A child of my very own

IMG_5056(1)

As an adoptive family, we get lots of questions and comments. They provide for lots of awkward moments but they rarely keep me up at night.

Except one. One eats away at me and it comes in many forms.

The other day in the grocery store, it was just me and Jamie. Jamie was being his normal, silly and inquisitive self. As she was scanning my groceries, the checkout lady looked at him and then looked at me and simply asked, ‘Is he yours?” When I responded that he was, she followed up with “Is he adopted?”

I get this question a lot, so I had an answer. I knew the drill. But there was something very different this time.

This time Jamie was listening. After our exchange, Jamie looked at me and very innocently asked, “What did she say?” And when I told him, he immediately asked, “Why?”

As I looked at my precious boy, my heart broke. As I responded politely to the woman asking the question, I felt tears in the back of my eyes. And as I told Jamie a better version of what she had asked, I realized that I need to teach my children how to handle this question.

And the question comes in many forms:

Is he/she yours? Are they adopted? Do you have any children of your own? Are they real brother and sister? Are you their “real” mom / dad?

In addition to teaching them to brush their teeth, go potty, ask polite questions and pick up their shoes … In addition to family dance parties, group hugs and Lego building … I need to teach my kids how to handle someone questioning whether they belong to me or to their daddy or to each other.

I need to help prepare them that people will ask questions in such a way that it will call into question everything they have always known.

I need to prepare them.

And I’ve got to start now.

I know that this woman and the many, many others who have asked don’t mean any harm. I tend to assume the best of people, and this case is no different. And, most of the time, the comment I get most is about my children’s eye lashes and beautiful smiles.

I don’t blame that woman. She didn’t know me or my children and she was making polite conversation.

I’ve been wrestling with this blog post for some time. Adoptive families will tell you that this is a constant theme, especially if your family is very obviously formed by adoption.

And I’ve written lots about this subject. Some I’ve published, others are still too intimate, too personal to let the world read.

In the end, here is what I want people to know. Questions aren’t bad. I’m a teacher. I love questions. If you ask one, I will feel compelled to answer.

But, I need you to understand something. This is personal. Asking questions about our adoption story is like asking someone for their birth story. It’s not necessarily as graphic, but it is just as personal.

So, here’s my unsolicited advice: If you are interacting with an adoptive family that you have no personal relationship with, think about the question before you ask the question.

(For help knowing if a question is appropriate, I suggest you watch this.)

And, if you’re never going to see them again, don’t ask. Instead, squelch your curiosity and simply say, “they’re precious.” And leave it at that.

If you have a relationship with the family and are sincerely curious, my best advice is to admit that you don’t know exactly how to ask the question and proceed from there. As I said earlier, Brandon and I are very open and we love answering questions in the context of a personal conversation.

But here is my one request. Do not (I repeat) do not ask the question in front of the child. Just don’t. They hear more than you think and, even if they’re 18, they probably wont enjoy the question.

So, seriously, don’t.

In conclusion, here are my very own children, a very real brother and sister, at around the same age taking a bath. They both have beautiful curls and the kind of eyes that cause (and convey) all sorts of feelings.

Aren’t they beautiful?
2015-03-27 17.40.39-1 2015-03-27 22.36.53

 

But will He really provide?

Last week we had one of those days. You know the kind where everyone (including the 6 month old) wakes up in a bad mood…and it was a struggle. Finally, we got outside and stayed there for two hours. IMG_0778We played, we ate lunch and I drank a much needed cup of coffee. And we redeemed the day. Kind of. But I feel like I’ve been walking around in that day for the last week, or, if I’m honest, the last year and a half.

When God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt He did it in a miraculous, incredible, very clear way.

Just in the escape itself there were the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. Then, after they had escaped He led them with a cloud by day and with fire by night. He fed them from the sky when they were hungry. He delivered their enemies in battle. He spoke to Moses on the mountain.

Yet, at almost every turn we see them doubt. We see them question whether He will provide. And we see a people who seem to have forgotten the provision God provided just yesterday or last week.

And, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself wondering how they could be so blind? How they could be so insensitive and whiny? How could they have forgotten manna from heaven? How could they forget the parting of the Red Sea?

Today I was reading Deuteronomy 1 (with the ladies over at If:Equip). In this opening chapter, we see that God is bringing his people into the Promised Land. He has proven himself faithful again and again and the moment has come. And what do they do? They get scared. They accuse one another. They see a battle too big to win. And they retreat.

And it’s easy for us to see the ridiculousness of their actions. I mean, God provided food from the sky for goodness sakes! He parted the Red Sea. I think He can handle an army.

We climb on our high horse and we thank God that we are nothing like the people of Israel.

I am a woman who has seen my God provide. When I was very young, He delivered me from life threatening illness a few times. After longing for 4 years to be a mom, He delivered my first born in a miraculous, only-He-can-do sort of way. And then two years later, He allowed us to grow our family again in a story that screams of His presence and provision. In the past year, God has worked through Brandon to start a college that wasn’t even a full fledged idea just a year and a half ago. The God that we worship has brought children to my dear friends and family. He has brought healing to many loved ones. He has redeemed so many. He is working through my parents to conquer evil and bring redemption in the darkest of circumstances. Our life screams of His Faithfulness!

And yet…

I am just like the people of Israel. I doubt Him. I doubt his provision. I rock my two miracles, I tuck them into their beds, I tell their stories with great excitement as a testimony to God’s faithfulness… Yet I live as if everything happens by own efforts. I doubt God’s provision at every step.

I am the one who asks But will He really provide?

And if I left it here, it would be a sad story indeed. But God, in his infinite mercy and grace, answers my doubt with Yes.

I am the one who is going before you, will fight for you… (Deuteronomy 1:30)

I am the one who created you fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139)

2014-06-28 09.19.43I am the one, the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1)

James12I am the one who gives peace beyond understanding. (Philippians 4).

IMG_5579 IMG_6166

And I am the one who

being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

There’s God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)

Photo Dec 25, 3 41 29 PMFriends, I am not capable. But the God of the universe is. It is He who works through me. It is He who works in me. It is He who has provided and will continue to do so. The Story is His, not mine. The praise is His. The Work is His.

And, on days when I doubt whether He will provide. On days I doubt my own ability as a mother, as a writer, as a minister, as a wife, as a teacher…. He is. He is. He is.

So, let’s get to work.

And then my cat died…

DSCN2913The day after Christmas, our little family of 4 made the drive up to Chicago to celebrate my mom for a week and then to Wheaton to reconnect with dear friends and relax some before the new semester. We had a wonderful time and at the end of it all, our souls were refreshed. We were ready for this new year.

And then on Sunday we made the long drive back to Conway. And when we walked back in the door at just after midnight we learned that our cat had died sometime in the two hours before we got there.

That’s right, we spent 10 days visiting family and friends. We spent 10 days being rejuvenated and we felt ourselves relax.

And then our cat died.

Now, we had some warning. Early in the weekend we got a report from our neighbors that things weren’t looking good. [Special note: These friends went out of their way to care for Mo and make sure he was comfortable and felt loved. They’re basically rockstars.]

But I don’t think we expected Mo to die that quickly. He went downhill fast in just a few days. And we so wanted to be there. Sure, he was a pest and my words haven’t been all too kind in the last few months.

But he was my cat for almost 8 years. He was our cat for 5 years before we were able to have children.

I loved my cat. And, as much as his particular neediness was driving me crazy, I didn’t want him gone.

So, for the last two days as I have unpacked and reorganized and prepared for what’s to come, I have also grieved. I wept when we came in the door that night. And I wept when we buried him in the yard the next day. And I’ve been learning how to grieve with a young child who is trying to understand what death means. Which translates to lots of questions and conversations. Lots of saying over and over again that Mo is dead and not coming back. And lots of remembering the good things.

And it’s all very surreal. This is the time of year that we dream about what’s to come. We make goals and draft plans for what this new year will hold. Along our trip, Brandon and I had talked a lot about what we hoped for 2015. We were eager and excited about what it might bring. What it might look like. We were energized and ready to take it on.

And then we came home to a dead cat.

A. dead. cat.

And this has got me thinking. Are we going about this whole “new year resolution” thing all wrong? When we dream and envision what a new year looks like, we rarely imagine the things that will hurt. We don’t anticipate the things that will cause us pain. We don’t care to think about the things that might break us.

I’m wondering if there might be a better way.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we start dreaming about the bad things. That would be weird and not at all helpful.

But, what if we spent time envisioning how we might handle that pain? What if we made goals to do better when the hard stuff comes? What if we not only talked about what the year might bring, but made plans for what type of people we want to be?

So, I’ve come up with a new plan for 2015.

When it all comes down to it, this year I want to reflect the image of my Savior and my Creator better. I want to love mercy and seek justice. I want to choose joy always, even in the midst of pain. I want to love others well.

How that looks in 2015… well that’s yet to be seen. First on the docket is for Brandon and me to draft a family mission statement. A statement that reflects first what we want to be. And then (and only then) what we hope to do.

And I’m once again eager and excited. But a little more measured and, perhaps, a little more hopeful about what this year might bring.

I miss my cat. But at least I can leave a glass of water out without him knocking it over…

Happy New Year, friends.

Just after we brought our little kitty home almost 8 years ago.

It’s an adoption thing

Photo Sep 02, 6 03 08 PM (HDR) (1)

Adoption blogs are everywhere.

There’s a part of me that loves it. I love the awareness. I love the spotlight being on such an important topic. I am thankful for the other adoptive moms who get it. Who understand our family. Who put words to feelings I had not yet acknowledged.

But another part of me is. so. tired. of. them.

I’m tired of everyone having an opinion about how my family was formed. I’m tired of adoptive parents complaining. I’m tired of people who haven’t adopted feeling that they have the right to offer sweeping commentary. I’m tired of the savior and rescue language.

And the problem is: it’s everywhere. Encouragement and discouragement… awareness and opinions… helpful advice and butting in…Buzzfeed article, after buzzfeed article, after buzzfeed article…

There are many times I’d prefer to just not talk about it. I’d prefer that people not feel the need to clarify that my children are not biologically mine. I hate the constant commentary on my kid’s skin tone, or the traits they most surely got from their birth families (because we couldn’t possibly deserve any credit)… And, somedays, I’d like to just shut off all the noise and just simply be a mom. A mom who may look differently from my children but loves them just the same. A mom who cleans up vomit and changes diapers (this is what my last two days have held). A mom who kisses boo boos and reads bed time stories. A mom who tickles and laughs. Who disciplines and provides structure. A mom who just loves as best as I know how.

And I am that mom. But, the fact is, I am also an adoptive mom. And that comes with certain responsibilities. And, whether I always feel like it or not, it means I need to talk about it. It is my responsibility to educate others about adoption so that my children have a better world to live in. It is my responsibility to talk with my children so they are equipped to handle the challenges that will inevitably come. I have to tell pediatricians and doctors that there are certain biological questions I cannot answer. I have to learn grace for the stupid, insensitive and insulting questions. Because I’m the one my children will look to.

As tired as I am by these questions and comments, I’ve been convicted lately that I’ve got to step up. In order to parent my children fully, I have to become a part of the conversation. Because one day they will be playing on the playground and will be asked insulting and demeaning questions by other kids (who heard it from their parents). They will be asked about their “real” parents. They will be required to answer for their status as an adopted child. And I need to do my part to pave the way. To prepare them at home, but to also change the world they are growing up in.

And, you know what? I don’t mind. I would do infinitely more just to be able to parent these precious ones I have been entrusted with.

So, this is my first of several blogs about adoption. (It’s also my attempt to resume this regular blogging thing.)

Why add to the overwhelming amount of adoption blogs? Well, I guess you could say it’s an adoption thing.

Now back to those dirty diapers…

The O’Brien 4

This summer just got a whole lot more fun for the O’Brien family. And we are so excited to introduce you to our daughter: Eliza Faith O’Brien.

2014-06-28 08.32.47

2014-06-28 09.19.432014-06-28 11.33.41

When Jamie joined our family, it happened in less than 72 hours. Well, this time things went down a little differently. In February we were contacted by a friend from college about a young woman in Oklahoma who was making an adoption plan for her baby. Over the next few months we got to know a pretty amazing, brave and courageous young woman. And on June 28 she gave birth to a little girl who was  10 lbs 5 oz and 21.5 inches long. That’s right. She’s huge. We all knew her birthmom was amazing before that, but we’re pretty sure she’s a super hero now.

And she has entrusted us to raise her. We are incredibly blessed, amazed and truly humbled that she would trust us in this way.

And now the adventure begins!

We’ve kept this news close in the last few months and (for many reasons) we chose not to share it with everyone on social media. And it’s made for a sweet time for us and our community to pray over this precious girl and her family. It gave us time to really enjoy our last few months as a family of 3.

And we’ve loved it.

And it gave us time to get to know the birth family. They have truly become our family and we are blessed to have become a part of theirs.

But the only thing I have missed is the opportunity to write and share about our journey. But, it’s probably been good to really allow what God has been doing to sit and do it’s work. Sometimes I am too quick to share and talk and not nearly as quick to listen and to allow the Holy Spirit to shape me and form me in his timing.

And, friends, He has been doing a great work. And I can’t wait to share the story He has been writing.

But, before I do that, I am going to pause and enjoy these first few weeks of my new family. We’re going to cocoon together and allow God to weave our hearts. And we’re going to laugh and cry and walk and run..and we’re all gonna be a little bit tired.

But, isn’t it worth it?

What’s Next?

For the first 7 and 1/2 years of our marriage, Brandon and I were consistently waiting on the next thing.

It wasn’t because we were discontent. No, we were in grad school and trying to start a family. And with every degree that one of us earned we discussed our next step. And with every decision made about infertility measures or adoption pursuits, we learned to wait for the next thing.

So, while we were fully invested in the people in our midst (and in our church family where I served as Children’s Minister), we were also consistently applying for and pursuing multiple opportunities.

And we were waiting. At our best, it was expectant waiting. On hard days, it maybe sounded like frustration. And at our worst, discontentment ruled the day.

But, overall we didn’t mind so much. We loved where we were and we loved dreaming about what was to come.

Then “it” finally happened. In January of 2013, we felt like a change was imminent for our family. And, in what can only be described as a “God thing,” we felt a very clear leading to move to Conway, Arkansas. We say it was a God-thing because I suggested in. And it was fairly unlikely that I would have suggested a move to Arkansas on my own. (Nothing against the state, but it wasn’t terribly familiar to me).

And, having grown up in the state, Brandon had never felt a deep desire to return. Don’t get me wrong, he loves his home state and missed it. But he had never imagined himself moving back.

Simply put, Arkansas had never been a part of the plan.

So we began to prepare for a big move. That July, we packed up our belongings and drove 12 hours to our new home. I, with the toddler (who screamed the whole way) and Brandon, in the moving truck with the cat.

Within a few months Brandon had gotten a new & incredible job, we bought our first house, we bought a car, we reconnected with old friends and are making new ones. I taught my first college course and picked up some writing jobs. Brandon planted a garden. And now we’ve been here almost a year. And in that time, so many of our dreams have come to fruition.

But you know what? It’s hard to shake that whole, “What’s next?” feeling.

So we are learning to live in this new place fully invested. Honestly, we don’t know what the next 5, 10 or 20 years will hold. But we do know that God has called us here for this season. And part of living fully where we have been planted is letting the “What’s next?” question remained unanswered for a little while.

And, that’s hard. But also good.

Speaking for myself, it’s not totally natural. But I’m learning. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning.

A community of Moms

Holding my son for the very first time.

Holding my son for the very first time.

It took me awhile to gain the title of Mom. But on March 12, 2012 I held my son, James David O’Brien for the very first time. I love being his mom. And, even though today was a rough day for my sweet, strong-willed two year old, I wouldn’t trade any of it. I am truly blessed.

If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge fan of “holidays” like Mother’s Day or even Valentine’s Day. I figure I should probably make my mom feel loved all year. And, I’d prefer that my husband buy me flowers for a more creative reason than Hallmark told him to. Now birthdays, birthdays I love.

But for some reason, this Mother’s Day got me thinking. All week. About all of those moms who taught me what holding that title is all about.

Of course, my mom and my mom-in-law are foremost in that. And I could write an enter series of posts detailing for you what they have taught me about motherhood. And that’s not even mentioning what I have learned from my grandmothers and aunts.

But those aren’t the woman I want to talk about.

As Brandon and I hoped and planned and waited to have a child of our own, I was surrounded by a community of women who allowed me to enter into their lives. A community of moms. They gave me the honor of babysitting their children. Inviting me for walks in the park, or to join them for a play date. They trusted their child’s spiritual formation to my care and supervision. One of these sweet friends always made a point of honoring me on Mother’s Day with a small gift or a kind word or phone call. These friends shared their struggles and their joys. They allowed me to laugh with them, cry with them, and pray for them.  And on several occasions they even asked my advice. Me. Someone who wasn’t even a mom. Honestly, these women always treated me as if I was one of them. Long before James came home.

And all these years later, I am a better mom because of them.

Because of Nancy, Sarah, Annie, Amy, Cindy, Dee, Katie, Terese, Andrea, Heather, Annika, Kelly, and Laura. (and many, many more).

And I am so thankful. So truly, truly thankful.

Happy Mother’s Day, sweet friends. I love you more than words can say.

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.