOOOOOOOOSH it’s holidays and busy times and visitors and cold weather and before I know it, I’m packing Christmas ornaments between layers of paper towels to be stacked in our tiny little apartment closet.

Even now, I think I forgot to get off the ride because HOW IN THE WORLD IS IT APRIL 9TH?!

Our attentions have been pretty adoption focused so far in 2015, as we glimpsed a new sweet face on our agency’s waiting child list in December and we were unofficially matched with a sweet little girl in eastern Europe! We’ve updated our homestudy and our USCIS clearance and waiting, waiting, waiting to hear that we are finally able to go and meet her! On February 4 we hit four years since we said yes in our hearts to this journey, so it feels amazing (and also agonizing!) to feel like the end is coming.

Well, that’s about it for life from October until now– home school, holidays, adoption, cooking food for my kids to complain about, and always… mountains of laundry.

Dear Tummy // Letters Day 16

Dear Tummy,
You need to shape up! I mean that literally and figuratively, I’d love you to flatten down and get some definition, but right now I mostly mean that I have one more day at an all-inclusive resort for this conference and I’d like to eat, drink (Pepsi with flavored syrup added, yum!), and be merry. Instead you have me sitting, laying under the covers, and sipping only Sprite. Boo. Let’s get our act together, shall we?

Thanks a ton,
Sheila