My Spirit Revived in Your Story

I am a broken woman.

In the past 8 years I have come to God with multiple requests. Many of them have been answered. I am married to a wonderful man who continually makes me better with his grace, humility, humor and kindness. I am mother to a son who has taught me to love in a way I never dreamed. He has helped me discover a fight I didn’t know I had. (My mother bear instinct is apparently very strong). My guys have given me more joy than I can explain. I laugh harder, sing louder, dance bigger and love more because of these two.

I am blessed with wonderful family. A father who has taught me so much. A mother who challenges me daily with her grace. Brothers who are my fierce protectors. Sister-in-laws who are such a joy to spend time with.

And I am blessed with in-laws who love me like I am their own. They have been gracious as Brandon and I figure out what “becoming one” really means. And they. love. my. son.

And for these I am thankful.

But I am a broken woman.

I am a barren woman.

There was a time that I couldn’t even say the word “barren” without tears. For years I refused to utter it. I wept and I plead for God to fulfill this deep desire. Adoption had always been in my heart. It was not a second choice or plan B. I had always dreamed and believed that it was one way that God would grow my family. I am thrilled that this is how I became a mom.

But I (like many women) always assumed and desired to bear a child. I expected and looked forward to being pregnant, giving birth, breast feeding. I eagerly anticipated having a child with red hair just like their daddy. Brandon hoped to have a child with green eyes just like me. We dreamed of our red headed children and our black haired African or Asian children running around together.

But this wasn’t how God chose to unfold our story.

Barrenness. I am barren. 

And lately something has happened that I never expected. This word “barren” and the reality it represents have lost their sting. They have begun to taste sweet. I’ve begun to love this part of my story.

Why? Because it is here, in my brokenness, my barrenness, my failure and loss… it is here that I see my Father. It is here that I see salvation. It is here that I sense God’s presence.

Here, in this place, I am revived. And I’m not revived because God has fulfilled all of my earthly desires. I am revived because God has revealed himself. I am revived in His story.

I have spent the last few weeks reading through the book of John with a wonderful group of women over at If:Equip. And I was reminded of one of my favorite passages.

In John chapter 6 Jesus has just called himself the Bread of Life. And He has begun describing to those around him the sacrifice that is involved in following him. It was and is a hard teaching. Following this, the scripture says,

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)

Friends, I am not a follower of Christ because He fulfills every single one of my dreams or requests. I do not follow him because He makes life easier.

I am a follower of Christ because I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Barrenness and all, I choose the Father.

In the last few months I have felt God’s healing. He didn’t suddenly make me able to bear a child. He made it sweet that I cannot. He has taken away my shame by revealing His goodness. In a lot of ways, I feel like my barrenness has let me in on a secret.  A secret I don’t plan on keeping to myself.

I have seen how God’s redemptive story transforms. Not by making all the pain go away, but by resurrecting the dead. Not by solving all my problems but by drawing each and every soul to His presence.

In my brokenness, He reveals himself. And it is here, in this place, that He will use me. He doesn’t make the brokenness go away, He transforms it and makes it His.

Many of you will recognize the above title from a fairly new worship song by Hillsong. It’s one of my favorites. So I’ll close with this video. May we each find refuge in the shadow of His wings. May be revived in His story. And may we watch with wonder as He brings the ruins to life.

More than a blanket

Almost 3 years ago, I received a very special gift from some very special young women.

Brandon and I had been waiting for over a year for any movement towards adopting our first child. This was only after having spent 2 years down the infertility road.

Needless to say, we were emotionally spent. But God was continuing to show himself in incredible ways.

One Sunday morning I was asked to come to the 4th & 5th grade girls small group at the end of the morning. This was a class that had always been special to me in my role as Children’s minister, but I had no idea what they had planned.

When I got there they presented me with a blanket they had worked together to knit (with the help of their awesome teachers). They had spent the entire year knitting and praying for our sweet Baby O.

Allie, Serena, Becca, Bella & Lucy (and Hannah who couldn’t make it that day!)       Can you tell I’ve been crying?

Jamie came home almost a year later and during that time I kept this blanket out and visible. It was a constant, consistent reminder that our community was praying. That they loved this child. And, most importantly, that God was working. And after we brought J home (for the past two years) it has laid on the back of his rocking chair. I love seeing it each and every day as a reminder of the community that has prayed for and loved this child.

Tomorrow Jamie turns 2. t-w-o. Truth be told, I’ve been more emotional about my baby turning 2 then I was about myself turning 30.

At bedtime tonight we followed our usual routine: books, prayer and then a song. Jamie only had two requests: First, that I sing Jesus Paid It All and, second, that I put this blanket on him.

And this Mama’s heart nearly burst with the incredible honor I have of not only raising this little boy, but what a blessing it is to be surrounded by so many that. simply. love. him.

The girls pictured above have each grown into such lovely young women. I am amazed by their faith, their talents & abilities and their capacity to care for and minister to those around them. They love others well and are just plain fun.

Jamie insisted on taking this blanket to bed with him. And I can’t think of a better way for him to wake up on his birthday.

 

 

Looking back and dreaming forward

6 months.

We have now been in Arkansas for 6 months. 6 months. That’s half a year. That both seems too long and too short.

In many ways this place is still new, we are still new, we are still figuring out how we fit. But we have also begun to find a rhythm. We have begun to feel at home. We love where we are. We are being challenged in new and fresh ways at our new church and we continue to sense that God has us here. In this place. For this time. And we are content with that.

So, in the past few days I have been pondering what the last months have held. And I began to make a list. And then the list got longer. and then I cooked dinner and came back. And I decided I could make a list forever and at some point I just have to stop.

So, want to know what the last 6 months have been like for us? In the last 6 months we have….

  • Moved all of our belongings across two states
  • Stayed in a 1 bedroom apartment for more than 3 months
  • Bought our first house (along with our first washer, dryer, refrigerator). Since being home owners we have replaced 1 toliet, painted the entire interior, hung blinds, put in new carpet, bought furniture, painted trim, decorated our new home for Christmas (and cleaned it all up), and we plan to get our garage door fixed in the next week. 
  • We have visited friends and family in Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Bought our first SUV
  • For Brandon specifically: He officially graduated with his PhD in August; turned 32; has spoken at 3 conferences / retreats; preached 1 weekend at our new church; taught 1 Bible survey course at Ouachita (his first college class as Dr. O’Brien); edited 6+ books (two of which were collaborations); worked as an acquisitions editor;  built a wall of shelves; did most of the painting in our house; and has written 2 books reviews and 2 articles for publication. Oh, and he did most of this while starting a new (full time) job on November 1 working on a partnership between Ouachita Baptist University and New Life Church.  As far as we can tell, this has only led to a few gray hairs.
  • And what about me? I have adjusted to a different pace of life;  done most of the unpacking; shopped copiously online for furniture deals; memorized roughly 20 children’s books including Little Blue Truck (city and country), Go Dogs go, several Sheep books and lots of Mo Willems; taught my first College course; found several Gluten-free options in Conway; learned to tie a scarf 1 handed (while simultaneously picking up a very strong, wiggly toddler with the other); have read at least half of about 10 books (the pile beside the bed keeps growing); and I continue to read all I can about Children’s Ministry / Spirituality; And I have recently mastered several other skills including: cutting Jamie’s hair, making smoothies and I make some pretty awesome gluten-free blueberry muffins. Oh, and I am still in my 20s. But just barely.
  • And Jamie? He is 22 months old. In the last few months, he has learned to speak in sentences; has developed an excellent throwing arm; has gone pee pee in the potty 3 times; learned that bodily functions (of any sort) are hilarious; has learned to tell his first joke; met LOTS of new family; is pretty great at walking backwards and can run down a hill at full speed without falling; he loves soup and eats a lot of it (seriously); he can count to 8 (much to the surprise of his parents); and has perfected the ability to bat his eyelashes and get anything he wants. from anyone. at any time. Oh, and he’s adorable. Seriously, completely, knock-your-socks-off adorable. and funny. Very, very funny. 
  • We spend Christmas with my family for the first time in several years.
  • In addition to all of the above, we have reunited with several college friends and are continuing to get to know LOTS of new people. 
  • We’ve hiked up Pinnacle mountain. 
  • And we have learned in new and overwhelming ways that God is truly faithful. He is good. He is enough. And we are so honored, privileged and amazed by his provision, his plan, his purpose and his leading.

And now it’s 2014. What does the next year hold?

  • Brandon will complete 2 more editing projects; write his third book; speak at a conference in South Korea, launch a new college campus; preach more; continue to perfect his roasted chicken; and he has grand plans to smoke his own bacon. So, you know, he’s pretty free.
  • Me? I will teach some more; have an opportunity to do some training / teaching / sharing my heart at a children’s ministry retreat;  would like to learn how to grind my own flours; will work for my parent’s ministry in Germany; turn 30; throw some pretty epic birthdays for my boys and I’d like to learn to juggle… you know, because everyone needs a party trick. And speaking of parties, I want to have both a St. Patrick’s Day and Chinese New Year party. Not together. That’d be weird.
  • And Jamie? He will turn 2; He plans to watch school buses and garbage trucks everyday; he will probably go to preschool in the Fall; will be working on potty training this Spring; will continue his love affair with soup and smoothies; will make lots of new friends; and continue to perfect the cuteness. Oh, and he plans to grow his eyelashes. Because you can’t have too much of a good thing, right?
  • We hope to go camping as a family and take a summer vacation.
  • We will be going to a few weddings and will hopefully introduce Jamie to more of his family. Poor kid sure does have a lot.
  • And we WILL travel internationally. I’ve been in one country too long. Something’s gotta give.
  • Oh, and we’d like to collect more records.
  • And learn some new recipes.
  • And we feel like 2014 might bring some big changes for our family. More details on that later on.

So there are my lists. Did you stick it out to the end? Thanks. That’s impressive. You’re impressive. 

The End. 

Proving that he’s mine

Image

This week I took Jamie to his 18 mo check-up. I had heard great things about the doctor. I did everything I could to have information there ahead of time. I even talked with them on the phone beforehand. Needless to say, I was prepared.

I got there early for the appointment to fill out paperwork. After completing all of the paperwork, I brought it up to the receptionist. As she was thumbing through, I mentioned to her in passing that the reason I didn’t fill out some of the medical history was because my son was adopted.

This got her attention and she asked for Jamie’s adoption paperwork. I was a little stunned. Legally, Jamie’s mine. His birth certificate shows us as his parents. He has a social security number that would also list us as his parents. This was not something our previous doctor had requested, so I didn’t even bring it with me.

She quickly got the office manager who very kindly informed me that according to HIPAA laws, they had to have a copy of the adoption paperwork on file in order to treat my son.

So we rescheduled for next week.

And I quickly gathered our stuff and left the office. And barely made it to the car before the tears started flowing. (Thank goodness for sunglasses!)

In that moment I felt myself at first angry and protective that someone would deny my son medical care. But that quickly subsided to embarrassment. You see, by this time the office was full and I felt fairly conspicuous.

And I’m pretty used to that. If you see the three of us together, it’s fairly obvious that Jamie is not our biological son. And, honestly, I love this about our family. I love my beautiful brown child. I love his long eye lashes, and curly hair. I love his soft, silky skin. I am so deeply in love with my son. I am so deeply proud to be his mom.

And I can’t quite explain how it feels for someone to require you to verify that with legal documentation. I can’t quite explain how hard it is for someone to deny me the right to take care of my son. Even now, almost 48 hours later, the tears are still pretty fresh when I replay the scene over in my mind.

You see, I’m an adoptive mom who has generally embraced the fact that Jamie’s medical history is fairly simple to fill out. I don’t mind at all that there are huge sections I just skip over. It makes paperwork easier. And I’m okay with that. To be honest, I enjoy it.

But thisthis was different. It was much deeper. And I’m still trying to figure out how exactly to move forward. Here are a few thoughts:

I want to make it clear that the office staff was incredibly gracious. I’ve thought about sending them a thank you note. They handled a tricky situation well. Our doctor’s office in Wheaton never required such documentation, so I’m not sure who had it right.  But whether they have interpreted the law correctly or not, they were kind. They were just doing their job.

And this made me realize that Jamie’s adoption paperwork will probably be used often in his life: new doctors, registering for school and who knows what else. Knowing that ahead of time will help.

But friends, this simply stings. My heart aches a little. We’ve experienced lots of insensitive comments about the way our family looks, and, honestly, I find them funny. We joke that we will probably always need to take family photos in natural light if we want everyone to look good. I’ve learned all sorts of things about taking care of Jamie’s hair that I didn’t know before. We enjoy the way God knit our family together. And we don’t mind that people comment.

But thisthis was different. This wasn’t about the way our family looked. This felt like it was questioning the fact that we were a family. And it was done so matter-of-fact. To the office staff they were simply asking for paperwork. But for the adoptive mom, it wasn’t nearly so routine. For me, it was deeply, deeply personal.

And I’ve been trying to draw some great spiritual point from all of this. And I don’t know that I have one. Actually, that’s not totally true. Brandon will be preaching this weekend from Galatians, highlighting the fact that we are all adopted into God’s family. I’m excited for him to share what God has placed on his heart. There is such beautiful truth in that book, and I love seeing how God has woven together his church.

And I’ll let Brandon tell you about that.

But here is what I know: we worship a good God. He is faithful. He is loving. He is creative. And He has wonderfully and beautiful brought together our family. We may be fairly conspicuous, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

“We’re done praying now”

ImageJamie has a new super cute habit. He loves to pray. We sit down at the table and he holds his hands out and says “pway pway pway”. He then directs one of us to do the praying and bows his head. At the end he yells an excited “awmin”.

Friends, it’s super cute. But he doesn’t just do it once. About 3 minutes later, he asks again. A few minutes after that, again. And it will be a regular call throughout the meal.

And we find ourselves saying some surprising things,

Jamie, we’re done praying now.

Or

Jamie, eat your french fries, then we’ll pray.

Put that on the list with a multitude of other things I never thought I’d say.

Today, I have a few moments alone. Brandon needed to run some errands and volunteered to take Jamie with him. (I tried to hide my excitement when he told me this morning). So I made some coffee, made myself breakfast and settled down on the couch. Never mind the cleaning that needs to get done or the mounds of laundry calling my name, I’M ALONE. This is a moment that canNOT be wasted.

I’m teaching a Children’s Ministry class at Oauchita (my alma mater) this fall. I have a fabulous group of 10 students who are excited to be there and are eager to explore what it means to work with children. Seriously, they’re awesome.

Currently we’re taking time to explore what the Bible has to tell us about how we should think of children or, more specifically, how God thinks of them. It’s been a fun exercise to pore over the scriptures and start to develop a Theology of Children.

And Deuteronomy has come up a lot. Why? Because children are mentioned a lot. I won’t go into specifics in this post (though I’m planning one for later this week), but I would encourage you to read it.

All that to say, I’ve decided to spend this semester reading Deuteronomy in my personal devotions.

And today I am struck by this:

In the first few chapters of the book, Moses is reminding the people of their unfaithfulness. Even after God had led them out of Egypt and worked miraculously in their lives (I mean He led them by a cloud and fire), at the first sign of trouble, they doubted that He could lead them into the Promised Land.

And, friends, this gets me every. time.

When God brought Jamie into our family, He did it in a miraculous, incredible, beyond-our-expectations kind of way. I’d like to think that I’m not like the Israelites. I’d like to think, that after being present for such a miraculous series of events, I would trust him wholeheartedly every time.

But it’s simply not true.

Through all the major events that have happened in the last 18 months, I have found worry to come much easier than trust.

And now, as we prayerfully consider starting the adoption process again, I (most definitely) find myself doubting. I get stalled in this in-between time, and (if I’m not careful) I find myself focusing on the hurdles ahead instead of the God who is guiding us.

But then He lovingly echoes his goodness. His sovereignty. His provision. His majesty. His faithfulness. His incredible way of doing miraculous things that are beyond my expectations. And I am (once again) amazed at his faithfulness to me despite my unfaithfulness.

And you know one of the ways He reminds me? With a little boy who is eager to pray all the time.

And I find myself thinking that maybe Jamie has it just right. Maybe his call for prayer is one I should really heed. I mean, we worship a pretty awesome God who honors those prayers.

Now, back to the quiet…

So, apparrently I don’t like change…

…. actually, my parents would probably be the first to say that I’ve never liked change. I prefer my home, my favorite restaurants, a job that I am secure in. Good friends.

Here’s the trick: I want to like it. I sometimes crave it. I get bored by the mundane. Then it happens and I sort of freak out.

Temporarily. Because one thing about TCK’s: we adapt fairly quickly to a new environment.

And all of that is fairly general and maybe not true. So let’s unpack it, shall we? Here are two true statements:

“I like change.”

Brandon will tell you that I am always thinking about changing things about myself or my environment. In the first few years of our marriage, anytime he left town I changed either my hair or our living room (on more than a few occasions, both). I got bored with how things were. Once Jamie came along, nap time was frequently filled with me scooting stuff around in the living room. (Maybe that’s why he sleeps so well).

“I like to leave.”

I feel lost when I’m stuck in the same place all the time. I’m actually sort of ashamed by how little I have used my passport in the last few years. So, I’m not even going to tell you the number. But I crave travel and new experiences.

So if the two statements above are true, why does this move have me freaking out? Well, the truth is, I only like change and excitement when it happens within a comfortable environment.

And the trick with a move to a new place is it means new friends, new home, new patterns, new grocery store, new favorite restaurants, etc. Combine with the fact that I am not a (mostly) full-time stay-at-home mom, and we’re living in a temporary apartment and I think my mind is sort of freaking out.

Or it was. This week I’ve started to feel some normalcy. How do I know? Well, I rearranged the kitchen counter today (I don’t have a whole lot of options for redecorating right now). Yesterday, after the grocery shopping, I tried a different way home.

It’s baby steps people.

But, luckily I’m taking those steps with a pretty cool baby and a husband that rocks my socks off.

Confession time over. Time to go look at a house we might buy.

 

Friends.

What better picture to illustrate friendship?

I left behind some pretty awesome friends. The type that cry with you, laugh with you, go to Ikea or the outlet mall or the arboretum with you just so you can get out of the house. The kind that help you pick out a dress for your brother’s wedding, or show up to CE work-day (not because they love sorting markers but because they love you).

These were friends who let me share in their children’s lives, even before I had one of my own. And they were friends who would schedule play-dates at the drop of the hat to re-establish sanity.

When Brandon and I grieved multiple close-call adoptions, these were the friends who brought meals over. They listened. They cried.

When I was pretty sure I couldn’t function any longer, these were friends who rearranged their schedules to have breakfast, coffee, or just a phone call.

Seriously, these people are wonderful.

When we received the call about Jamie, these were the friends who leapt into action. They pestered me until I finished baby registries so they could shop. They cried with me in Target and brought me baby blankets. They supplied everything we would need to welcome a baby home. In less than 72 hours. Seriously. Everything from diapers, clothes, toys, blankets, detergent, bottles, meals for weeks after we brought him home… Absolutely. Everything.

And these were the people who came over to visit our new little man. They brought books. They brought their children. They brought diaper genies and onesies. They were as eager as grandparents to hold him, to tell him how much he was waited for. How much he was already loved.

You understand what I mean, right?

They babysat at a moment’s notice. They brought by surprise (freshly baked) gluten-free treats. They helped us move. Three times. They didn’t flinch when Jamie covered them in spit-up. (well, maybe they flinched a little). And when I was having a hard time figuring out the work / mom / wife / balance, it was these friends who volunteered to bring us a meal every week. And not just any meal, a gourmet meal.

They welcomed us into their homes for lunch or dinner. They got together really early every other Thursday with my husband.They lent us baby gates, saws, any tool we might want. They sent us cards, poems, thoughts, encouragements. They knitted us blankets and other items.

They read and even commented on our blogs.

They prayed. Oh, how they prayed.

They provided for our financial needs on more than one occasion. They gave generously towards our adoption costs.

They went to Alfies with us. They let me order for them at Asian restaurants. They heartily enjoyed Brandon’s redneck tales.

One of the things I love about my parents is that they always had good friends. And these friends became honorary Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents. Even when they moved away, they still were a part of my life.

This move has brought us closer to family (and they’re pretty great, too). And it’s brought us closer to some very dear friends (you know, the kind who let you eat pork chops anyway you want). And we’re already building new relationships that we are so excited about.

But I’m so excited about Jamie knowing all the people who welcomed his birth with such excitement. Near and far. They are each and all a part of his story. And we are so thankful.

And what about this little gem? Jamie has many female admirers.

New Beginnings

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. And I’ve been struggling for days over what to write. I’ve decided I’m not going to write about the Zimmerman trial, even though it has been weighing heavily on my heart. For a thoughtful response you can see these entries: http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2013/07/why-im-encouraged-after-trayvon-martin.html OR http://brandonjobrien.com/?p=870

I’m not going to write about my usually happy toddler who is being terrorized by molars and is therefore turning the terror on innocent bystanders.

I’m not even going to write about how annoyed I get over complete strangers who read my husband’s blog and then feel the need to comment, not about the post, but about dear husband’s integrity. No, I wont write about that.

And I wont bore you with the weather. (though it is stinkin’ hot. Seriously).

Instead I thought I’d talk about our move. I know, you’re probably thinking those other topics sound far more interesting (except for the weather, that one’s never interesting). But I promise I’ll make this worth it. Seriously.

It would probably surprise you to know that this move to Conway was first suggested by me. This past Christmas we were here visiting family. After a lovely visit with dear friends to their church, I felt an overwhelming sense that this was not only a place we could afford to live, but was a place we could flourish. That, perhaps, this was the place God had been preparing us for. I know, it surprised me, too. So we talked in the car as we drove to each family stop. We talked when we got back and by mid-January we had made the decision.

You see, we had been feeling for quite some time that God was preparing us to leave Wheaton. We loved our 7 1/2 years there, but we just couldn’t shake that this was not permanent. But, when you’re husband’s a freelancer, it’s not a job that takes him to another city. It’s a family decision.

So in mid-January I told my pastor of our decision and we prepared to leave. We knew it would take quite a bit of coordination to make this move possible, so we gave ourselves 6 months to get all the details squared away. In February I told the rest of the staff. In March we announced it to the church. People were more gracious and encouraging than we could have asked for and most definitely more than we deserved. They generously expressed their sadness at our leaving, and their hope for what this next stage might bring.

We began to get more and more excited about what would come next. And we became more and more sad at what we were leaving behind. Bitter. Sweet. We had been blessed by a church family that welcomed us and enfolded us almost immediately. I had served on staff for 6 years and we had been members for just over 7. Brandon had been a deacon for the last several years. This family had walked with us through an incredibly hard four years as we waited for our first child. They had cried with us as we shared of our infertility. They rejoiced with us when we moved forward with adoption. They even got frustrated along with us as the process took longer than any of us expected. They wept with us at each close call that didn’t bring our baby. And they came around us with the great joy when we welcomed our James David home. Every time I dress him or see him play with his toys I am reminded of the generosity of this community. Friends, we are truly, truly blessed.

But God was calling us on. So, just over a week ago we packed up our belongings (again with the help of our community), we said goodbye to dear friends and we drove 13 hours to Conway.

Brandon was in the truck with the cat. I was in the car with the toddler. We joked beforehand that it was a toss up over whose trip would prove most difficult. Well, friends, I definitely won that battle. But we made it.

And it’s all sort of surreal. I have had my freakout moments over how much I miss our dear friends. It’s kind of hard to go from constant contact (text, email, phone calls) to almost nothing. I didn’t handle it so well.

After over 3 weeks of frequent babysitters and a house increasingly full of boxes, Jamie was struggling to adjust. We had lots of tears, tantrums and just plain crankiness.

And that’s the hard. But you want to know the good? We were greeted at our temporary apartment by family who helped unload those things we needed immediately. Then the next day a group met Brandon at the storage place to unload our entire truck. They were done within 30 minutes. Several came over to the apartment to help me unpack a few things. We had lunch with dear friends who now live just over an hour away. And we had dinner that night with new friends.

Within a week of being here we had met a whole host of people and Brandon has even spoken briefly at an evening Worship service. We have had dinner with another family and have several more appointments this week with new and old friends.

We are overwhelmed by God’s great provision. I’m still adjusting. Brandon is still adjusting. Jamie is still teething. But God is also still faithful. We are not only making it but we are thriving.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t know yet exactly what our lives will look like long term. We’re looking for a long term place to live (and have a few encouraging leads) and we’re figuring out how this balance of life, ministry, publishing and academics really works. And I still have a class to plan for.

And, on our good days, we’re loving it. But, as much as we felt God leading us to this new place, we still miss the old. But, honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We know that it is such a blessing to have loved a community so deeply. I don’t think I would want to leave any other way.

And with that, I will make you this promise: I will blog at least once a week. You may not need it. But I do.

And now to change a dirty diaper.

The day he came home

On March 12, 2012 we brought our sweet James David home. We had received “the call” on March 9 and waited all weekend to meet our little boy who was just over a week old. Our caseworker had told us to get some rest.

We didn’t sleep the entire weekend.

But, finally, the day came. We walked into the office at 1 p.m. and sat down in the waiting room. Within a few minutes Cristina, our caseworker, walked out holding our son in her arms. She met us in the waiting with room with him and handed him to me.

I’m in tears now thinking of how surreal that moment was. I was holding my son. The child I had prayed for. The child I had longed for. The child we had waited for. Our son. And they didn’t even make me sign anything first, they just handed him to me.

We walked to the back room and signed all the necessary papers before leaving (just 15 minutes later) as a family of three.

Jamie screamed the entire way home.

We had been warned that he hated his car seat and that proved true on this trip. What I find amazing, though, is he never cried in his car seat again. His life had been fairly traumatic up to this point, but once he came home, it’s as if he knew. He never screamed for an entire trip ever again.

Our sweet friend, Annika, came over to our house that afternoon to take pictures. Annika is an amazing photographer. If you’ve been to our house, you’ve seen many of these photos. But I thought I would share them here. If you need a photographer check out http://www.annikadurbinphotography.com.

Image

Image

This one may be our favorite!

Image

Our first Christmas after we had started the adoption process, a dear friend gave me a necklace. It had my birth stone, Brandon’s birthstone and a charm that said “faith” for the faith we had that God would provide our child. I wore it nearly every day until we brought Jamie home 1 1/2 yrs later.

ImageImageImage

So, now, today we celebrate a very special little boy. Our precious James David. He’s a ball of energy and loves to entertain. He is cuddly and sweet and simply a joy.

We love you, baby boy!

ImageImage

March 12 is also Jamie’s Aunt Tilly’s birthday. He’s so lucky to have her as an Aunt. Happy Sweet 16 Tilly!

Our Birthday Boy and the Woman that changed everything

Yesterday our Jamie turned 1. Amazing.

Image

Our friend Katie made us all shirts with our ages. Mine has a ? with “not a chance” written across. Brandon’s idea.

What has struck me again and again is that a year ago at this time we didn’t even know he existed. Sure, we had faith that God would bring us our child. But we didn’t know when they would be born or what they would look like.

We didn’t know it would be our Jamie.

And as we have celebrated our son, another person has been consistently and constantly on my mind…his birthmom. A woman I will never know but who has changed our lives most profoundly. A woman whose bravery astounds me, whose courage humbles me and whose love for our (her’s and my) son is so inspiring. And I don’t even know what she looks like. I don’t even know her name.

Here’s what I do “officially” know: On March 3 an African American woman brought a newborn baby to a Safe Haven in Chicago. He had been born the day before at home. She handed him to an authority and said she couldn’t give him the care he needs.

I believe she wanted to make sure he was safe. I believe she wanted to make sure he would be alright. I know that she loved our son.

Today has been a day full of tears as I have wondered what she might be experiencing. As we have faced March 2 and 3 with the utmost joy at our Jamie, she has come crashing into what was perhaps the most difficult day of her life.

As we have decorated cupcakes and celebrated with friends, I imagine she has grieved mostly in solitude. It’s very possible that most of the people in her life do not even know what this date means to her.

When we began to tell people the story of Jamie’s birth (find it here), we got a mixture of responses and I was surprised at how many people responded with anger towards this woman. There were people who wanted to blame her or who felt that her actions showed how little she cared for Jamie.

I believe they’re wrong. I believe she cared for this little boy very much, for so many reasons. She carried him to term and gave birth to him safely. She didn’t leave him on a doorstep but gave him to a trusted authority figure. From the time that he was born he was calm and snuggly. He didn’t appear to show any signs of trauma or stress. He was totally healthy. He had no drug or alcohol exposure. Whatever her reasons may have been, I believe she was trying to make the best decision for a baby she deeply cared for.

One of my prayers today has been for this woman’s heart. I have prayed that she might feel peace. That, somehow, God would assure her that her son is safe. He’s happy and healthy. He has two parents who love him deeply. He is surrounded by family and a community that are madly in love with him. He is thriving. I want her to know it all turned out okay. She did a good thing.

And we are so thankful. Truly, incredibly thankful.