Just don’t Die: An Update, A Theme Song and a Shout Out to Survival Mode

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This is a scene from our Sunday morning breakfast counter. In case you need me to break it down for you: That’s french toast, next to a bottle of wallpaper remover and a hand held paint cup we use for cutting in.

Shall we go over a list of things that were driving me nuts at the moment I snapped this picture?

1) Those chemicals are far too close to our food, we’re all going to get cancer from this breakfast. Why ARE THEY SHARING THE SAME SPACE?
2) We try to eat grain free, in theory, lately with all the stress we just eat all the grainy gluten we can get our hands on…. topped with sugar, because I’m pregnant and the rest of my family has a child’s palate.
3) That french toast and the time to I took to take this picture made us horribly late for church, not even our church, but a church visit in which Kel was speaking.

This is life right now, it’s just normal next to chaos, both fighting to share the spotlight.

Moving has been extra hard on me, I’m very sensitive to lack of routine and chaos. When you pair this with the end of the preschool school year it means that all my organization is in a box somewhere and all of my “me time” to catch up on writing time is gone.

For years I’ve beaten myself up and told myself to go with the flow a bit more, always wondering why I couldn’t be one of those laid back people who could roll with whatever and be really and truly cool with it.

I give up, I am not one of those laid back people who can thrive in chaos, so I may as well work with what I have, with who I am.

There is no use in trying to live your own life wishing you had someone else’s skill set. It’s far more helpful to navigate your life in light of who you actually are.

And right now I am a Highly Sensitive, ENFJ in survival mode: pregnant, in the midst moving into a new house that we’re tweaking, helping plant a church in the midst of summer (meaning the kids and I are spending most every day together, leaving me precious little time and energy to tackle projects.)

This is not my optimal setup, this is not my wheelhouse. And that’s okay.

Survival Mode, I make peace with you, this is not life forever but it is life for now, things are going to be mixed up and chaotic.

I have adopted this new theme song, that has always made me smile in the midst of chaos and survival living.

Watch this video, because Seinfeld always says it better

“Just don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die
There’s a fish, there’s a rock, who cares, don’t die. 
I don’t wanna die, don’t let me die
Let’s swim and breathe and live,
cause living is good and dying, not as good.”

It’s sort of the grown up version of Finding Nemo’s “Just keep swimming.”

Things are crazy right now.
Yes I am blessed, but these circumstances are overwhelming.
And that’s okay, I am who God created me to be, navigating it as best I can.

And right now my best life looks like this:

1) We have everything we need to function, No, the house doesn’t look like I’d love it to, but freaking out will only make us all miserable so I’m going to try to avoid that.
2) Kel is already overloaded at work and overloading him at home will also only make him… and then all of us… miserable. So we go at a pace that includes rest and breaks, even though this takes longer we all come out feeling alive and far less burned out on it all. None of us are machines.
3) I prayed for this house, these children and the ability to be home with them, yes it’s hard, but these answered prayers oughtn’t be thrown away.
4) I’m pregnant and even though I am in my second trimester, my energy level isn’t where it usually would be, a perfect playroom and living room isn’t worth an unhealthy pregnancy. ‘Nuff said.

There’s more, I’m sure, but this is the gist of it.

And if all this fails (and sometimes it does) I think of my dear friend’s new daughter, a beautiful little five year in Ethiopia, who they are in the process of adopting.

She is in an orphanage with developmental delays, most of which are a result of an rough childhood.

These is truly hard, truly tough, truly overwhelming circumstances and her story never fails to bring tears to my eyes and to remind me that the color of my cabinets is meaningless in the light of what is truly important to the human heart.

Unconditional Love, acceptance and safety.

Selah and Amen.

Oh and if you would like to donate anything at all to help the O’Neal family bring their daughter home, please click here to donate.

You will likely be hearing more about this little girl in the weeks to come, please continue to pray for her and this sweet family as they prepare to welcome her home. 

Does transition overwhelm you? What have you learned about yourself in seasons such as these? 

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Our “Yes but not yet” Adoption Journey (a guest post at Adding a Burden)

Gods will is never completely clear to us while we’re still treading dirt. Yet, we cannot deny that we catch breathtaking glimpses of it now and then.  I may never be fully aware of the thousands of reasons behind our time in Oklahoma, but I have a pretty good idea that one of them centers around adoption.

A lot of people talk about adopting someday because it’s a neat idea, yet a small percentage of them pursue those words into reality.  We were always a couple who talked about how cool “maybe someday” adoption would be. Then we spend our time in Ada in a close knit group of adopting and fostering families and went from maybe… to when?”

Alongside those friends my fuzzy visions of adoption took on faces and names which came with a hearty dose of the realities of the adoption journey with all it’s paperwork and fundraising, all it’s highs and lows.

So today I’m over at my dear friend Jill Burden’s site today writing about our “yes but not yet” adoption journey:

I’ve read somewhere that if something makes you cry, it’s because your heart is
connected to it. It’s part of it and within whatever it is lies a resonance you shouldn’t

This concept perfect fits my heart for adoption. I can’t talk about it without crying and I
can’t relay my friend’s stories of adoption joy without tearing up. I often envision our
future family portraits on the mantle and they have a couple more children in them, and
they’re not necessarily ones I gave birth to, and I love that.

I’m currently not in the process of adoption, but I wish I was. I am however an adopted
Aunt to an 8 year old Ethiopian boy named Fetinet and my daughter started calling him
her brother without any prompting from us. He comes over on days when his school is
closed and he’s so comfortable in our home that he bosses my kids around a bit, but
that wasn’t always the case.”

To finish up please head on over to Jill’s space and while you’re at it follow her on all the social medias.  

A Part of the Story

Do you remember the complete and utter drama of trying out for plays in school?  You audition, trying desperately to bring the hero or heroine to life and then you wait in a awful blend of dreams and dread.

The day arrives when they post THE LIST on the auditorium door.  All the hopefuls gather ’round, scanning the list of roles, wishing to see their name.  Asking the same question, will I get to be a part of this play, this story?

Life gets a whole lot better than it was in high school, thank God.  You come to realize that the most important plays and stories aren’t happening on a stage some Saturday night in April, but everyday, all around us.

waiting on a homecoming

More beautiful than any hoop skirt heroine is a little boy home for the first time from Ethiopia, finally part of his forever family.  More lovely than a choreographed rendition of “Getting to know you” is a text message letting you know that a broken relationship has been restored.  Listening to your son learn to sing is more precious than a part in “Meet me in St Louis” because this is a play that will last a lifetime.

I cherish nothing more than being a part of stories, my story, your story and above all else God’s Story.  I meander through my little house with it’s smudged walls, scattered toys and full pantry and my breath catches and escapes in a heavy sigh.  I think about all the people whose stories are dark today, whose mind is full of hard and heavy sorrow and questions.

I can’t be a part of every story, but I can breathe prayers to a God who is the author of every page.  I can beg him to teach me to become more aware of the story being woven all around me, to play the part that is the most helpful in his over arching desire to redeem and restore.

I can open my eyes wider and savor the moments where I am privileged to speak the most beautiful lines.  To be a part of the dream scenes, the ones that will forever alter the lives of those I love.

Yesterday was a dream day, our family stood along side many others with signs that bore the words “welcome home” and my dear friend Joely walked down the airport hallway beside her son, finally home from Ethiopia.  They gathered as a family of four for the first time.

My heart popped and every hair stood on end, how many times had we sat and talked about this moment, rehearsing it in our heads, the day when she would bring her child home after a 2 year pregnancy of fundraising and paperwork.

Finally it came, and it was more beautiful than I could describe, and as we drove home my heart overflowed with thanks.  I was humbled to be a small part of the day they brought him home to stay.

Anytime you are humbled to be a part of someone’s story and you have the clarity to realize it, breathe thanks.  Really the story is what we have, it’s how we change the world, bring heaven to earth.

Lord give us ears to hear the direction of your spirit as we live out the moments.  Thank you for every story we are blessed to be a part of, and give us the courage to go for the roles that are hard, to reach those that others aren’t reaching.

Thank you for sharing your story with me, dear one, any day that our lives intersect is a moment of beautiful humility for me.  Be blessed, be brave, see the story.

Really, it’s all God’s Love

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” Isaiah 49: 15-16

I am often intoxicated with the sweetness of the evening.  The softness of clean, freshly bathed baby skin on my lips, the peace that accompanies nothing left but the easy unwinding of putting another day to rest, teeth brushed and pajama clad.

I love my life, all surrounds me and all that I sense on the horizon.  I love breathing strong prayers over sleeping babies just before I slip into sheets that feel so soft on my well worn and calloused feet.

As time passes I find I’m learning to release all my desperate striving and breathe grace.  Through this new way of living the spirit is prompting, leading and reassuring me.

We’re staying with our adoptive parents, Dave & Sandy while Kel is the Dean of a High School Summer camp a few hours south of us.  The way they have taken us and our children in is an unimaginable gift to us.  My mother heart wondered what life would be like for our family with no grandparents or parents left alive, and God knew and responded.

Last night I was stressed out and crabby, I had attempted to make dinner for everyone, one of our favorites, Pioneer Woman’s Dr Pepper shredded pork.  It’s spicy and sweet and will clear your sinuses and your worries in no time flat.

But last night it wasn’t turning out, wasn’t falling off the bone, wasn’t shredding or reducing.  The kids had just creamed their way through target and the little man is going through a “nothing will please me” phase where he throws whatever you offer him.

The dinner conundrum was the last straw and I couldn’t hide my aggravation and stress.  I didn’t snap at anyone in particular but no matter how much they insisted dinner would be fine I stressed that it was ruined and wrong.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a whisper:  “You better cut it out, they don’t have to love you or let you stay.  Be sweet, be only the best parts of yourself.”

I apologized to Sandy later and told her sometimes I worry that since I’m not her real daughter that I could do something to send her away.  She cried and asked me never to say that again, that I am loved and our children are cherished, that we have a place here.

Suddenly it struck me, why is it that I think that real, lasting love comes only with blood and documentation?  

After all, isn’t love always a choice?  A series of choosing God’s ways over our human desires to serve ourselves first?

Parents abandon their blood children, and legally documented marriages end all the time.  These things that I thought obligated us to love are easily done away with.

I love Kel with a forever love that has nothing to do with our legal marriage certificate.  I love my children not because of our shared DNA but because of their light in their eyes and the spirit they bring to this world.  There is nothing that anyone could do or say to remove my cover of love from them.

Do I believe that my friends who worked so hard to bring home their adopted children will actively love them less than their biological children?  No, not at all, I have a lasting faith in the love of adoption.

We are all adopted when you think about it.

We all love people deeply without any legal obligation.  I’m connected through love to my friends, my life group and our college students with a love that is a choice and has nothing to do with blood or the law.

So, if I question this earthly love, then what of the love of Christ?  Do I believe he’s obligated to love me?  That because he created me that he had no choice but to save me, sustain me?  Does he love us because it’s the responsible thing to do?  He made us so he has to take care of us?

No, but I believe that he does and always will, because he is faithful and forever.  He promised this cover of love for us would never cease to flow and he has yet to break a single promise.

The wonderful and terrifying thing is that when you bring yourself to this place where you realize that no one on heaven or earth is obligated to love, you must take a leap of faith and trust that their love is true, heavenly and lasting.

The flow of human love relationships in my life could and will change, because we humans do that sort of thing.

All real love in our lives is truly the love of God, whether it comes directly from his hand or through the hands of his people.  For me to love my children strong I must be a channel of his love in me.  For Kel to love me fiercely he has to tap into the husband love that God is growing in his heart.  In order to be true friends we have to follow the bible’s teachings and lay down our desires for the good of each other.

It’s really all God’s love, none of it human in the slightest.

He is the source of love, and if I trust that he is the spring and that those around me are seeking to plug into it then we’ll all be forever lost in a torrential flow of love.

This love is for us, but it must always be shared.  It will always move us to rescue those drowning in hope, loneliness and death.

True love can never be hoarded, it demands to given away.

Have you feared this?  Grown through it?

Orphan heart

Right now I have friends in Ghana who have taken the final steps to adopt their unspeakably beautiful five year old daughter. I have another set of friends who have just received the first pictures of their son in Ethiopia. I have still another dear friend who is fundraising her heart out to bring her son home from Russia. To top it all off I have even more friends who are searching their heart for what it means for their families to support or pursue adoption. Kel and I are are definitely in this last category, we have always talked about adoption as a big dream, someday sort of thing, but lately we have been fleshing it out with some deeper conversations.

It isn’t anything that will happen soon, my plate is currently full. If you ask me about more kids I will tell you this, almost verbatim: “My plate is full, my life has been crazy with people coming and going, being born and dying, I need to figure out how to live well with who I have and don’t have right now.” And I am sticking to it, unless God intervenes I don’t have any children on the horizon right now. I’m only 30, I have time.

Nevertheless my heart has been swelling and rejoicing for my friends who are walking the long road of adoption. When I see the faces of the children awaiting a family, my heart breaks and I’m ready to move three of them into bunk beds in the playroom tomorrow, or yesterday.

I have asked myself if I would be able to love adopted children as much as the two God gave us naturally, those I carried and nursed myself. My immediate answer is yes, because I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the love of people who aren’t my birth parents, those who adopted me later in life. I was an orphan at 29, which is not 3 or 5 but it has still left me with a parental hole, and God has placed aunts and friends in my life who love me dearly so I feel less adrift. Because I have received adoptive type love, I think I find it easier to give it, But if I’m honest with myself I find that this sort of love is easier to give than to receive.

For me I find it easier to give unconditional love than to believe that I am loved unconditionally, perhaps I’m not alone on that. I believe that I could love adopted children unconditionally, or at least as well as I love the two I conceived and carried. I love them pretty well and only threaten to bring them back to the hospital when their screaming sessions exceed two hours, which is pretty gracious if you ask me.

When I see the faces of these adopted children my heart brims and overflows in a matter of seconds. As if something in me is realizing that yes, deep undeserving and unconditional love is for real. That the Spirit of God is weaving his way into the hearts of those around me and through their hands and hearts Love is spanning the globe and filling up lives that stood in great need of the labors of love. I absolutely see these children as the sons and daughters of dear friends and I long for the day when their African children are just one of the kids running around our church, natural, comfortable and loved.

God calls us to care for all of his children, but my faith in this call must involve my commitment to giving receiving this love.

I keep imagining this picture of our family on the wall that includes the four of us and one or two african daughters. For now I will pray, support and search my heart. I want to let the spirit weave itself so deep in my fibers that I am his hands and feet, always. Bringing that love wherever and whenever I go. I want To learn to receive this love better, so it flows out of my imperfect heart beautifully, and changes a life or two.