It’s time.

Every semester I teach a unit in which my students have to read and analyze Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and then write an essay in which they relate King’s words to a contemporary scenario of injustice. They are usually at a loss for ideas, which tells me one of two things–either they are unaware of the world around them, having been buried in text messages and snapchats, or they have not been taught about the world and its failings.

Whose job is it to teach students (kids) how to react responsibly in high-stress situations? To teach them the basic principles of human etiquette and morality? To teach them that disagreements do not equal devaluation of human life?

We have had to work hard the past two years to establish a moral code with our girls. They came without one. Because of our religious beliefs, we uphold fairly high standards. Okay, maybe ridiculously high standards. But they had no standards at all and so I always feel like we have to overcompensate. In addition to the basic rules for life laid out in the Ten Commandments, plus the basic school rules of “be respectful, responsible, and safe,” we also have worked to instill in them the knowledge and firm belief that police officers are here to help us. Police officers keep us safe. Police officers are the good guys.

So what do you do when the good guys fail you? We’re on a steep incline here. I want to teach my children to always, ALWAYS trust the police. I want them to believe in the goodness of humanity. But it isn’t all good. There is hate and anger and ugliness everywhere, and individuals fall prey to that all the time, and they end up representing an entire group in a negative light, and our moral compasses get thrown out of whack.

Which way is true north?

We HAVE to do better. We have to teach our kids better. We have to fight hatred with love and ignorance with enlightenment.

It’s time.

It’s time for the Church to start doing some of the dirty work.

In the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, not only an activist but also a Baptist minister, says this:

“So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

I can’t think of anything more damning than to be a weak, ineffectual voice, a defender of the status quo. Because our status quo, our silence which sanctions things as they are, is not getting us anywhere. We, the Church, might be the only moral compass left to this country. Where are we? What are we doing? How are we working to combat injustice, racism, hatred, and fear? Yes, it will always be there, because our world is broken and sinful, but we must sandbag against the floodwaters as if our very lives depend on it. They do.

It’s time.

To all my friends who do not check the “white” box: Help me. Help us, the white community. Sometimes we get it wrong. But I have to know that we are all working together to teach the next generation to be better than this.

My prayer today is this prayer, from FIFTY YEARS AGO, which could have been written this morning:

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

–Martin Luther King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, 1963



the zelda effect

We said goodbye to our little cat Zelda this week.

It was time. 13329554_10154322816577125_1955063184395069793_oShe was having a hard time with all the children (i.e., she was peeing on the carpet), she constantly hid in the spare bedroom and then when visitors came she would stay in the attic for days on end. We used to joke that one day we were going to find her shriveled up little body in the attic.

The point is, she was scared of everything in our house, except for Lucas, me, and our other cat, whom she pounced mercilessly at every possible moment (which means between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., since those are the hours in which she was not hiding somewhere). So we decided it was time to find her a new home where there weren’t so many “triggers” for her in hopes that she could have a somewhat normal life (normal for a cat, anyway).

There were some big feelings about this. Naturally Lucas and I were a bit sad, since she was our cat. What we didn’t expect were the big feelings from the girls on the day Zelda went to her new home. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth, if you will. For a cat they barely interacted with, there were a lot of tears regarding her departure.

My feelings stemmed from remembering when and why we got her. We adopted her from the vet tech program at my college four years ago, just after our first miscarriage. I’m not sure why getting a cat seemed like the right thing to do (since we already had one), but we did. She was so cute and small and soft and cuddly. And I was so sad and devastated that it felt like I needed something small and soft and cute at that time.

We decided to find her a new home once the peeing on the carpet started. The funny thing was that even though neither Lucas nor I felt all that attached to Zelda, we had hard time actually taking the action step toward finding her a new home. I had a considerable amount of guilt, since we had adopted her in the first place. But my frustration and concern for her ended up outweighing that guilt.

Lucas and I both admitted we were feeling sad over it. And then Lucas said, “Do you think this is God showing us how [the girls’ bio mom] feels? She’s not really attached to them but she is having a hard time letting them go?”

My immediate response was to roll my eyes.

I hate it when he says things like that.

But it’s probably true. I don’t doubt that the girls’ mom loves her kids (all 5 of them) in the best way she can, but she does have an attachment disorder, and all signs show that she doesn’t have the kind of “normal” mothering instincts one might expect her to exhibit. Even still, it must be hard to lose all of your kids in one fell swoop.

I have been convicted time and time again to remember that she is a mother losing her kids. My impulse is to loathe her. Most of the time when I think about her, the words lazy, stupid, and irresponsible come to mind. (You guys, I’m just being honest here. Judge if you will.) But then the song Mighty to Save pops on the radio (“everyone needs compassion, the kindness of a Savior”) or our pastor preaches on forgiveness and reconciliation and I have a moment of guilt at how I’ve thought of her.

See, the thing is, I’ve been blaming her for our adoption taking so long to complete. I’ve been praying for God to change her heart toward us and just sign the freaking papers already, giving up her parental rights to the girls I think of as MY daughters. And then recently I had the unsettling thought that maybe it was me. Maybe I’m the problem. Maybe my judgment of her, my border-line hatred of her,  is the hold up. Maybe God needs to change MY heart towards HER.

I hate it when He says things like that.

The day Zelda left for her new home, Lucas boxed her up in her little cat carrier before the girls left for school. They both went and said goodbye to her, D trying to pet her through the mesh and whispering to her how to “get out of the cage and go hide” so we wouldn’t give her away. Then the tears started. I mean, THE TEARS. Lucas sat with them patiently and asked why they were upset, and D said “I just love her and like her so much,” which was about all of the conversation I heard before having to shuttle the baby down for her nap.

My suspicion is that things were changing, again, only this time instead of getting a new member of our family (like we did last year when Evie was born), we were losing a member of our family (because kids include pets in the family member count). And I wonder if it made them insecure regarding their place in our family–if we would ever “give them away” if they did something bad enough. (Believe me, sisters, you have already done the “bad enough” stuff and you’re still here.)

This whole thing is just so tricky.

I know most kids probably feel sad if they have to say goodbye to a pet (Lucas always says that getting a puppy is just “delayed sadness”). But sometimes I forget that since the girls have PTSD, things hit them harder than most kids. They don’t have security or stability yet, even though they’ve lived with us for two years. They have two families–one that was completely dysfunctional and fell apart, and one that feels completely different and stifling with all its rules and structure and love. No wonder they don’t know how to respond.

This week just reminded me how messy it all is. I wouldn’t have chosen this–to have “damaged” kids with a bio mom who sucks and who is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives. God continually reminds me through all of this, though, that it is all messy. Life. All of it. There is not one part of it that is not going to require something difficult of us. Nothing that matters, anyway.

I’ve always wanted my life to count for something. Maybe this is it. Maybe my life is about the lives of this other family–my daughters and their bio family. Maybe it’s about seeing them, really seeing them, and being the only Jesus they ever see.


to evie, with love


My dear, sweet, darling heart. Your first year has come and gone, and I cannot get it back no matter what I do. That is not to say that I don’t look forward to the years to come, but this first year has been just everything to me–everything I thought I might never have–tiny fingers, tiny toes, tiny hands grabbing mine, tiny giggles, tiny toothless smiles, tiny toenails, tiny little bald head that is finally growing some hair.

You should know that right now I have big plans to write to you every year on your birthday. But I have learned that not all of my big plans come to fruition, so I hope that this one does, but you will learn soon enough that I’m not a Pinterest mom, even though I always thought I would be. I thought we’d have a big party and invite everyone we know to your first birthday, like they do in Life As We Know It (by the time you read this I will have made you watch that movie at least once). But instead we threw something together a few days beforehand and only invited the people that have been most important in your life so far and the most supportive of your dad and me.

So many people love you, Evie. I cannot even believe how loved you are. It seems impossible that a child has ever been more loved than you. I always knew that your dad and I would love you like all the old cliches, but it thrills my heart to see how other people love you, dear one. Your smile lights up every single room you enter, and it has helped heal my heart from the hurts of the past few years. You are truly the greatest gift I have ever been given.IMG_2649

Right now you have about 6 “words”–mama, dada, baba, papa, na-na (no-no), and k-k (kitty). I don’t know what baba and papa mean to you, but I do know that mama and dada are the two people you love the most right now, and that could not possibly bring us more joy. Every morning when you wake up, you have a bottle and we read books together, and then you crawl across the hall to go get daddy out of bed and play with your Star Wars toys. You are starting to have opinions about everything, and I think you threw your first tantrum last week when you laid flat on the floor and kicked your feet while crying because I took something from you that you shouldn’t have had. I know that won’t be the last time you do that. Your dad and I have always said we knew you would be strong-willed, and while that may be challenging while you’re little, it will make you strong of heart and character when you grow up, so we’ll muddle through the next few years figuring each other out.

Your dad and I thank God for you every day, and we think you have been THE BEST baby we could have asked for. Truly, you are so full of joy that it has been impossible to stay frustrated with you, even when you wake up at 4:30 a.m., ready to start your big day full of play time. (I would not complain if you slept until 7:00 once in a while, though.) Someday soon I will forget most of your first year of life, because that’s how life goes when you’re a grown-up. But I want you to know that it has truly been WONDERFUL getting to know you this past year. Your dad and I pray big prayers for you. We know that God has big things in store for your life, and we feel lucky to be a part of that. We get to know you for your whole entire life and see all the joy you instill in others and the wonder you take from the world.

You will always be special to me, little love, because you are the baby I thought I might never have. Just as you are continually filled with wonder at the world around you, I am continually filled with wonder at YOU.

I can’t believe I get to be your mom.

I love you. Always.

a new kind of christmas

I have always loved Christmas. I love decorating. I love sitting with the lights out and basking in the glow of the Christmas tree. I love the traditions I grew up with and the memories the season evokes. I love the ceremony of it all, the idea of magic, the fuss and bother and thought involved.

The last few years, though, Christmas has been a time of sadness. We lost our first baby Easter weekend of 2012, and the holiday season that year was the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. I was supposed to have a little bitty baby to snuggle and show off, but instead I had grief, buckets of grief. That year we went on vacation with my in-laws and upon arriving, I cried by myself in the bathroom of our hotel room for almost an hour. It was too much, I thought. It was too hard to see everyone’s joy and excitement when my world was so empty and my heart so full of what should have been.

We lost our second baby the week before Christmas of 2013.

The night before the miscarriage, we had been at a party with some of our closest friends, and had announced that we were expecting a baby the next summer. It was such a joyful moment–our friends were elated because they knew the pain we’d been through, and I was elated by their response. It was just perfect.

But then the next morning I woke up to blood and that familiar sinking feeling in my gut telling me it was all coming apart again. And Christmas became even more painful, as Lucas and I returned home from my doctor’s office, sitting on the couch and crying together while it grew dark and the Christmas tree lights came on, reminding us that in a few short days we were supposed to celebrate.

Christmas last year was a season of anticipation. I have always had grand ideas of what Christmas would be like once I had kids. The visions in my head, however, did not live up to the reality. Granted, the girls had only been with us six months, and we were all still adjusting, and I was just finishing the first trimester of my pregnancy. Although so much was different from the previous year, it was all still so fragile, so uncertain. I was still afraid to hope in this baby; I was afraid to hope for the girls.

So this year is a new kind of Christmas.

Our life is still chaotic as we wait for the girls’ adoption to be finalized and deal with sleep training our 6 1/2 month old (meaning it’s been about a year since I’ve slept through the night) and try to predict when we’ll be able to move and how much we’ll get for our house. We’re still finalizing all the plans with family and finishing the shopping and constantly doing laundry because there is and always will be laundry. We’re talking about when to have our next baby (because our plans always work out) and whether or not to keep fostering or be open to adoption. We are filling our lives up with what may look like craziness to some people, and some days it feels like craziness to me too.

But this year my expectations are lower, and I am less frantic. It doesn’t have to be perfect this year. We are not an idyllic Christmas card. We are the motliest crew there ever was.

I am also full of hope and gratitude for this season that we’re in.

Having Evie this year has changed my perspective on the Christmas story. Sure, in years past, I’ve thought about what it must have been like–how difficult for Mary, how trying for Joseph, how selfless of Jesus.

But now I have a baby. This baby, she is the embodiment of all my hopes and dreams. She is precious to me. She is my heart and soul, my joy and hope for the future. Her face lights up when she sees me, and it stirs my heart in a way nothing has before.

I could not give her up.

How did Mary do it? How did she carry Jesus inside her and give birth to him knowing what would happen to the Messiah? How did God convince Jesus that becoming human–becoming a BABY–was the best way to save the world? How did Joseph persevere, watching his wife deal with what would happen to their son?

I take the Christmas story for granted sometimes. I often wish the Bible was written more like a novel, full of the gory details rather than just an account of what happened. Lucas recites Luke 2 frequently (it’s one of the monologues he uses to help Evie settle down for a nap, in fact), and hearing it from the Bible leaves a lot to the imagination. Mary sees an angel. She gets pregnant. She tells Joseph. Joseph sees an angel and decides not to leave her. They go to Bethlehem, where the inns are full, so she gives birth in a stable.

nativityEvery single part of that story is a miracle. Every single part. I imagine Mary holding Jesus the way I hold Evie, clinging to his little chubby hands, stroking his soft head in circles, tickling his tummy to see his face light up. And knowing that he wasn’t really hers. He was in some ways, but he never belonged to Mary and Joseph alone. It’s this that gets to me right now. Evie is mine. I am filled with wonder in the knowledge that we made her. That she is a miracle. That she brings light and joy and hope into my world.

The Bible does tell us that Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. Where else could she treasure them? The mystery of God becoming human is one that is still too great for my brain sometimes, but my heart feels everything. Lately I have all the feelings, all the time.

In this season, I feel grateful for God’s faithfulness to us. I also feel overwhelmed by the Christmas story, overwhelmed by the minute details leading up to and following the birth of Jesus, overwhelmed by the complex and terrifying concept of the God of the universe making himself small enough to fit inside a woman’s body.

Christmas 2015: my new kind of Christmas.

who we are in the fire

I’m going to be honest.

Church has not been my favorite place lately.

This is especially unfortunate since my husband’s profession involves vocational ministry. And I’m not begrudging that or holding it against him–it is so clear to me that ministry is exactly what he is supposed to do with his life. He fought against the calling for a long time, forming a long list of nevers, as we all do when we are younger, claiming he would never follow in his father’s footsteps and work in a church.

Mine was that I was never going to marry a pastor, because I had aspirations of financial stability or something resembling it in my future. Ha ha, God. Very funny.

I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt frustrated with or hurt by a church. In fact, my good friend Erica just wrote a post about continuing to believe in the church and its purpose even when you are let down by what you experience there. So I don’t want you to think I’ve given up on church, I just haven’t really enjoyed it or wanted to be there for a while. I haven’t been excited about church or my spiritual life for a significant number of months now, and it’s easy to blame that on the circumstances that have occurred in the past three years.

But really, it’s about who I am vs. who I want to be.

The message I heard at church recently reminded me that it’s not an easy path we choose when we choose to follow Jesus. And since I have no intentions of leaving that path for another, I have to come to grips with that fact. I have to accept that “in this world there will be trouble.” There will be hardships. There will be pain. There will be times of unbearable hurt and unthinkable heartache.

I think sometimes as Christians we like to gloss over these seasons when we speak of what Jesus has done in our lives. It’s so much more pleasant to present a happy face, to say we’re fine when we’re anything but.

Because let’s be honest here: being a Christ-follower does not make my life easier.

Better? Absolutely. But easier? No way.

I just said the same thing to my husband about our girls. Right now I’m really missing the days when it was just Lucas and me, the two of us, the ability to do what we wanted and hang out with friends and not deal with temper tantrums or bed-wetting or backtalk. It was definitely easier before they came into our lives.

But was it better? I’m not entirely convinced that it was.

In the same way, my life with Jesus is not easier. Not by a long shot. But I believe it’s better. I believe in what he promises me. I can’t say that I’ve doubted God in the last three years, not who he is or that he has a plan. But I have wondered why it has to be so hard, all the time. I keep thinking things have to get easier at some point.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” When can we get to that part, God? When will you show me how it all makes sense?

This is where I think church has fallen flat for me lately. It will never all make sense. I keep waiting for that moment when I come through the fire to the other side, as if there can be any earthly explanation as to why I lost my babies when teenagers, drug addicts, and hordes of other “unworthy” people manage to give birth every single day. This was not God’s will. God didn’t cause this pain in my life. It just happened.

I believe that sometimes God answers our prayers in ways we don’t expect. I believe that although he knew this would happen, he didn’t cause it to happen, and there’s an important distinction between the two. I could say the same thing about our recent church experiences. Although God knew what would happen, he didn’t cause that frustration, hurt, and anger. And he wants me to trust him through all of that.

This is what it’s about: who I am when I walk through the fire. When the path is steep, when I cannot see through the fog of this world, who am I, essentially, at the very core of myself? Am I someone who blames God? Am I someone who blames others? Am I someone who wallows in grief and despair? Am I someone who allows herself to become jaded and bitter?

I’ve been all of those things, and I don’t want to be.

But when we sing at our church these lyrics–Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me–I start to feel nervous, because there is no telling where that place is. There is no guessing at how much harder the journey might be, how much more I might lose, how many more tears I might cry. Right now, if I’m honest, I’m scared of what’s on the other side of this fire. What if it’s a bigger fire?  What if that borderless trust leads to a place I don’t want to be? What if I just can’t do it?

What if, as the Lord promises in Isaiah, I pass through the fire, and HE IS WITH ME? What if he goes before me, and I come through the fire unsinged, I make it through the waters without drowning, I walk upon the waters without sinking? I believe that all of this–this whole crazy season of my life–could be refining me, melting away the impurities and turning me into the best version of myself.

So that who I am in the fire is simply WHO I AM.

And church becomes a place of community, faith, and hope again, the way it was intended.

And we all shout in victory because the God who walks us through the fire knows what’s on the other side, so we don’t have to.

if not, he is still God (or how I feel about prayer)

It was four years ago that the calls started.

Lucas was asked to come on staff at a reproducing church plant in Kansas City. He said no for about four months, and then the lead pastor convinced us to “just come visit” and we fell in love with everything about everything out here. On the flight home we agreed that this was the right move for us. Leaving Chicagoland would be hard, but we were confident it was the right choice. Two months later, we were here, along with a U-Haul and all our earthly possessions (which were much fewer then than they are now!).

Only a few months later, during our church’s Christmas series, we began praying for three specific things. Number One: a baby. We had already been trying to get pregnant for almost a year with no luck, and my heart was beginning to feel the ache and longing of motherhood. Number Two: a full time job for me. I was working steadily as an adjunct, but adjuncting is hard and unpredictable work, and we really needed a job that would pay for our insurance. Number Three: a location. Because we had moved to learn to be church planters, we felt certain that God was leading us to plant a campus of the church we were at, and so we began praying that he would reveal its location.

I won’t recount the three years that followed, as they have been thoroughly chronicled in other posts, but suffice it to say that our prayers were not answered in the manner or timeframe that we believed they would be. God answered what seemed to me the least important on that list first–I was offered a full-time position at the college where I had been adjuncting and started as full-time faculty last fall. It hurt me that this was what came first, because the other two prayers were so much more important. After losing two babies and starting foster care, I was angry that God wouldn’t just give us a baby. Because people get pregnant ALL THE TIME ON ACCIDENT. How hard could it be?

But in that season, my job became extra important, as it became apparent that church planting was not in the future for us after all. As things began to unravel at our church, it was obvious that this was not the location that was best for us, and so Lucas left his job and we were in uncertain financial straits. I began thanking God fervently for my job, which was allowing us to get by on a meager income from our family’s previous bread-winner.

And then I took a pregnancy test.

And it was positive.

And the timing of it just seemed too unbelievable. Everything was up in the air. We didn’t know what would happen with the girls–how long they would be with us or if we would be able to adopt them. We couldn’t move out of Missouri as long as their situation was unsettled. Lucas didn’t have a job and having to stay in the area was making it even more difficult to find one. He had spoken with a few pastors at a few churches, but none of them were close enough and none of them felt right, not like it had before.

But now, finally, it seems that we have our location. It’s not the location that we wanted–in fact, it’s a location we said no to last fall. It’s not a location that is without sacrifice. It’s still in the area, but is on the Kansas side about 45 minutes from where we currently live, meaning that once we move, I will be driving about 45 minutes to work every day. It’s a more expensive area than where we live now. Our friends all live here, in the Northland. No, it’s not without sacrifices. It’s not the easiest choice. But it’s the right choice, I think. God seems to be orchestrating everything about this right now, and so I have to believe that all these things that I view as less than ideal will be worked out in the end.

I guess because of all this I have a hard time telling people to keep praying about their situations. I see now that God is answering our prayers, and that he has always been faithful to us even when it was hard to see that. But it feels so trite sometimes to say that God has a plan and that he will work all things out in his perfect timing. While I believe that statement, it doesn’t always feel good to say it. The time we’ve spent in Kansas City has been the most challenging season of my life, and I’m not naive enough to believe that the hard part is over, now that we “have” our three things, our three prayers answered.

This is the part of the journey where we must walk by faith, knowing that we can trust in the goodness of God even when the world tries to obscure that. I’m certain that there will be new “things” for us to pray about in the future. I’m certain that there will be waiting and uncertainty and pain and hope and joy and tears. I’m certain that the God who has yet to fail us will never abandon us.

I hope that no matter what the future brings, what unexpected surprises the next four years have in store, I can say that no matter what, he is still God. He can deliver us, but if not, he is still God.

inviting in the mess

The family who sat behind me in church this past Sunday was just the worst. They talked incessantly, kept shushing the 2-year-old who could easily have been in kids’ programming, kept apologizing to me for his hitting the back of my chair, and overall made it nearly impossible to concentrate on what was happening in the service. It took all my willpower not to turn around and ask them to be quiet or to ask if I could show them where the kids’ programming was.

On a normal Sunday I might have done either of those. But this past Sunday we had the opportunity to attend the launch of our friends’ church. Their focus is on “bringing new life to the neighborhood,” so it wouldn’t have been exactly kosher to shush the actual neighborhood members who showed up to check out church for maybe the first time. So I checked my attitude and prayed that they would feel welcomed and loved and would return again next Sunday. And hopefully not sit directly behind me.


Here’s what I too often forget: church is not for those of us who know Jesus. It’s for all the other people who need to know Jesus. So many Sundays I have put my own priorities first, walking into church and wanting everything to go my way so that I could have the experience I thought I needed.


Instead, church really should be noisy and full of distractions, because that means the right kind of people are there. That means that the neighborhood is being changed. The people who need Jesus are finding community and hope. And unfortunately for those of us who like things to be neat and tidy, people who need Jesus are not, in fact, neat and tidy. They are distracting, noisy, and messy. Their lives are full of things we would rather not expose our children to. They smell like cigarettes and maybe last night’s drink. They don’t appreciate the reverence of the things we consider holy, and may seem disrespectful.

But they’re there. And heaven knows we don’t need more Christians in church. We need all those messy people to come into our churches and communities and lives and mess things up so that we can learn to love the way Jesus loved. He didn’t come to heal the healthy; he came to heal the sick.

Unfortunately, messy people are really hard to love sometimes. It is hard to welcome them into our lives because that puts us at the risk of exposure to ugliness, dirtiness, and sinfulness of the worst kind.

The past eight months have truly been an exercise in humility as we have let all of that into our lives. And just when we thought maybe we had turned a corner, it struck again, out of nowhere, in a way that hit us right where it hurts. We had an “incident” at school today with one of the girls, and it was not the kind of incident you laugh about later. It was one of those reminders that from now until forever we are going to have to deal with the ugliness of the world and how it has impacted these children that we hope to call our daughters, along with our daughter coming into the world.

It terrifies me to think of raising my child in an environment where she is exposed to such tragedy. I want to protect her, keep her far from evil as long as possible, limit her knowledge of the kinds of things that may be common conversations in our home. I don’t want to put her in proximity with potential danger. If she has these girls as older sisters, our conversations will be different from the day she learns to talk than they would if she was coming into our fresh and untarnished home. We will have different boundaries than most families, different expectations, different ways of expressing ourselves. I never imagined having to have these kinds of protective measures in my own home. I never imagined inviting the mess and the ugliness in to live with me forever.


Today was a reminder that no matter what strides the girls make, we will never really be rid of their past. We will always have to safeguard against those particular evils, and we will have to expose our biological children to those evils much sooner than I ever anticipated because it will be a part of their sisters’ story.

It was also a reminder that I have a long way to go when it comes to acceptance, forgiveness, and love. For some reason, the mess has come to live with me. And I want this particular mess. I want the girls to know that family can be safe, loving, and fun. I want them to know how to be responsible big sisters. I want them to know there is more than just the mess out there—there is Life and hope and peace and forgiveness; there is washing away of sin and redemption of past experiences.

Today I feel angry and sad that it has to be this way. I hate that all of this is in the world, that the story of redemption has to take so many ugly twists and turns, that my family is going to live right in the middle of it all. Somehow the mess invaded my sense of neat and tidy and changed the way I have to look at the world.


Many times we wonder where God is when we see or experience pain. We wonder how he can allow such things to happen. Why did the girls have to experience what they did? How do we believe in a God of justice when so much injustice pervades our world?


Today my answer is that we just have to believe that he has greater things in store for us. Not believing is so much harder. Not believing means it is all pointless and pain is a necessary evil. I don’t believe that for a second. I believe God redeems our pain and suffering and turns all the ugliness into something beautiful. It is not beautiful because it is easily gained; it is beautiful because of its origins, because it came from the worst that exists, and despite the mess turned into a story that could change the world.


This is my hope for our family: that though we have invited in the mess, it will be restored and redeemed into something more beautiful than we could ever have foreseen, and that when we feel beaten we remember that the beauty that is God has overcome the world.