The Exhale

We finalized Little One’s adoption this week.

It was, pretty much, the perfect day.

Except for the part when he was grumpy and yelled at everyone.

But whatever.

It was the day that changed nothing.

And everything.

The actual details of our life look pretty much the same as they did before.

Tomorrow, I will stroke his curls and change his diaper and strap him into his carseat and drop him off at daycare and feel sad that I will spend all day with other people’s children instead of my own.

And grateful for a daycare provider who loves him like her own.

And then we will come home and laugh over dinner and read “Brown Bear” one hundred times and get baths and sing songs and hope for the best in his big boy bed (with his crib as a back-up option because we are not ready to die on the hill of the big boy bed just yet).

It will look pretty much like most of the days we’ve lived together over the past two years.

Except I will be able to breathe.

I will not have to ask for permission to cut his hair or to post his pictures or to let him sleep somewhere other than his own room.

I will not have to have all of his medical and daycare paperwork signed by a social worker.

I will not miss work or lose sleep over court hearings and other official meetings that may or may not happen at the time and place I am told.

I will not record every single thing (no, really, every single thing) for fear that some or another professional assigned to his case (most well-intentioned, many overworked, some completely burnt out) will not and I will need that exact date and time and phone number somewhere down the line to prove that I followed all of the rules and parented him well.

I will not cancel stuff I want to do because of required visits with some or another person who needs to lay eyes on him by some arbitrary date (which, by the way, is tomorrow).

I will not fret about what would happen to him if, God forbid, something happens to me.  Because today, I get to make those decisions instead of the state.

I will not wake in a panic, sweating up until the last possible second that something could still go wrong, that he could disappear.

This week was the exhale.

The release of breath that I’d been holding for the last two and a half years.

My life looks the same

But I feel one thousand pounds lighter,

Like I am walking on air.

This, too, is adoption.



I usually don’t remember my dreams.

But, every once in a while, I think God speaks to me there.

Not in a mysterious way, so much.

More in a really obvious way that I was too busy to catch in my waking life.

Like I dream that someone comes up to me and asks me to pray for them.

True story.

Don’t need the gift of interpretation to figure out what that one might mean.

Last night I had a dream that I can’t shake.

One that is for me, but maybe not for me alone.

We were in worship and the invitation was to paint, to create, to splash our identity on canvas.

I am not one to think on my feet.  To splash anything without careful forethought.

Except, I guess, in my dreams.

My first thought was “loved.”  And in that moment, I knew it was right, but also not quite right.


This is the word that came.

The idea splashed onto the canvas of my dreams.

Represented by a crown, a thing of great beauty, of great value.

A thing whose value comes from the one to whom it belongs.

Friends, this is me.

This is us.

A treasured possession. (Malachi 3:17)

Ones formed in the image of a beautiful Creator.

Ones beautiful because we are his.

People of great value.

Value that lies not in our appearance, our performance, our popularity.

Value that comes from the One to whom we belong.

Friend, you are beautiful.

You are valuable.

You are treasured.

You are his.



If there’s one thing my journey through foster care is teaching me, it’s how desperately I need rescue.

It’s easy to “other” when you’ve never met.

But when you’ve held a dear one as her heart spills onto the hard tile floor of the courthouse lobby, things change.

You realize that you’re not so different after all.

The truth is I am a few bad choices and one giant social safety net away from disaster.

The very same kind of disaster that was so easy to “other” before.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

I learned this verse once upon a time… mostly to beat other adolescents over the head with my Bible so they could escape hell and believe what I believed.

But this is not the end of the story.

Not the end of the sentence.


For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Romans 3:23-24).

As my eyes flit over the familiar words, I am amazed at how well this one sentence sums up what I believe, what I want my life to be about.

Friends, we are a mess.  A much bigger mess than some of us who have grown up in church would like to believe.

We are broken.  We fall short.  We are in desperate need of rescue.

But this is not the end of the story.

The good news shows up right there in the same sentence as our mess.


Because of Jesus, we are redeemed, bought back.

Because of Jesus, we are justified, set right with a holy God.

Because of Jesus, we know grace, ridiculous love when we deserve condemnation.

This, friends.

This is the truth.

This is the good news.

This is what we desperately need our lives to be about.



Fifteen years ago, I was young and idealistic.

I was on mission for Jesus—literally.

I was in the orientation week before a year of full-time ministry.

My faith was real.  And it was strong.

It had already held me through loss and betrayal.

Though not yet through the grown-up anxiety that I’d meet the next year.

Fifteen years ago, innocence shattered.

The world as we knew it was changed.

And I was challenged to write a lament.

I tried.

Looking back, it feels simplistic.

Too chirpy and hopeful.

I had not yet wailed on my knees.

I had whined and fussed in my adolescent angst,

But I had not yet ugly cried over a little one gone too soon.

I had not yet stifled sobs over missing someone so hard that it physically hurt.

I had not yet screamed at Jesus in my car with hot, angry tears puddling in my lap.

Y’all, I feel like I could write a lament today.

Not for me.  Not for my babies.

But for dear ones that I have come to love.

Jesus, we don’t know how to do this.

And we are so far from knowing how to do this well.

This has been my prayer a lot lately.

To a God who isn’t scared of my ugly cries or my screaming.

To a God who is big enough to take them all.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…

Our fumbling, inadequate words.

Our hard, honest questions.

Our big feelings.

But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence

Honestly.  Boldly.  With all our mess.

So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4)

Not easy answers.  Not quick fixes.

But the presence and patience and grace of a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses.

A God who isn’t offended by our chirpy, hopeful prayers.

The ones that feel too simplistic in retrospect.

A God who isn’t scared of our ugly cries.  Our screaming.

A God who hears our laments.


Do what matters.

Sit, Mama.

Little One pats the floor and invites me into an imaginary game with inscrutable rules.

We line up dominoes in a seemingly random pattern on the carpet.

And when we are done, the delight is palpable.

Did it!

Little One squeals and gives me a high five.

There are one thousand things to do at this exact moment, maybe even more.

But right now, this is the only one that matters.


I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes lately and scribbling notes all over the margins of my Bible.

This is what “journaling” looks like for me right now.

And it is good enough.

I’m finding less pessimism here than I remember.

And more wisdom.

Solomon’s redemption ache is not foreign to me.

So I drink in his wisdom about the seasons of life (Ecc. 3:1-8),

My margin-notes say

Make the most of this season.  Do what matters.

These words echo in my mind all week.

Sometimes this season feels so hard.

A toddler and a preteen.

A job shifting all around me, constantly asking for more.

Resolution in Little One’s case so close I can taste it.


Do what matters.

I’m not sure how to do this, really.

But I have a hunch that it starts right here.

In my living room floor.

Lining up dominoes.


This is my story too.

I’m sitting in a room full of people who love Jesus.

Mamas and daddies whose lives have been touched by adoption.

My people.

And still it’s hard for me to drop my guard.

We circle up with practical strangers and we are supposed to pray.

At another time, in another place, I would know exactly how to do this “right.”

Today, I’ve got nothing.

So he tells his story.

A real-life story of rescue.

Of calling out to Jesus at what he truly believed to be his last moments on this earth.

And finding himself suddenly on dry land.

Snatched from the greedy hands of death.  Saved by the merciful hands of Grace.

It resonates hard.

This is my story too.

The perfect metaphor for a life surrendered to Jesus.

Snatched from the greedy hands of death.  Saved by the merciful hands of Grace.

Sometimes I like to pretend like my story is different.

Like I’ve got this parenting thing.  This foster care thing.  This adoption thing.  This life thing.

I try too hard to look good… to have it all together not just so you think I’m great, but so you think foster care is great.  So you think adoption is great.

Apart from me, you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

I don’t like it, but I know it is true.

Abide, he calls.

Settle down here.  Lean in close.


And remember.

That great story of rescue?

It’s my story too.


One Hope

They snatch me up in the lobby, two sweet friends, and just come out with it.

How can we pray for you today as a white mama of non-white babies?

I don’t know the answer, exactly.

But I do know that this, this right here, is church.

Asking the brave question, the question that sometimes feels like an elephant in a room full of ostriches.

And praying, standing with, even when the only words that seem right are

Help, Jesus.

It’s hard enough for me to grapple with recent events as a follower of One who I see ever sweeping the edges, ever championing the underdogs, ever acknowledging great value in the ones marginalized by society.

But when it comes to my babies.  The babies that I love, unquestionably, more than life itself.

Oh.  Dear.  Goodness.

I lose all rationality.

And also my mind.  In your face.  If you spew some foolishness that rings hollow in my mama-ears.

One hope.

I settle into my chair after having church in the lobby.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while.

And here it is again.

…you were called to one hope when you were called… (Ephesians 4: 4)

The calling is simple.

Not easy, mind you.  Sometimes very hard.

Love God.  Love people.

The hope is real.

Not fully realized.  Not always see-with-your-eyes-able.

But real.

Friends, I have no hope for the violence and hatred and ignorance and division I see.

Except one.


Not love or unity or some inherent goodness of humanity.

Not gun control.  Or mental health services.  Or public policy of any kind.

Just Jesus.

Jesus is my one hope.

And so I will go on loving my babies.  And trying also to tell them the truth.

And struggling with all of it.

And blessing the ones who ask the hard questions right there in the lobby.

The ones who pray without having the answers, without having the words at all.

The ones who know what it means to be church.