A Purpose

It’s been three years since Allie Grace passed to her Heavenly home. Today the thought of death seemed to consume me. I know that isn’t something we like to think of or dwell on often, but the truth is that death is coming for all of us. Death doesn’t have to be scary or morbid. It can be beautiful and holy. Eternity is a gift, if only we accept Christ’s sacrifice. It took me a long time to be able to conquer the enemy of selfishness, to be able to really accept the gift, that my daughter is in glory. She’s perfect and made whole. She’s there waiting, along with my Savior, for the day my purpose is completed here on earth.

I used to think death was for the old. Boy, have my eyes been opened to the fact that death strikes all ages, even those not yet born. The thought of death never really even crossed my mind until I experienced the valley of the shadow first hand, and now I find myself praying almost every day that the “Lord, please fix on my eyes on eternity.” This life we live can be so fast paced and so distracting that we lose focus on what really matters. What matters isn’t who posted what on social media or what Trump is up to next. Na, those things are just distractions that keep our minds off of what matters most, and that is…eternity.

I know it isn’t God’s intention for us to live forever on this earth.  He is preparing a Heavenly home that is beyond our comprehension. (1 Cor.2:9) When our purpose is fulfilled on this side we will be worshiping at His feet on that side. Allie’s purpose has been fulfilled. Her life was short, yes, but it was exactly as long as God intended it to be. One day soon when my purpose is complete I’ll be right there with her. I say that to say, (if you’re still reading) do you know where you’ll spend eternity when your purpose is fulfilled?  Life is fleeting and we don’t know how long we have left to spread the gospel of Christ’s love. Do you know without a shadow of a doubt that you’ll be in Heaven when your life’s purpose has been fulfilled? Have you lived your life to the fullest?

Jim Elliot said “I seek not a long life, but a life lived full, like you Lord Jesus.” amen

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I’ve had these song lyrics in my head for the past week and I find it only fitting to leave them here underneath this picture for my sweet girl…

I Will Carry You by Selah

There were photographs I wanted to take
Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes
Who could love you like this?

People say that I am brave but I’m not
Truth is I’m barely hanging on
But there’s a greater story
Written long before me
Because He loves you like this

So I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All my life
And I will praise the One Who’s chosen me
To carry you

Such a short time
Such a long road
All this madness
But I know
That the silence
Has brought me to His voice
And He says

I’ve shown her photographs of time beginning
Walked her through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes
Who could love her like this?

I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All your life
And I will praise the One Who’s chosen Me
To carry you

Letting Go And Letting God

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I taught kindergarten before coming home full time. It was during my third year of teaching that I became pregnant with my oldest son Tucker. It seems like yesterday I was walking the halls of that elementary school with my growing baby bump, and now that baby is about to walk those same halls without me.  I know all about the teacher stand point of “the first day of kindergarten” but now that it’s only weeks away, I’m crumbling at thinking about the parent stand point of “the first day of kindergarten”.

Tonight I read a blog post about “enjoy it, it goes by fast”, and the post literally had me sobbing. The Mom writing the post was writing about the first day of kindergarten and her post hurt my heart. What if he couldn’t…and I’m not there. What if he gets hurt and I’m not there? What if he successfully masters the monkey bars and I’m not there to celebrate? What if he misses me as much as I’m missing him? The “what if’s” were driving me crazy! I immediately wiped my eyes, blew my nose, and went and crawled in bed with my soon to be kindergartner. I held his sleeping body close to mine and squeezed his hand as I prayed over him.

“Lord, please watch over Tucker. Give him eyes and a heart for you. May he love you with all his heart, soul, and mind. Lord, give him a Godly teacher and role models. May he be placed in the classroom where he can bring you the most glory as well as form friendships that will last a lifetime. Root his heart in the fruit of the spirit and save his little soul at a young age. May his eyes be focused on things eternal and may he always count his blessings. Jesus, please place a hedge of protection on him and may he always know how much he is loved. “

I’ve known this school thing was coming and I’ve dreaded it for months. But every time I think about it, I am reminded of two mothers in the Bible.  Jochebed, the mother of Moses. and Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Both of these mamas had their baby boys for a short time before they handed them over for someone else to raise. According to a google search and the Jewish traditions, weaning a child could take place anywhere between 2 and 5 years old.

Jochebed was a woman of great faith. She hid her baby. The Bible says that Jochebed saw he was a goodly child. (Ex. 2:2) Sure, Moses made his share of mistakes, but overall he did a lot of good.  He led the Israelites out of bondage and He even wrote the first five books of the Bible!  It wasn’t his time with the Pharaoh’s daughter that instilled his God fearing character. It was the faith of his mother. It was the years that he spent with his Mama, her prayers, and her faith in God that made Moses the man of God that we all know.

Now, let’s look at Hannah. Hannah desperately desired to have a child. She promised the Lord that if He blessed her with a son, she would give the son back to serve the Lord, and that is exactly what she did. The Bible says in Samuel 1:24 that when she had weaned him, she took him to the house of the Lord. As we read this story, it’s very clear that it wasn’t Eli’s teaching and raising that molded Samuel. The Bible says that Eli’s sons knew not the Lord and did evil. It was Samuel’s time alone with his Mother that helped mold him into the prophet He would become. Hannah’s impact on her son was huge! Her faith during those weaning years and prayers afterwards played a vital role in who Samuel was.

I can’t imagine what it was like for these women to say goodbye to their sons. But I do know that these women were of great faith and they knew that the Lord God Almighty was there watching over their sons every step of the way. He sees and He loves our children in ways that even us Mama’s can’t. It’s a hard reality, but God loves our babies even more than we do and their story is being written by Christ alone.

This season with young children can be exhausting when day in and day out all I seem to do is train little sinful hearts. I’m encouraged by the stories of these two mama’s and reminded that my faith, my humility, and my prayers as my children’s mama will leave a lasting impression upon their hearts and their character. Our home is full of sin, but it’s also full of God! God is not only molding these little hearts, but He is molding mine too. So with the best of my ability I’m going to try and “enjoy it. It goes by fast”.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 1:4

 

The Sweetest Homecoming

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Psalm 127:4

Friday, June 26th, 2015 Ella Joy was 9 days old. We woke up early with excitement and anticipation. We were finally going home! The day we had been praying for had finally come, but first we had to meet with our lawyer and stand before the judge. Y’all, to say we were nervous is an understatement.  Our hearing was at 8:30 that morning. Our lawyer was another answered prayer. God’s favor for sure. She was genuine and kind from the moment we met her. She made the  court hearing process seem easy. When our judge walked in he immediately made the uneasy situation feel more comfortable.  He opened up with an anti-UNC joke, after seeing Sam had graduated from NCSU, and he himself had graduated law school at Duke.

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After court we headed back to the hotel to pack. We were finally seeing the light, and our to do list was completely checked off.  We were homeward bound!

Can I stop here just a moment to  say this…Joy will never take the place of Grace. Just because we have seen our prayers answered does not mean that grief does not stop us in our tracks when we least expect it. Hear me when I say- having faith does not mean that you’ll hurt less in your grief. If anything at all, this journey has made me crave Heaven even more. This story…God’s story, has a far greater purpose than we can understand.

We checked out of our hotel at 1:00 and drove to the airport. We returned our rental car and waited for our flight. Our flight was anything but peaceful. It was all out scary at times. We had major turbulence as we flew through a storm. But my 9 day old newborn daughter was perfect! I mean, you couldn’t have asked for a better baby to travel with.

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When we landed we were greeted by family who were all wearing their adoption shirts. We were all running on adrenaline. It was after midnight when we were finally reunited. It was pure JOY seeing our boys faces after being separated for a whole week.  As we shared hugs and let everyone meet Ella Joy; the flight crew passed by, and took a picture with us. Before they left, they gave Ellie her own set of wings. They were all so kind to us. One of the flight attendants even told us she was adopted too!

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It was after 3am when we climbed into bed on June 27th, 2015 making Ella Joy 10 days old. We rested well in our own beds. It was so sweet to finally be home. The previous 9 days seemed to be a crazy/beautiful dream.

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Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side. Psalm 71:20-21

8 Days Old

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 Ella Joy was 8 days old. We ate an early lunch at Chick-Fil-A before taking a drive to see the state signs. We snapped pictures at the Welcome To Utah and the Welcome To Wyoming signs. It was a once in a lifetime adventure we were on, and I firmly believe in taking too many pictures.

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DSC_0440DSC_0454Meanwhile, back at home the boys were helping Pop and Joe clean out the chicken houses and later going to VBS.

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This was our last night in Utah. Tomorrow morning we will be meeting with the Judge and flying home! Stay tuned for the sweetest homecoming…

7 Days Old

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: Psalm 126:3

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 Ella Joy was 7 days old.  Today we heard from our lawyer that we were scheduled to meet with the Judge at 8:30am, on Friday the 26th.  We booked our flight home for Friday afternoon at 5:00. Ah, how sweet it is to know our homecoming is in sight!

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With two days left in Utah, we decided to venture out on a day trip to see Antelope Island. It was a beautiful Island just outside of Salt Lake City.  It was an amazing afternoon. The animals, and the views were spectacular. If you ever find yourself in  Utah, we would highly recommend visiting Antelope Island. We saw tons of buffalo, and face timed the boys back home so they could see them too.

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6 Days Old

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 Ella Joy was 6 days old.  Today we took it easy. We ate lunch at Chick Fil A and stopped and took some pictures with the beautiful Utah mountains as our back drop.

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Later that afternoon  Sarah and I went shopping at Buy-Buy-Baby. We bought Ellie a sun hat, sunscreen and piggy paint.  I had mourned the fact that I would never be able to paint Allie’s little piggies so as soon as I could I wanted to have this experience with Ella Joy.

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Ella Joy got an upgrade from a suitcase bassinet to a dresser drawer bed.

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Back at home we face timed Tucker and Coren before they went to their second night of VBS with Pop and Jengy.

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5 Days Old

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way, unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:4-5

 Monday, June 22nd, 2015, It was early Monday morning and we went back to the hospital to have Ella Joy’s ears checked. Praises unto God, she passed her hearing test by flying colors!

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We had emails and phone calls to make to our attorney in Utah to get the ball rolling on scheduling a meeting with the Judge and the ICPC office so that we could get back to NC as soon as possible.

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 That afternoon we went to Chili’s to eat supper. The waitress was so kind and when she heard we were in Utah adopting Ellie, she gave us a free ice cream sundae! Another reason to celebrate. God used so many people and in so many ways to love on us and love on us BIG. He is so good!

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The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. Psalm 138:8

Meanwhile back at home the boys were working with Pop at the chicken house, eating, napping, playing and attending night 1 of VBS with Pop and Jengy.

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4 Days Old

June 21st, 2015 Ella Joy was 4 days old. It was Father’s Day Sunday. We spent the morning resting. Then we loaded up and drove to Wyoming. Yep. Wyoming! It was the most beautiful scenery.  Sam picked up a few Wyoming rocks to take home for the kids.

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Tucker and Coren went to church with Pop and Jengy. We face timed with the boys so they could wish Sam a Happy Father’s Day.

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Wishing you the happiest of Father’s Days.IMG_8999

3 Days old

 

June 20th, 2015 Our brand new baby girl, who only woke once in the night, was three days old. We didn’t have a crib or a pack-n-play, so we improvised by using our suitcase as a cradle.

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It was our second day in Utah. That morning our Utah Case worker, Rachel, came over to our hotel to go over the legalities of our adoption. We signed papers and discussed our adoption. Rachel was precious. She answered all of our questions and made the process run smoothly.

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Later that afternoon, we went to see the Great Salt Lake. We snapped a few pictures and went back to the hotel to feed Ella Joy and to rest.

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That evening we went to Target to get a few items and grabbed supper before calling it a day.

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Back at home Tucker and Coren helped Pop clean out chicken houses and had a fun Saturday playing.

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Our Joy Journey-Happy 1st Birthday

 

I LOVE the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. Psalm1161:2

A baby’s first Birthday is so hard for a sentimental mama. It was hard when both of our boys turned one. But this girl, she is taking the cake! Literally and figuratively. Y’all it is so incredibly hard for me to believe it’s already been a year.  Tonight as I was putting my sweet girl to bed, she laid her head on my shoulder and wrapped her sweet chubby hands around my neck. I took a long deep breath of her lavender scented hair and just held her. I whispered into her ear how much I love her, and how she was chosen by God. All the while, I was trying to memorize every part of her. Her smell. Her tininess. The way her squishiness felt in my arms. For 563 days I would walk into that same room and kneel beside that same crib and ask God to send me a daughter. Oh how He has blessed me. My cup runneth over.

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Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 began just like any other Summer day. The boys and I went grocery shopping early that morning and then we went swimming with my sister in law Sarah. While the boys were busy laughing and splashing around, Sarah and I talked about the adoption process. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had told her about the email I had received from our adoption consultant that said; “I know this week has been slow with cases…so I just wanted to encourage you and remind you that the wait, the hard, it’s worth it.” No cases for us. It was the craziest thing! After we finished swimming I took the boys home for lunch and naps. It was during nap time that I got down on my knees beside of my bed and prayed “Lord, do You see me? Do You see my heart? Do you see my brokenness?  God will you please give me a glimpse, just a glimpse that you are working all things for my good and your glory. A glimpse that you are taking our ship to shore.

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Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. John 6:21

It was a beautiful sunny day, but the heaviness I was carrying made it seem dark and gloomy. I sent Courtney our adoption consultant a text asking her to call me. I just needed to hear her voice and wisdom on “waiting.”  (Sam had to work late that afternoon so I took the boys to VBS.) She called while I was at church so I stepped outside to talk with her. She pretty much said what I already knew, there were no “girl cases” right now, and  the wait is hard. Excruciatingly hard, but Gods timing is perfect and we must fix our eyes on Him. After hanging up with her I felt so much better. I was at peace with our wait. I went back inside of our church and resumed with our VBS lesson, snack, singing, crafts, etc. It was around 8pm when church  was finished. I buckled the kiddos in their seats and was buckling myself when I received a text from Courtney.

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Courtney was texting me that she had just received a case of a baby girl. A baby girl whose mother was in labor!! (You better read that part again!) IN LABOR! I was so excited and so thankful that God had heard my prayer. He saw me that day and gave me the glimpse I had asked of Him. I prayed giving thanks to God the entire drive home. When we arrived home Sam and I put the boys to bed. We then discussed the text and what information we had. We had a very limited time frame to make the decision on if we wanted to present our profile book to this birth family or not. We had been given a beautiful glimpse, and honestly that is all I thought it was. I thought this was just another case, like the 22 cases we were given previously. As we discussed the details we decided to let God have full control. We text Courtney back around 9pm with “yes, please present our profile.”

It was 11pm and I had just climbed into bed when our home phone rang. I quickly grabbed the phone off of my night stand trying not to wake the boys. In a whispered “hello?” I heard Courtney on the other end of the phone saying, “Stevie, congratulations, you’ve been CHOSEN!” I said “praise the Lord” probably a million times! It was all I could think to say, and if I had to do over, I’d still say “Praise the Lord!” over and over again like a broken record. He is worthy of our praise! I was ecstatic! I was crying, shouting, crying, sweating, bouncing up and down, crying, squeezing Sam, crying, permanently smiling, you get the point. I was in disbelief.  We had been told no 22 other times. This case was just my glimpse. We weren’t supposed to be chosen… But Y’all, God is faithful. He sees us even when it seems He is distant. He hears our prayers and cries even when He seems quiet. If you don’t remember anything else I’ve written, please remember this, God SEES YOU!

Before hanging up with Courtney that night, she gave us some instructions on finances, forms to fill out, and that we needed to book our flight to Utah asap. We slept very little that night. We woke the next morning to a beautiful text message saying that our daughter had been born at 10:27pm (mountain time) weighing 7lbs 3oz 19in long. I immediately called Sam’s parents to arrange baby sitting for the boys. I began packing baby clothes, blankets, paci’s, diapers, etc. When the boys woke up and we were finally able to tell them that their prayers had been answered and God had given them a baby sister. We told them that she was waiting for us and that we were going to be flying on a plane to go pick her up. They were both in shock, but the excitement soon kicked in. We ran a few errands and then booked our flight for that afternoon. Sarah decided she would go with us to capture in picture form, our Joy Journey.

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We arrived at the airport that afternoon only to find our flight was delayed, delayed some more and then finally canceled. I was a wreck! I just knew that the birthmom was changing her mind and that’s why there was a storm in Atlanta. But that wasn’t the truth. It hurt my heart to think of my sweet baby girl being in a hospital nursery alone. I was missing those first snuggles with her, but I had to trust that the God who created her, the God who heard my cries to make me her mother, He was the same today as yesterday, and He would take care of both of us until we could be together. We arrived home around midnight to sleep a few hours before catching the first flight to Salt Lake City Utah.

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June 19th, as we borded the air plane, Sam had the window seat. I was in the middle and a kind lady had the isle seat. (Sarah was sitting a few rows back from us.) As we flew I tried filling out those last minute adoption forms. The lady sitting next to me saw the papers and asked if we were adopting. I told her that we were and that we were on our way to pick up our beautiful baby girl. As we talked about our reasons for flying to Utah, the lady opened up to me with a very broken heart about losing her husband one year ago that day. She was flying out to be with his family on the one year anniversary of his death. You could hear the heaviness in her heart. My heart in that moment was filled to the brim with JOY and hers was full of GRIEF.  She then began asking the hard questions…how could God…is He even real…did He know… “Yes friend, He is real, and yes friend, He knew. He created us in His image. He sent His only son to die for our sins. So that we may have eternity in Heaven with your husband…with my daughter. Hear me friend, God is good. He is love and He sees you. He wants you to see Him and to believe in Him. For you to ask Him to be your Savior and your help in this weary time of need.” And in that very moment I knew why our flight had been canceled the night before.

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The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

We landed in Salt Lake City, Utah at 10 am. We found our luggage, rented a car, checked into our hotel and freshened up. We arrived at the hospital at 12 just minutes after the birth mother “C” and birth father “M” had signed their rights away. We were excited and anxious all at the same time. This moment we had been praying for was finally here. I had been praying for the birth-family to have PEACE in their decision. As we were ushered into a hospital room by a social worker we saw “C” holding our girl. We said hello, and she asked with a smile on her face if I wanted to hold her… absolutely! Time screeched to a halt, as she gave me her baby, and for the first time I held my Daughter. She stood smiling as I broke down sobbing. The Lord was answering so many prayers in that moment. She was at peace just like I had prayed, and I was basking in the mercies of my Father, as I stood there holding my miracle.

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Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; Psalm 30:11

As the tears streamed down my cheeks I couldn’t believe that God had answered my prayers so perfectly. He had taken our ship to shore! And how is it He would entrust me with this child? She was stunningly beautiful. A jewel straight out of Heaven. She had the chubbiest cheeks, a perfect little nose, lips, ears, fingers and toes. I couldn’t hold back the flood gate of emotion. I handed Ella Joy to her Daddy to hold for the first time, and He was in love at first sight. “C” and “M” were both at peace. They smiled, and were kind as they made light conversation with us. Our time together was brief as the hospital was discharging them. We prayed with them before we stepped out so that they could say their final goodbyes. A moment later they were gone. Ellie wasn’t supposed to be discharged until Saturday the 20th but the hospital went ahead and began her discharging process. Just another gift from God.

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They that sow in tears shall reap in Joy. Psalm 126:5

I had read months earlier in the book of Ruth (ch.4 vs.16) where Naomi took Ruth’s child, laid it to her bosom, and became nurse unto it. I was intrigued. I began researching “nursing your adopted child” while I was still praying for her to come. I knew that all things are possible with God. (Matthew 19:26) I began taking herbs and vitamins and doing anything possible to get my body to supply the nutrition my daughter would need. Fast forward to June 19th…

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Hear me: I. Nursed. My. Adopted. Daughter! Her little body lay across mine and God gave me the gift of milk. My body was used to nourish and nurture my baby. A miracle blessed with a miracle. The social worker couldn’t believe it. She was stunned. She said “I have never seen anything like this before.” But I sat there, in awe of my Heavenly Father.

Shortly after Ella Joy was finished eating, we were given her discharge papers and we left with our daughter. It was the most beautiful day.  We returned to the hotel and gave thanks to God for this beautiful answered prayer. As I sat there with tears falling, and arms raised, we worshiped the Giver, not the gift.

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Stay tuned for more of our adoption journey…