My mother has been bothering me for years to write a blog. Every year I have the same answer… “What would I have to say that people would want to read?” I tell her when I have an answer for that question, I will write a blog. I seriously don’t know how people have time to write them. I don’t even have time to take a shower. Literally. It’s a problem. I don’t know how all these women out there write blogs. Not only are they writing blogs, they are writing blogs about all the crafts and food they make. How are they finding time for that? And most of them have more than one child. I only have one, and I need a shower, badly.
Now, I have something to write about. It’s been a long time coming and I stay up at nights thinking about it. I have been waiting for the perfect time, and I realized, there is no perfect time. I have to stop wasting time and do it …now. Four years ago, I went to Africa. Four years ago I made promises to people there that I would not forget them, that I would tell their stories. Four years ago. What have I done in four years?
My mom thought of the title “Before and Africa” and I actually love it. There are a lot of things my mom and I agree on, but usually when she has an idea “for” me, I politely turn her down. But this title struck a chord in me. I thought about all the blogs out there about style and fashion and craftiness and I thought about how my blog would probably be the antithesis of that. Maybe I do always buy the same long sleeved shirts at the GAP every three years when the old ones get holes in them. Maybe I do still have the same tennis shoes I bought for 30 bucks 6 years ago. Maybe I do only get my hair cut once a year. Maybe I am in desperate need of a style makeover, but I think this blog is more of a before and after of my soul. My soul before and now my soul (after) Africa…
So thanks mom, for the title and for recognizing there has been a change in me and that even though I have a hard time finding the words, it’s time to start trying.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Light

I have been thinking a lot lately about the word light.  About lights in general.  About light in general.  What it means to be a light, to live by the light, to know the Light of the World in an intimate way.  In a way that pushes all darkness from your life.  I feel like the last three years have been this journey for me in the dark…with tiny lights guiding my path. Little flickers of hope.  Some bigger than others, some blown out completely.  

There is something about lights.  Especially right now, in this season.  I love Christmas lights.  I love sitting by the Christmas tree and driving around looking at houses with lights.  It makes me feel warm and safe.  It makes me feel like the darkness can’t hide the light.  The light of the world, who came as a baby.  That’s why we celebrate, it’s why we gather. 


We have been waiting so long for Moses that we never expected to have another child before we brought him home.  I can’t say I know the sorrow of losing a baby, I don’t pretend to understand the grief of having a miscarriage.  But I can tell you, I have felt the longing to have another baby.  Desperately.  For a long time we didn’t try to have any because all our time and energy went into our adoption…then there was the two year wait for the exit permit and we decided to keep our lives moving .  I thought well, could be another two years so let’s have a baby while we wait! HA! Not that easy.  I have felt the pain of thinking “This is the month!” for almost a year…waiting waiting waiting .  I thought “Lord really? You are gonna make me wait for this one too?”  Waiting seems to be a theme for our family.  Our plan was never to have 5 years go by before having more children, but that is what happened.  And in my sadness of missing one baby and longing for another…she came.  The light in the dark.  Lucy, her name actually means light.  And that is what she has been the last 10 months…a light and a gift.  She came just when she was supposed to come…just when the pain was the greatest…she brought new hope into our family, new joy, new life.   Little Lucy Lou. 

 What I pray for my little girl (and for myself at the moment) is that she will be a light to others.  She won’t speak ill of people, she will focus on the good in people rather than what they need to change.  She will make people laugh, she will shine bright in the darkness.  She will reflect the light of the One who created her so brightly that it’s all they will see.  They will see Him through her. 

I haven’t taken her for granted one single day.  Every single day I think about how I am blessed to spend it with her… I think about how I have missed so many days with Moses and how we aren’t promised everyday.  I breathe her in, watch her determined little body discover, and take steps, and turn into who she is supposed to be. 


It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness- Eleanor Roosevelt

SO whatever darkness you may be in or feeling at the moment…don’t curse it.  Embrace it, for it is making you so much stronger…and while you are in there…freaking light a candle and let it freaking shine.  I don't know about you but I'm kinda tired of letting the darkness win.  We have the light. Love does win.  This morning the sun was coming up through the haze of the blustery snow and it made this magical beam up to heaven.  It was like God was reminding me that we can reflect His glory…shine it right back to Him. Up and out…shine it up and out.










Tuesday, October 11, 2016

School days are here...

I am killing it at this school thing.  Just killing it.  Max’s first day of school we wake up at 7:30 (maybe the first time in our lives our kids have slept in that late) and he has to be there at 7:55.  I had these visions of his first day…we would get up early, we would have a big breakfast and talk about what he was most excited about, I would take pictures on the doorstep and then again once we got to his school, we would pray with him and walk him into his class.  Not exactly how our morning went.  We tear out of bed, I race downstairs to let the dogs out, change and feed Lucy, throw whatever I can find in a lunch box, and I go upstairs to check on Max’s progress.  He has his socks on…that’s it.  I throw his stuff in his backback, take a quick blurry picture of him and we haul butt out of the driveway.  Traffic, of course.  We speedwalk into the building and get to his door just as the tardy bell rings.  I hear one mom whisper to her daughter “Make a difference!” and I just think “Please don’t make farting noises.”  #goals   I give him a hug and start to walk away…when I shut myself in the car the realization hits and I sob like baby.


My firstborn is in school EVERY day now.  It’s been an ocean of books and trains and forts and playdates and zoo trips and morning snuggles for the last 5 years…an ocean.  We have made it to the mainland and I am supposed to just let go of his hand and let him find his way.  What?! I don’t think he can open his yogurt on his own…Will he know how to sit and listen?  Who will hold him if someone is being mean?  So I sit and cry for a bit then drive away.  I’m driving away from my lil buddy, my best little friend for the last 5 years.  Now I get the kid I don’t really like from 3:00-5:00 (in my opinion the most terrible hours of the day). He now spends most of his days with his peers…and I pray we have equipped him to be a leader and to be kind.

One thing that gave me a window into Max's little heart this week; He decided he wanted to make a package for Moses (Tony and I don’t have the heart to tell him he has no way to receive it right now) He picked out 3 of his transformers (if you know Max you know these are like gold to him) Some crackers and granola bars (because “he needs more food mommy”) His one and only dollar in his wallet (because he needs some money mommy) And one of his books called “What God is like.” When I asked him why he picked that book he said “Because I don’t know if he knows God and I want him to meet Him.” Cue me running into the other room to sob for a hot second.  Then I came back in as him and Tony are taping the box shut.  This boy.  He’s gonna be just fine, I think.  He has a sweet heart.  Now whether or not I will be ok is another story.. as I sit and listen to the birds sing and watch some of the leaves fall… it is so strangly quiet in the house today.  I miss the noise, but the silence is nice too.  One tiny chapter has ended and I can’t wait to see what God does with this little man that I have come to love so much.  As I watch Lucy (more on her later) I am amazed that Max was once that tiny.  When we got our most recent update on Moses (more on him later) I am amazed that God has taken care of him in the way that He has…without my help…just my prayers.  God is going to watch over these kids….because they are HIS and most certainly not MINE…although I am finding  so much joy in the time God has been lending them to me. 

Afterschool we made up for it!


First ride on the bus!


Our sweetie guy with Lu

 
Labor day fun with dad...first time on the big zipline at camp...absolutely NO FEAR...he can be shy, at times, but definitely a risk taker.
Canoeing with dad!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year

We find ourselves not counting the milestones of our little one's life, but counting the anniversaries of special days that we wished we had shared with him.  The number of these days continues to climb.  We got this picture New Year's Eve 2013.



We were instantly in love. We had no idea two years later we would be sitting in our home on New Year's Eve without him.  But here we are.  Last year I said 2015 was going to be a good year and I that I had faith he would be home with us.  I will not make the same proclamation for 2016. It will be a good year (We have lots of things to be grateful for) but I won't say that I have faith Moses will be home this year... I have learned the hard way that God doesn't always give us what we want when we want it.  Sometimes there is so much to learn in the waiting.  I'm learning a lot about lament lately, knowing that I can still cry out to God in the waiting.  Listened to a sermon on Sunday, the pastor spoke on "living in lament",  I realized I had gone silent...feeling like my prayers didn't matter to Him anymore.  Apparently it takes faith to pray in the midst of pain.  "Lament is better than silent despair." He said.  This is what I felt...silent despair.  God may not answer me in the way I want this year, but I won't be silent.  I will continue to cry out "How long oh Lord? How long, how long, how long..."



Journal Entry November 2015
I went up to the roof to see the sun rise over San Francisco...I went to listen for God. I heard the caw of the seagull and the slow drumming of tires on pavement. I heard one lonely basketball bouncing on a court below. I watched the clouds move over the city like a remnant of a smoldering fire... And slowly the world was light. And I was small on this rooftop and God was big and majestic. The lights dimmed in the windows and on the big steel red bridge and I was quiet...waiting. But the world grew louder and busier still as the sun made her grand entrance. The birds gathered in frenzy on the wire and the street cars whirred on their wires and everyone came to life and started in with the busy.  But I see the pink settle into the clouds and I want it all to stop. So I can sit here with Him forever. Listening to His voice. The clouds roll away and the sky is clean and new and fresh and ready. But I am not. Not ready to start another day, because each day brings with it the waiting. Waiting for answers, waiting for His voice, waiting for my son. And I ask God to stop the world from turning so I won't miss my days with him, but I know I ask too much.  So I wait, and ask again for what I know He will give me right now; The strength to meet the new day, with a desire to live in the waiting, knowing He will wait with me.   


I and will choose this year to find joy...to find beauty...to find the words to cry out to God when it hurts.  To live in lament.  







Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two years.


Today marks two years the ban on exit letters has been in place.  Most days I try to think of the way we were with him.  The way he was when we left him.  It hurts to think of him with so much time between us.  Two years.  Two. Years.  When I think of the 730 days we’ve missed with him…I can’t, I just can’t.   I can’t let myself dwell on the sadness of this.  If I felt the pain everyday,  it would be too much to bare.  But there are days….like today…when I feel it.  When I let myself look at the pictures and videos and cry all day.  When I let myself wonder what he will be like when I see him again.  When I let myself wonder IF I will see him again.  I wait for something beautiful.  I wait for a day I don’t know will come.   As I wait, I force myself to see the beauty in what is now.  The new life God has given us that moves and grows rapidly inside the mystery of the womb.  My eldest son that gives the extra dose of joy I need each day.  I am grateful, I am.  But today, I cry for him.  I ache for him.  Moses.

“Now, in the Bible a name…reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather the essence as God's gift…To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God.  To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it.” - John Piper

Originally we chose the name Moses because it meant “drawn up out of the water”, and I always loved the story of Moses in the Bible.  He was raised by people that were not his race but he went back to save his people.  He was literally “drawn up” out of his circumstances to a higher purpose in the overarching story of the God who loved him.   We always hoped that our Moses would feel at home with us but have a tugging on his heart to give back to the people and the culture that birthed him. We had hoped that he would also be used by God someday to be a great man for his people. 

We didn’t know when we chose this name how significant it would become to his/our journey. We didn’t know the long echoing cry of the patriarch of the Bible would become our cry.  “Let my people go” “Let our children go”  Very different situations, but to me the cry of desperation is the same.  He is one of God’s children, an Israelite and he has yet to be “drawn up” out of the water to fulfill his purpose.  But if Moses and the Israelites can wander in the desert for 40 years, we too can wait on God’s timing.   We may never see what God does through our Moses.  But we trust that God will do what He promised.  He will draw His people closer to himself and we will wait.  He will hear our groanings and he will not forget us.

These words have echoed in my heart all week.

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I'll go where You will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I'll go where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me

 And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me

-All Sons and Daughters



Monday, March 16, 2015

Call the White House!

For those of you that have asked for an update on Moses...there will be no update until the government does something.  And in order for that to happen, we believe getting our president to make a phone call to the president of the DRC is literally our only hope at this point.  Tomorrow the waiting families (500 or so of us?) are going to flood the white house with phone calls.  Will you join us?  Five minutes of your time...will make a world of difference for so many kids.   Let's get our kids home! Here is the info and a script:

CALL the White House on Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

The number is 202-456-1111. 

“I am calling to…


..Ask that President Obama intervene on behalf of all the children adopted by US citizens but prevented from leaving their home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.


..Ask that President Obama call President Kabila personally.
 

...Remind you that on July 16 of last year, 167 members of Congress wrote a letter to President Obama, appealing for his personal intervention. His help is still needed!


..Remind you of the tremendous popularity and influence President Obama carries in the DRC, as our first African-American president, and to appeal to him to use that influence to help unite these children with their forever families in the US.” 





Friday, January 2, 2015

Moses Year One

Every year we make a video for Max's birthday...I never did take the 1 month 2 month 3 month pictures of Max, time just flew by and I take pictures when my camera happens to be there.  There really isn't time for nice photoshoots when you have a 3 year old.  Our photos are messy and silly and when I try to plan them...there are tears.  We are excited to start this tradition with Moses, and although we didn't get to spend his whole first year with him (only 10 days of it), we got a lot of precious video of our baby boy while we were there.

We received his picture New Year's Eve 2013.  One year ago.  So we are celebrating this amazing year of knowing this precious boy.

Happy New Year.

2015 is going to be a great year.  We can feel everyone's prayers.  He will be home this year.  We believe it.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Grateful

“Can there be a God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins?  Where is God, really?  How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode and dreams blow away, dust in the wind?   Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away.  Where hides this joy of the Lord, This God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt?  How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?
-Ann Voskamp A Thousand Gifts

It’s a rare quiet morning.  I am up before everyone else, this doesn’t typically happen.  Most mornings we hear our door swing open and Max will be standing there holding something up triumphantly.  A book he would like us to read or a toy he is ready for us to play with. I usually roll over and hope he will go in his room and play.  I am not a morning person.  I love to sleep.  I haven’t been sleeping lately as my mind won’t shut off.  I can’t stop thinking about Moses.  I have been so focused on wanting him home.  

I wake up out of a dream where we are in Africa just minutes from him but no one will let us see him.  I write this:

To know would be rest for my soul,
To know would be bliss
To know would be as sweet and as soft as a kiss from your lips
To know, oh just to know
But to know would mean
That we wouldn’t need
That we wouldn’t lean
On the All Knowing One
Who brought us here
Who brought us thru
The days of not knowing
And without Him we wouldn’t know you
So we’ll stay in the unknown
Until He makes it known
Or until we have grown
To know Him more
To trust Him more
To let go of our grip
And give up what is His
We’ll stay in the midst
And know His love
It’s more than enough
To get us to
When we hold you

Then as I read the words I wrote, illegibly through sleepy eyes, I realize, He will be enough.  He has always been enough.  If we lose our son, He will be enough.  When we lose jobs, and family members, and dreams.  He is enough.  What a hard lesson to learn.  But what peace it gives.  Grateful. 

Every long hard day has a sunset.  Even the longest winter will melt into spring.

When Max swings that door open and holds up his books to read, and all I can focus on is my sadness and my exhaustion...  inward.  The past week, as God has given me His grace and peace, He has been telling me “The life I have given you now, is enough.”  I heard someone say last week, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”   Ok ok Lord, you got me.  My heart could be broken, but I know who’s holding the pieces, and you have still blessed me far more than I deserve. Outward.

 I vow to never forget the peace of knowing He is enough, and maybe that’s all He wanted.  Gratefulness.  This week, as we gather around the table, as we look around at the faces of those He has blessed us with, I will know deep down, that if we lost it all, I would still be grateful.   Because He is truly all I need.