Growth Mindset: Growing by Grace

This summer, I was blessed to be part of an amazing Writing Project “Summer Institute”. (Shameless plug: I HIGHLY encourage all of my teacher-friends – regardless of your subject area – to check for a similar opportunity near you. I guarantee you will not regret it.) During SI, I completed a research project where some of my research talked about “growth mindset”. I also had the chance to visit with a colleague there who had studied this idea in greater depth. Now, this concept is also the theme of the year at work, and I am being continually challenged to think differently. I don’t recall hearing the term before SI, so let me elaborate a bit in case it’s new to you too. Growth mindset focuses on the power of “YET”. What’s that mean? Well, when I attempt something and don’t succeed, I’m not stuck with failure, but simply recognize that I haven’t met my goal….yet. When I’m working with students on a concept that challenges them, I can give them the freedom to see that struggling to learn something doesn’t mean they’ll never master it. It just means they haven’t mastered it…yet.  For some, this feels like common-sense. For others, it is a needed breath of fresh air to revive the life that perfectionism has tried to smother out. Growth mindset is just what the name implies: a state of mind conducive to seeking growth in every way. Growth mindset says that I will not pursue perfection, but improvement in all that I do, and I’ll give others the grace to do the same. Now, if you’re like me and battle the lie of perfectionism daily, this is not an easy switch to flip. There are some areas of my life where my brain is still wired to believe that anything short of perfect is failure, but then…there’s the stuff that REALLY matters and this is where our family is learning, together, to embrace a growth mindset – to believe in the power of yet: foster care and adoption.

When the Lord led us into foster care in 2014, we only had a hint of what might lay in store for us. We knew we’d be stretched. We knew we’d be challenged. We knew we would not be perfect, but kids who need a safe and loving place to land don’t need perfection. They need love, and that we had (1John 4:19). One small yes after another, we journeyed into the Great-Unknown, completely unaware that we would never come back. Just ask anyone who has experienced the plight of orphans in any way. Those who have visited overseas orphanages and looked into the eyes of needy children will tell you they will never be the same. Those who have opened their homes to hurting families or to children in need through foster-care or other similar avenues will tell you they’ve been changed beyond recognition.





It’s like the growth that happens to our children. When I wasn’t looking, someone slipped human miracle-grow into my oldest sons’ water, and now they are men. They cannot go back. No amount of begging or pleading from me will turn them into little guys that I can pick up. In fact, it’s far more realistic for them to carry me at this point than the other way around. They have grown and it’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes we reminisce about the old days and for just a moment, I might wish we could go back, but the reality is, they are bigger and better than before and this is God’s design…growth.

The maturing of our children is very similar to the growth we have experienced as a family through foster-care and adoption. Not only did we grow in number, adding two to our family and adding many extended family members, but we’ve also grown and changed in how we view the world. We aren’t perfect, but we also aren’t looking to be “complete”. We know that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it, but guess what?! As long as we are breathing, He is not finished with us. He will be faithful to complete His work, but He decides when it’s finished: not us.  There may have been a time when we said our family was complete. I’m not sure if we ever said it, but I am doubtful that we’ll ever say it again. It’s not that we’re crazy. It’s just that we’ve grown and been stretched beyond what we were before. There is no going back.

When the state said that we were “full” after we adopted our first foster-care placement, we cringed. How can we be “full” when we’ve just begun the journey? How can we be “full” when we’re willing participants and the need is still great? The next decision was whether to close our license or keep it open. Technically, our options for talking in additional children were limited at best…maybe unlikely or impossible. We could not un-see what we had seen. We could not imagine walking away from the training we had received and saying Mission Complete. By practical standards, we were at a roadblock, or maybe a closed door, but we know the God who led us here, and He is able.

This doesn’t mean that we know what comes next. We don’t: story of our lives. What we do know is that there is no better place to have a growth mindset than with our family. We know the Lord has placed us here and that we love because He first loved us. We agree with our friend Carla’s belief that there’s always room for one more at the table.

How ‘bout you?

Have you thought about what you can do to make a difference?

Maybe you have seen the need but just haven’t stepped forward….yet.

Photo credit/Thank you to Elijah Hail and Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Happy Birthday, Mr. Incredible

September 19, 2017

I started writing letters to you before you were even born. At that point, we did not know if you were a boy or a girl, but we dreamed of meeting you and filled our time completing silly quizzes with old wives’ tales trying to predict whether you would be Hunter or Kaitlyn. We decorated the nursery and spent evenings watching you kick and move under the ice cream bowl resting on my belly. (My poor rib-cage could attest to your soccer-player potential even then.) I wrote you letters expressing my love for you and my dreams of what life as a Momma would be like. ❤ You were a dream come true, my son. I know that sounds sweet and nostalgic, but for real…my dream came true the day you were born. 😊

I would have to look back at my letter-writing journal to tell you the date for certain, but sometime around April 2002, I had one of many crazy pregnancy dreams. Usually these dreams involved really weird things like seeing the entire outline of a baby body bulging from my stomach. Some nights, I dreamed you were a girl. Other nights, you were a boy, but the dream I’m talking about here is the one that involved nothing more than dreaming you would be born September 19th. I woke up and told Daddy about it. It was so strange to simply dream a date, so of course, I wrote about it in my journal. You were due September 24th and first-time moms rarely deliver early, so it was worth a laugh and a journal entry, and then life moved on.

When labor pains began late at night on September 18, the realization hit Daddy and I at about the same time. As we gathered our things to head to the hospital, I said, “Do you realize what this means?! This baby is coming on September 19th!” We were both amused and amazed. You really were a dream come true in every way.

We felt like we were in a scene from a sit-com as we sped into town headed for the hospital. Labor pains were well under way with only seconds between contractions, when we heard a siren and saw flashing lights swirling behind us. I rolled my eyes and laughed in between breaths. Daddy talked quickly and the officer was observant, so we weren’t stopped for long. Instead of keeping us, he called ahead to the hospital, and the labor and delivery nurses met us at the door, ready to begin providing care. In a few short hours, we went from not knowing what to expect to holding a beautiful, perfect baby boy in our arms. You even came with a “little boy hair-cut” as Mamaw called it, your dark tresses parting naturally in a typical manly “do”.

Just as you gave us our introduction to parenthood, you have introduced us to each new phase of raising children and you have filled them each with joy. Your enthusiasm and zest for life are contagious. You are tough, hard working, determined, driven, and talented. You give 100% in everything you commit yourself to, and you hold yourself and others to a high standard. You are a go-getter and there isn’t much you aren’t willing to try. I love your sense of adventure and your courage. Just this summer, we rode a 200 ft free-fall ride together, and I suspect that someday we’ll share our first sky-dive together.

Today’s adventure was taking you to complete your written test to earn your driving permit. I loved sharing high-fives, smiles, and hugs with you, and then quickly sending texts to Daddy and family to share the great news.

You are such an amazing young man, and as much as I adored you as an infant, a toddler, a little boy, and a pre-teen, each phase of your growth has only made me admire you more and be more grateful for God’s goodness and grace in your life and ours. For the past three years or so, you have had a passion for learning to understand and defend Christianity. You’ve studied God’s Word and learned from some of the greatest apologists around. You have a deeper understanding of what you believe than many adults, and you desire to live a life of obedience to Christ. You are a reader and a thinker: an articulate, intelligent young man. You’re also incredibly talented, playing guitar and clarinet and attempting to keep your great singing voice under wraps. You are a strong soccer player and a fast runner. As a freshman in high school you’ve taken on the challenge of two varsity sports concurrently (soccer and cross-country) while simultaneously serving in your school’s student council, participating in Klife, and competing in debate and marching band. You are eager to try it all because you love a challenge, and because you are focused, driven, and determined to prepare yourself for your future.  You’re also a big goof who will entertain your youngest siblings or your friends and will occasionally let down your walls completely, allowing your sense of humor to shine through. You amaze us, son.

We take great joy in being your parents, and we are grateful for the privilege of guiding you through life. Your fifteenth birthday has been a special one, complete with a surprise party with some pretty awesome friends and the driving experiences you’ve been dreaming of. Lots of dreams are coming true for you, sweet boy, and many are still yet to come. Regardless of the details of the future, you can rest assured that we’ll be standing by cheering you on and thanking the Lord for the gift of you. Happy Birthday, Baby!

3 John 1:4


I know that feeling…
the feeling that people are waiting for you to fail.
You’ve taken on too much, they say.
It can’t be done.
It’s not possible.
The task before you is great.
The hard work and gut-wrenching effort required is not lost on you.
You are made of hard-work, determination, grit that others don’t fully understand.
You get it.
You know.
You believe you can do it anyway.
So do I.
So do I, Son.
I am not waiting for you to fail.
I am standing by to watch you FLY.
~Julie G.
September 6, 2017

Adoption Anniversary

Today was our Adoption Anniversary. It has been ONE YEAR since we took the vow that made our precious little ones “ours” forever, in a legal sense. How exactly does someone adequately celebrate an occasion like this?

We tried to decide what to name the day…”Adoptiversary” was my choice, but we discussed names like “Gotcha Day”, “Family Day”, and even “Pink Glitter Sparkle Day”  or “Twilight Sparkle Day”. Even though the big brothers got a laugh out of offering those suggestions to a wide-eyed, excited little girl, I assured them they would NOT want to be stuck with that title for life. 😊 We didn’t really settle on a great name, but we did decide on a fun way to celebrate. A wonderful local organization just happened to be offering a “Saddle Up” event for foster and adoptive families. Most of us put on jeans and everyone who could wore cowboy boots, and we headed to the farm. There were horses to ride and bounce houses to jump in for the littles, s’mores and snacks for the big guys and a fun family photo opportunity. We stayed until our allergies and our biggest kiddos had enough, and then we headed to the famous “Home of the Throwed Rolls” for a celebratory meal. As I sat in the waiting area with baby boy, a mom walked by carrying an infant who looked to be just a couple of months old. Cue the flashback. I told little man that’s about the size HE was when he came home to us and he grinned joyfully as I commented on how BIG he is now. “I bigger to ride the rollercoaster?!” He questioned for about the fiftieth time in the past week. 😊 (His current obsession is being big enough for the rides he was denied the last time we were at the amusement park. If sheer willpower could increase a boy’s height, he would be about 6 feet tall, for sure!)

My mind struggles to process all that the past few years have brought…the past year in particular as our family officially grew to 7. The kindness the Lord has shown us is simply mind-blowing. The privilege of parenting these kids overwhelms us in the most beautiful way, and the burden of pointing them to Christ and the Truth of His Word weighs on us as a treasured responsibility…the weight of gold: pure, solid, invaluable. These are not treasures laid up on earth where moth and rust corrupt (Matt 6:20), but rather heavenly treasures that cannot be stolen or destroyed. We pray our kids will give their lives to follow the One who gave His life for them; there is “no greater joy” than to hear that our “children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

A year ago, I cried on the way to the courtroom. I cried because I was so grateful the Lord had brought us to the place of adopting our babies. I cried because our fears had been overcome. I cried because my sister was not able to be there when she and her family had played such a HUGE part in welcoming our littles home and supporting us, while loving them. I cried because our parents, our church family, and our closest friends joined with us to celebrate and experience this occasion that was foreign territory to all of us.

Our Adoption Day was much like the birth of our biological children…we laughed, we cried, we tried to learn and understand the process that was new and different, we held our breath while we waited, we smiled nervously at friends and family who surrounded us, we took pictures, and ultimately, we marveled that “just like that” it was over and they were “ours”. I wish I could go back to it all and listen again. I wish I had a transcript of the words the judge said as he told us this legal and binding decision made it as though these children were born to us, with all the rights of biological son-ship. We already loved them in this way. To have the state officially seal our love with a binding decree, was simply overwhelming.

Though we love these children as if they were born to us, and no external clues would suggest that they weren’t, we still hold the beauty of their story close to our hearts. We tell them their story frequently and we’ve been privileged to maintain an open adoption with the biological family members who love them dearly. The past year has been different because we’ve no longer had monthly team meetings, or weekly in-home visits from workers supporting them. We’ve no longer had mandated weekly visitation, and we’ve no longer had to seek permission for routine decisions and care.

It has been freeing.

They are ours. We are family forever.

This is true in one sense, but really, they are God’s.

They have always been His. He is writing their story, and it is colored with His Goodness and Grace. He has gifted us the opportunity to be their parents, and no words – no amount of celebrating – can express our gratitude for this gift. This is amazing grace. ❤

Happy Birthday, Sunshine!

August 24, 2017

Today marks 12 years of you making people smile. Actually, you had us smiling before you were born. In fact, the day I found out about you, I laughed. I mean, what else could I do? I was HOLDING a baby AND pregnant with a baby? This was obviously God’s plan and I had NO idea how I could handle THREE babies, but I instantly loved you, and I laughed – in bewilderment and in joy.  Daddy and I had been trying to decide if our family was “complete” with two kids or if we wanted to have another. We weren’t sure. We had said “two” for years, but once we had two, I just wasn’t convinced that we should stop there. The truth was, I REALLY wanted another baby, and while Daddy and I were discussing what was best, I was also praying and asking the Lord for a child. The day we found out about you, I admitted this secret prayer to Daddy. I then playfully asked if I could pray for twins. He said NO! 😊

As you know, when we selected your name, we chose it for a number of reasons. First of all, it had been on our list of likes with your brothers as well. Second, your name comes from the third son of Jacob in the Bible and you were to be our third son. Finally, it means “joined in harmony” and this EXHAUSTED Momma of two very busy little toddlers REALLY needed you to join our crazy circus as harmoniously as possible. You did exactly that.

The one and only time you’ve ever been in a hurry in your life was on the day of your birth. You came quickly. Grammy didn’t make it in time for your delivery and the doctor almost missed it as well. Praise the Lord for his timing and the swift action to protect you from an issue with your umbilical cord. Once all was well, you were instantly a star. The hospital marketing department came to visit us to ask if we might be interested in being part of their photo-shoot for their commercials and other publications. We were thrilled to agree to your very first acting role. You played the part of a BEAUTIFUL newborn baby, and you played it brilliantly. The commercials aired for quite some time and the pictures remained on the hospital website for years to come.

As a little guy, you were very chill. You were content to sit and watch your surroundings for long periods of time. You seemed to be always watching and thinking – quietly learning from the big brothers who jabbered at you and for you. “Levi wants this…Levi doesn’t like that; he wants…” on and on they went translating your expressions and speaking for you.

Somehow time has slipped through our hands, and you are now an articulate young man who can speak for himself. You’re still not quick to do so, though. In fact, you’re pretty laid back about life in general and are not very naturally inclined to push for your own way. Hmm….joined in harmony. There it is again: your beautiful self, adding depth and life to the song of our family in your own subtle way.

The past few years have stretched, and challenged, and grown you. You have changed. We’ve watched the pressing and the heat refine your personality and bring out qualities of courage and endurance that we had not previously seen. Some challenges have come from your own body with dental surgeries, vision issues, attention concerns, and anxiousness (where Carribean-calmness used to dominate). Other changes have come from our family’s immersion into the world of foster care and adoption. You went from being the baby…the “caboose” as we called you, to being a big brother – a role we had not previously known you in. We had always commented on how sad it was that you loved babies the MOST, yet were the only boy who didn’t get to have a baby around. Little did we know what God had in store for us. You are an incredibly loving and attentive big brother. You love to protect, teach, and entertain your younger siblings, and there was never the slightest bit of resistance from you.

Entertaining is your outlet. You love to laugh and you love to make people laugh. You have overcome your tendencies to be literal in favor of embracing wit, puns, and good-natured sarcasm. I am proud. 😊 The days of you asking me to “please not tease” (as you did in your toddler years) have been replaced by you carefully teaching the youngest among us to embrace the fun as well.

You are smart, and gentle, and sensitive. You are strong and courageous. It seems that no matter what comes your way, you press on. You don’t like to be rushed, and you long for a laid-back world free of pressures and worry, but even so, you persevere with a sweet smile on your handsome face. You take new opportunities, face new challenges, and find things to laugh about at every turn. You are our book-reading, dog-loving, piano-playing, hard-working, kind-hearted ray of sunshine and we thank the Lord for the gift of you. Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to “Momma’s Baby”

August 19, 2017

You are a brilliant, energetic, funny, witty three-year-old boy, and our time with you has FLOWN by! In your three-year life, you’ve experienced more than you even realize. Your life represents 1,096 days of God’s grace. It’s hard to believe that for 83 of those days, we did not know you. We weren’t there the day you were born. We weren’t able to protect you, comfort you, help to meet your needs. You were 83 days old when you entered our home, and even then, we did not know you were to be our son forever. We only knew that the Lord nudged our hearts towards you with a simple little word: yes.

I remember one of our first nights together. You were awake: first fussing for your bottle and then fussing because of your tummy troubles. My experience as Momma to two other reflux-babies taught me to hold you close and pat firmly to soothe you. You refused to be snuggled chest-to-chest and insisted, instead, on facing away from me. You trained me quickly with your shrill screams, and melted my heart with the sweetness of victory when you finally relaxed in my arms. I remember thinking how strange it was to KNOW that I was up in the middle of the night with another woman’s baby, and yet to have it feel perfectly right. It was God’s grace. I remember whispering my secret question to you, “Are you someone else’s baby??” I could not bring myself to ask what I really wanted to know…”Are you my son?”

Your baby days flew by, as all baby days do, and I found myself sometimes gripped with panic that I might be missing something. It’s hard to explain the feeling because I wasn’t missing anything. You were with us all the time. We saw each milestone, heard each laugh, treasured each moment, but we didn’t know if the “moments” were ours to keep or if we would someday wrap them up in a pretty package tied with heartache and send you “home” to another parent. I didn’t know if I was remembering enough, treasuring enough, doing enough…I didn’t know if you were going to stay, and I was missing you even as I was holding you.

Now here we are at your THIRD birthday. We celebrated your first two birthdays with you also, but this is the first one we’ve celebrated when we can fully, legally, officially say you are our son. What a gift!

You are a passionate, intelligent little man with tremendous athleticism. From the moment you began walking, you’ve been dribbling a soccer ball like you were born to play. You also throw a baseball, dribble and shoot the basketball, easily complete a full jump-stop, and throw and catch anything you can get your hands on. You admire “the brudders” (as you refer to them collectively) and you don’t hesitate  to keep up with them in whatever they are doing. They are your heroes, your protectors, and your friends. You also keep close tabs on big sis and enjoy talking and laughing together with your matching voices and similar giggles. You can make us smile at the drop of a hat and refuse to smile like no one I’ve ever known.  For over two years, we endured photo after photo with our own “Stonewall Jaxon” – refusing to crack a smile or humor us with a laugh. Just in the past few months, we discovered the joy you find in teasing and refusing to cooperate. Now, we use reverse psychology to get you to participate in what we want. “Don’t smile, Jaxon….whatever you do, don’t smile!” The result, of course, is the ornery grin that we know so well.

At this age, you are a fireball of opinionated, demanding independence with a side of sweetness. You are a Momma’s boy through and through, yet you’re tough and daring. You jump from high places and land – solid on your feet – with a proud, growling victory laugh.  You are determined to be “bigger” to ride the rollercoasters RIGHT NOW. You have no fear (which certainly heightens mine), and you can often be heard saying “I wanchew, Momma!” while reaching for me. You’re just days away from mastering potty-training and there’s not much “baby” left in you. You love to ride in Daddy’s truck, watch movies, play outside, line your cars up in a perfect row, play with the wooden trains, do puzzles, read books, play ball, and eat. You are a “hangry” fella, and if we find that there’s nothing we can do to settle your temper, we can almost always bring back our sweet baby with a bit of food to curb the rage.

We are so thankful for the privilege of watching you grow, helping you learn, and being your Momma and Daddy forever. We will never forget the day the Sovereignty of God placed you into our arms and allowed us the beautiful heartache of walking with you and your biological parents through the valley. As the song says, “You’re worth every fallen tear. You’re worth facing any fear.  You’re gonna know ALL my love, even if it’s not enough – enough to mend our broken hearts, but giving you all of me is where I’ll start” (Matt Hammitt – All of Me).

That is where we started, little man, and that is where we’ll stay…always and forever giving you all our love. Happy Birthday, baby boy! May this be your best year yet!

All of Me


Grace like sunshine

Grace like rain

Grace like rest amidst the pain

Grace in words

Grace in deed

Grace in meeting every need

Grace to give

Grace to grow

Grace to stay and grace to go

Grace for others

Grace for self

Grace for heart and mental health

Grace: the sweet taste that I savor

Grace: such undeserved favor

Grace to speak up

Grace to stand

Grace to lend a helping hand

Grace to dance

Grace to sing

Grace, sweet grace, in everything

~Julie Gayle Davis

June 28, 2017

Butterfly Baby

As I sit on this cool stone bench beside a lovely bronze woman, I can think of nothing but to tell your story. She has a collection of books and is deep in reading one, but I think she would stop to listen to yours, as it is one of the most beautiful I’ve read and certainly among the best I’ve played a role in. The butterfly sanctuary is nearby, but I don’t need to go there to understand the delicate beauty they show – the life lessons they reveal.

You, my dear, came to us so young and unrefined. You came confused and searching, both lost and found. We tried to scoop you up – to keep you from being trodden underfoot like a lone caterpillar in a big and busy world. You squirmed and wrestled, but as life and our Creator would have it, our home was your resting place: your time to cocoon.

“That’s a nice, quiet place,” notes the smiling gentleman as he walks by, taking care of his aged body and enjoying the beauty that brings me back to you.

“It is!” I reply with a smile, but I chuckle to myself thinking of how NOT quiet your cocoon was. Not quiet, and yet so perfectly peaceful. You and I, we were rolled into this tightness together, and though you seem to welcome them, I am pushed to panic in tight spaces. Together, and with the men and boys we love so much, we were squeezed and pressed by the fibers of foster care that I knew could be my undoing. I wept while you rested, and I prayed while you pushed. I fought the growth and the change like I always do. I wonder if the fight makes me appreciate the victory more: victory in submission, as my will dies to His. It’s such an ironic way to find victory. But you… you giggled through it. Just like when those manly brothers roll you into a blanket-burrito and carry you around taking turns gobbling you up…you smiled as if the pressing, the growth, and the change were just a game for us to enjoy together. Oh sweet baby girl, if only it had been a game.

If it was, it was the harshest kind where winners are losers and grief is the prize. At least that’s how it felt in the pressing.

Just when the cocoon threatened to take my very breath and all the grace within me, I caught a glimpse. I caught a look at the bigger picture that amazing Creator of ours was painting.

I saw you flutter.

I saw you struggle and flutter.

I saw your beauty: your delicate, marvelous beauty, and then I saw one of the most priceless glories my eyes have ever been privileged to behold.

My precious baby girl…sweet butterfly I now can call my own… I saw you fly.

I’m not sure if I’ve read the stories old bronze Anne is reading, but I am quite certain she would close them all to listen, if she could hear me telling yours.

Too Heavy to Bear

When it comes to weigh-ins, some days just tip the scale more than others. Yesterday seemed heavy. Do you ever have days like that? Days when you catch your breath just in time to have it knocked from your lungs again? For me, it’s not even always about my own “stuff”. Sometimes other people’s “stuff” gives me a hard reality check and brings me to my knees. I find myself wondering about grace in these moments.

Is there grace for even THIS? Is it enough?!

I know the answer. I know the truth. Still, sometimes I want to ask Him just to hear it again, afresh. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

Perfect power.

That’s what He has. Weakness? We’ve got it. BOY do we have it:

  • Lost jobs.
  • Unborn babies resting in heaven before they even lay in the arms of their waiting mommas and daddies.
  • Heartbreaking loss of loved ones.
  • Nervous anticipation of test results, meeting outcomes, interviews.
  • Broken families, hurting children.
  • Cancer.
  • Alzheimer’s.
  • Illness.
  • Dreams deferred.
  • Failure.

The list goes on and on.  The good news is –

So does the GRACE.

The world will tell you

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

“You are strong enough.”

Don’t believe it, friend. You feel weak and defeated because you are not strong enough. You are weary and worn, and you can’t bear to take another step. You can’t handle this. I can’t handle this.

So when you do take another step (even though you can’t), and when you do take another breath (even though your chest heaves a thousand pounds of weight to bring the air in), and when you do stand (in spite of your exhaustion),

just remember –

this is GRACE.

Jesus NEVER tells us that we can walk through this life without pain. He doesn’t promise not to give us anything we can’t handle. He doesn’t promise us prosperity or earthly wealth. He doesn’t say it won’t be hard. In fact, He assures us it will be. And then He invites us to rest…not to stop working – not to stop trudging through the “field” of pain, but to labor alongside THE ONE who can bear the weight we cannot bear.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden (weighed down), and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11: 28-29, emphasis added)

Today, I am praying for weary and hurting friends. I am remembering that the weight is more than they (or I) can bear, and I am praying they will find rest for their souls.

GRACE and rest, my soul-weary friends.

Our Momma

Sarah and I called mom today and shared a 3-way call to give her a gift “together”. Thankfully technology allows us to connect in so many ways to help ease the ache of the distance. Her voice broke as she tried to express a Mother’s Day wish to us and tell us what great mommas she thinks we are. I think I probably speak for both of us when I say that hearing a compliment like that from her, carries greater weight than hearing it from anyone else, except maybe my own children. It’s like having an expert in your field tell you what a great job you’re doing in your work. There’s nothing quite like it! ❤

As I held my 11 year old in a long hug tonight, I told him how much I love him. We went back and forth trying to love each other more, and finally I played the only card I could to win: “I loved you before you loved me.”

“What?!” he questioned, immediately defending his unborn self for not loving me first. I told him no matter how many infinities he adds on, I still started loving him first, so I win. 🙂  I smiled as I thought about how the kids have no memory of when they started loving me. They just grew into it. I, however, loved them from the moment I knew they existed (and I loved the idea of them even before that).

In the same way, I have no memory of when I realized how great Mom was. I just needed her and depended on her from the beginning, and I can’t recall a single moment when she let me down. I feel like I’ve loved her forever, but even so, I know she loved me first.

She has cheered us on, taught us, corrected us, been an example for us, nurtured us, encouraged us, and the list goes on and on. Here are some fun memories that come to mind:

  • She helped me figure out how to write that RIDICULOUS number 5 that brought me to tears. I still see a fat man with a hat. 🙂
  • She led me to the Lord as we knelt beside her bed and looked at God’s Word together so I could understand His plan of salvation.
  • She took care of me when I had my first bike crash and thought that maybe I needed to give up.
  • She worked HARD and studied HARD to get through nursing school when we were little and even though we didn’t understand the sacrifice then, we were able to look back and really “get it”.
  • She helped us with spelling words and language homework.
  • She refused to give me the bad news that I couldn’t carry a tune to save my life (as a child). Thank goodness she had the wisdom to know that it was more important that I sing joyfully. Had she seen things differently, I may have missed a talent and passion that has shaped my life.
  • She chased us through the house with a fly swatter (and I’m pretty sure there were no flies involved.) 😉
  • She stood up for us when we needed a defender.
  • She modeled honesty, integrity, grace, and beauty as a mom, a wife, and a career woman.
  • She could hold and sooth anyone’s baby, any time, and she loved every moment of it.
  • She encouraged my passion for writing from my first poem in fifth grade.
  • She watched more plays, dances, and performances from us than anyone and somehow managed to seem interested in each one.
  • She eagerly attended each concert, game, meet, performance, and banquet because she would NOT miss an opportunity to support us in whatever we were doing.
  • She cried when we messed up, and when we got hurt, and when we left home, and we knew it was just love dripping from her eyes.
  • She told Dad not to say ANYthing to me when they both saw how PERFECT my “friend” Jeremy was for me. She knew me well enough to know that I might get all weird and let go of the best gift of my life if they brought it up too soon. I’d like to think I was more reasonable than that, but mom probably knows best. 🙂
  • She zipped prom dresses and wedding gowns, decorated ceremonies and receptions, and was present for (nearly) each baby’s birth (except L who chose THAT moment to be the only moment in his life when he moved quickly.)
  • She answers calls that begin with “Hi Dr. Grammy…” and anxiously waits to see what kind of medical advice we’re seeking for ourselves or her dear grandbabies.
  • She welcomed our first foster children into her arms and home in such a warm way that no one could have known they hadn’t been there all along.
  • She worked hard throughout our lives to build memories we could cherish. It’s not her fault that our minds held on to things like how “cows have tails”, and how rough our ride was in the back of the blue truck as she attempted to learn to drive a manual. 🙂  Because of her we know that doing jumping jacks in a night gown is a bad idea and that it is possible to get knocked out cold when holding a tree limb that someone is cutting.

She is one of those people who truly grows more beautiful with each passing year. She is a classy, graceful, godly Momma and we are so thankful to call her ours! Though the life lessons and gifts we’ve received from mom are really too numerous to count, her character is pretty well summed up with this passage from the end of Proverbs 31. Thank you, Mom, for being this kind of leader for us:

Her children rise up and call her blessed;

Her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many daughters have done well,

But you excel them all.”

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,

But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

vs. 28-30


Heart-strings for my Sister-mom

Happy Mother’s Day, my friend. For the past two years, you have weighed heavy on my heart on this day, and I suspect you will continue to for the duration of my life. You see, your role in my life is unlike any other. Your impact to my motherhood is unmatched.

Ours is an unlikely friendship. We came together in difficult circumstances with lots of “firsts” for both of us. On the surface, it seems that our differences far outweigh our similarities, but there is one thing we share that unites us through it all, and it tips the scale so dramatically that we become more the same than different. It is them. They are the wildflowers that bring beauty to our common ground. They are the heartbeat of our sisterhood: our babies.

She was your first daughter. She’s my first daughter, too. Her sweetness captures us both, and that precious smile fills us with happiness. She is love – growing in grace, understanding, and beauty every day.  He was your first son – a potent introduction to the other world – the world of boys that used to be all I knew. He is my fourth, and a beautiful fireball of passion and energy. His eyes melt our hearts, and neither of us can hold back a smile when we hear his laughter. He is joy – bubbling with talent, and wowing us with intelligence.

They are just “littles” now – still innocent and unaware of the way their young lives have been altered. They may not fully remember you, but I do. I know your love for them. I’ve seen your tears, and heard your muffled cries that accompany the heartache of not holding them in your arms. I’ve heard your generously-given praise for my role as their momma, and my ears still ring with the sweetness of You’re giving them exactly what I wish I could  – the precious heart-salve-words that only you could give. I love you for giving life to these beautiful children and for desiring a better way for them. I made a promise to you, and I know you hold it close to your heart: I will make sure they always know of your love for them, and I will always honor you in the way I speak to them about you.

You are their first-momma, and I am their forever-momma; what a complex partnership we have. Not only am I their forever-momma, I am also the self-appointed keeper of their memories. The importance of this presses into my heart with such weight that I lose my breath. I want to build a hope-filled future for them, but I don’t want to rob them of their past simply because they can’t remember for themselves. I want our children to experience such a beautifully honest adoption that they never bear the weight or feel the pain of the loss like we have. It may be a hopeless battle, but I will give it my all. They already lost you in one regard. My heart breaks to think of them losing the strings that tie them to their starting place in this word. I collect pictures, letters, stories, memories…anything I can give them to hold on to. I imagine these strings running from your family to ours like a graceful instrument on which they can play songs of love and come to see the divine orchestration of their lives: all of the parts of them, in harmony.

I often wonder if you and I will ever sit together again – if we’ll ever share a hug or a conversation over a warm meal. I wonder if you will return to our lives in some fashion. I wonder if you’ll call again or if you’ll write. I know sometimes it hurts you to even think about those things, so I try to focus on having compassion for you and lifting you in prayer every day. The reality is, even if we never shared those things again, there is one thing we will share forever: our motherhood.

I pray our tangled heart strings will someday play the music of that bond so beautifully that the children we share cannot help but dance to its rhythm.