Sunday, February 14, 2016


Dear MopTop,

Today is Valentine's Day. While I have not traditionally been a big fan of this day, someone recently reminded me that this is a day to celebrate LOVE, every type of love... so today I celebrate YOU. 

As I lie here with you on this special day, I feel your heart beat rhythmically and I smile. I smell your hair, rub your baby soft skin, and hold your sweaty little hand in mine. I love you, Bubba, more than I can sometimes bear. I have spent the last 8+ months watching you grow and develop. I'm so proud of you that my heart feels as if it may burst every time I look at you. I have witnessed all of your firsts... Your first smile, rolling over, sitting up, laughing, crawling... I marvel at how perfectly God has created you to be. 

Sweet love, I count myself blessed to be your mommy for this season. This weekend has been a bittersweet one as you have now come upon another milestone in your tiny little life. While you have shown excitement at my arrival for quite a while now, you have now started to prefer to be with me rather than others. Like most mothers, I will admit that even though this milestone makes life a little less convenient, it is also one that makes my heart swell with even more love and affection for you than I thought possible. 

It means that you, my love, know without a shadow of a doubt who I am to you... I. Am. Mommy.

But even though you have known me as your mommy since you were two days old, the problem is... I'm not really her. 

Eventually, whether it be in a few short weeks or a year from now, you will leave me. You will begin to learn the voice and face of your new mommy. She will feed you, bathe you, talk to you, rock you, love you. As time passes, you will learn to trust her. You will begin forming a bond with her. You will love her. And as you settle into your new life, your memories of me will fade. You will no longer listen for my voice in a crowd and respond with smiles and jumps when you hear me. You will no longer wait for my face to appear at your bedroom door in the mornings. You, instead, will be listening and waiting for another. And that's okay.

But even though your memories of me will fade away, I pray that your memory of my love for you never does. For the love I have for you will never fade away or diminish over time. It will hold steadfast and true until I take my last breath, just like my love for those who came before you... 

Forever and for always... 

Friday, September 4, 2015

She's gone. Gone. Gone.

"Mama, look!"

Her sweet mama was there immediately. Kneeling beside her baby girl, her face flush with love and pride for the little one sitting next to her. 

I felt as if time had stopped...

She took the book that her daughter held out to her and read the title, her voice betraying her full heart.

My heart constricted, my voice gone, my eyes stinging with tears held back...

Her precious little one watched her intently. Eyes on her mama as if she had hung the moon, mouth upturned in a smile that said more than her words ever could.

I turned away. Jealousy flaring in the deepest parts of my soul. Grief springing out of my heart and drowning me in its dark, churning waters.

In my dreams, I still hold onto the hope that one day this beautiful mother/daughter exchange will be mine. That my sweet BB will call out to me, "Mama, look!" That four years from now I will share in her excitement at her own kindergarten Open House. 

And then my dreams are over. Gone with the night and washed away in the morning dew.

She will never be mine. I will never hear her voice call me Mama. I  will not be the one she turns to when she's excited, happy, proud, or even when she cries out in pain. Every time I think about this, my heart shatters anew.

She was my baby. She was the one. I just knew when God called me to open my heart up to adoption, that she would be my forever. But she's gone.

She's gone. Gone. Gone. 

I've experienced loss before. Placements have come and gone, taking with them a piece of me when they leave. But BB? She was different. On May 15, 2015, I experienced a loss that I have yet to be able to put into words.

The loss of a dream. The loss of forever. But mainly just the loss of her.

Most people seem to think that I'm strong. Super-human. Special. At least that's what they tell me...

But I'm not.

I'm broken, hurting and very much ordinary. My heart doesn't heal fully after my babies leave. They take little chunks of my heart with them... It's the only real gift that I can give them while they're with me... My heart. My undying love. And eventually, my grief.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Laying it on the Altar

My sweet little roly poly baby had been with me since August. From the beginning of her placement, whenever the question of adoption was broached (as it inevitably is), my answer was always a firm "no." But as the cold of winter began to give way into the newness of spring, my heart began to change. I knew God was putting something more on the table for me... more than "just" fostering... I began to contemplate the idea of adoption. Let me be clear, this was not a decision I went into lightly. I came up with what seemed to be a million reasons that adoption was not a good choice for me right now... and they were all great reasons. But God didn't let up. He kept impressing it on my heart that I was to say yes to the possibility of adoption for my baby. Until finally I did just that... I changed my firm "no" to a hopeful "yes."

With a court date quickly approaching, I was hoping and praying that the "family friend" who was seeking custody of my sweet BB would lose interest, be scared away, or otherwise be found unfit. I prayed and prayed that this baby I loved, this baby I said yes to would become mine forever. But I've learned in foster care that nothing is ever a given. Even if they tell you it's a done deal, things can still change. 

So I tried to protect my heart, but I think I was already too far gone in my fantasy of starting my forever family. I had our adoption day picture ideas already worked out... matching outfits with a smiling toddler at my knee holding a vintage chalkboard that shared our good news of forever. I had a plan of secrecy all worked out so that I could tell my church family about my beloved's adoption with her surprise baptism. I wanted more than anything to watch a judge sign the papers that made my sweet girl mine forever.

And even as I daydreamed my way into being a mommy, BB's court day was inching ever closer, robbing me of my ability to breathe.

The week before court was a nightmare. I had already had a rough spring and my anxiety and fear were at an all-time high as May rolled around. Anxiety and fear turned into despair as I found out some information that devastated me. In order for my baby girl to stay with me, it would take a full on miracle. I found myself wanting to spend every spare second holding and loving on my baby, but found myself busier than ever and not able to relax and enjoy our time together when we were at home. And to add insult to injury, I was committed to a small group (Life group through COTH) and the retreat was schedule for my last weekend with my lovey before court. Are you kidding me? I was more than irritated at the timing of this retreat, but a commitment is a commitment, so I sent my baby to respite care for the night and headed downtown for the retreat exactly a week before heading that same direction for court. 

On the way to the retreat, God showed me the gravity of the sacrifice that was made by both the Father and the Son in order for my relationship with Him to ever be restored... Jesus was sent by His Father, out of a place of perfection and beauty, to live in a putrid and hopeless place. I can only imagine the heartbreak that God the Father must have had as He sent his Son to a place where He knew He would be tortured and killed. 

And then I was reminded of Abraham... He waited for decades for God to fulfill His promise of a son, but he never lost faith in his God. Soon enough, Abraham's camp was filled with the joyful giggles of his long-awaited son as he played. I can see him now, bouncing little Isaac on his knee and then pulling him in tight for a hug. But the day came when God asked the unthinkable of Abraham. He asked him for his son. I don't know that I could comprehend the grief and desperation that he felt as he tied his child to the altar, fully intending to make the ultimate sacrifice to his God. Yet, there in the bushes, God provided a sacrificial ram instead. 

He also showed me the story of Hannah. She was barren and dejected. She prayed for years to have a child. God answered her prayers and she gave birth to Samuel. After he was weaned, Hannah took her only child to God's temple, offering him back to God... to be raised in the courts of the Lord. I imagine that it took every ounce of her self control to walk away while her child called out after her, not realizing that God was ordering his steps. The heartbreak and depression she must have felt as she arrived back home without her child. The utter loss that she suffered so that God's will for Samuel's life would be accomplished.

I arrived at the retreat a sobbing mess. I was physically and emotionally spent from my week. I was overcome with anxiety, fear and despair. But as I left the retreat Friday night, after many tears and fervent praying, I went home knowing for certain that God loved my BB more than I ever would, or could even comprehend. He sees her, He knows her by name, and He is preparing her for a future that will glorify His name. I felt at peace that God would go before me. He would prepare the path for court, and we would be okay. As hard as it would be to let go and trust Him, I had to do it.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is something incredibly special about BB. God has a plan for her life. She will do mighty things for Him. And if I'm not the mommy who is set apart to prepare her for this, then it's time for me to let go. It's time for me to be okay with taking her to the temple courts and letting her be raised so that His will for her life will be accomplished. Let HIS name be praised.

I truly wish that I was writing this while my baby sleeps in the other room. I prayed that she would come home with me. I hoped that I would be the mommy set apart to raise her. But I'm not.

A week and a half ago, I handed my sweet baby off to a stranger and I drove home from court by myself. I have cried myself to sleep more times than not and I have longed to wrap my arms around that sweet girl every second that she's been gone. It hurts to lose a child. 

But I can say without hesitation... Even though my hopes and dreams of "forever" with my baby will not come to fruition, His name be praised.

I am grieving, but He gives me strength for each new day. And with each new day comes the possibility of a new little life to love on until it's their time to move on. Whatever my forever may look like, I'm just glad He's at the center.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


My heart catches, forgetting to beat.
My stomach churns, the butterflies' wings fluttering incessantly.
My breath becomes shallow, unwittingly perpetuating the problem.
My mind races, possibilities and scenarios on an endless repeat formation.
My throat constricts, not allowing me to speak.
My adrenaline pumps, telling me to run away from it all.
My eyes water, wanting to spill all their secrets, to wash them away.

It is amazing to me how our bodies, so lovingly created by our Creator to work in perfect symphony, can have such a sudden and drastic reaction to one thought... one word...


This word, more than any other, can pull a stress reaction from the depths of my soul. Whenever my mind wanders, whenever I let my guard down, whenever I become still, whenever I allow myself to ponder the possible outcomes...

It. Starts.

It hits fast and the chaos has soon taken over my body, holding me captive as I panic. Once a day, or once a minute, the intensity continues to build as court day comes closer. 

There are many things about foster care that are hard, but for me, court has to be the hardest part. Not knowing what will happen is torture. Not knowing if I will be able to protect a child I love deeply and desperately makes me want to throw breakable objects against a wall. It makes me crazy. It makes me desperate. 

So I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you know a foster family... So please pray for us. 

Pray for our kids, that they will experience peace and assurance as their court day approaches.
Pray for the foster families as they scramble to remain in control of their feelings and emotions as the precious ones they love are once again placed in the hands of someone else who makes the decisions that will shape their future.
Pray for the social workers and lawyers whose job it is to fight for what is best for the child... that they will have wisdom and discernment.
Pray for the judge who many times will make a decision that will change the entire trajectory of a child's future without ever laying eyes on them or knowing them.
And pray for our hearts as they get stomped on and ripped to shreds over and over again. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Mary's Easter

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man? ” The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth — even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38 HCSB)

I often wonder about Mary. I wonder about how freaked out she must have been to (1) have an angel visit her, (2) learn that she would get pregnant without actually, well, you know, and (3) know that the child she would carry, birth, and raise would be God in human form. 

I wonder about what went through her mind. Did she even consider saying no?
Ummm... Mr. Gabriel, sir, with all due respect, I think I'll pass on this opportunity. You see, this just seems a little much. I mean, I'll help out in any way I can, but this whole getting pregnant out of wedlock thing is dangerous business around here. Did you know I could be stoned to death for that? And that's only part of it... This will be God that I'm supposed to be raising. I don't know nothing 'bout raising no babies! What if I do it wrong? He's going to know everything... Like... Everything... That's a little overwhelming for me. I know this girl, Sarah, though. She lives down the road. She's engaged to the town's candlestick maker. She has a terrible singing voice, but otherwise she's pretty awesome. Why don't you go visit her??

Even if this went through her head, she didn't say it. She didn't shy away from the danger of a seemingly impossible situation. Instead, she was obedient. And with her act of instant obedience, the terrible beauty of the Easter story began to form.

Fast forward a few years. Jesus has begun predicting his own death. Mary knows it's true. Even though others doubt Him a little bit, shrugging it off thinking that he's probably just being a little over dramatic, she knows. She's heard His teaching for years... Since he could talk, actually. And she knows the implications of the predictions. Her son will die. Her heart skips a beat, wrapped in anxiety and fear, dreading the days to come.

She watches Him with pride, knowing that He will not shy away from the danger of such an impossible situation. Knowing that with each act of obedience to His father, the time of His death draws closer. Her heart is breaking, screaming for everything to stop so that she can once again shelter her little boy, protect Him. But in her mind she knows that God is faithful. He has shown Himself to be worthy of her trust, her faith, her all... He has never failed her before, even when there seemed to be no way.

She watches her baby's blood spill to the ground. She watches Him falter and fall to his knees. She watches as they drive spikes into His hands and feet. Her own knees buckle and give way beneath her as His cross is dropped cruelly into a hole in the ground. Her stomach jolts inside of her as she watches her baby writhe in agony, trying to breathe. And her heart feels as though it is ripped from her chest when she hears His proclamation, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," and goes limp as He dies there before her. 

I can only imagine the terror that she experiences as she watches this horror story play out in front of her. The grief that enfolds her, knowing that she has seen her precious son for the last time. That she will never again hold his hand, hug his neck, hear his voice, see his face. I can only imagine the hopelessness that tears at her soul as she prepares him for burial, wondering why God did not intervene to save His son... HER son. I can only imagine the feeling of abandonment that drove its wedge deep into her heart as she heard the stone being rolled into place and the tomb being sealed off.

And then nothing. For three days she walked through life in a haze. Accepting condolences, but never really hearing. Returning hugs and handshakes, but never really feeling. Eating and drinking to nourish herself, but never really tasting. Walking, but neither really knowing nor caring where she was going. 

It. Was. Over. 

And then she heard a familiar voice. A voice etched so deeply into her mind, her heart, her soul... Her son's voice... Jesus's voice. Did she dare turn around? Did she dare believe that it was possible? 

For nothing will be impossible with God.

I can only imagine the joy, the hope, the love, the relief that exploded in her heart at that moment. As she felt his scarred palms, cupped his face in her hands, and kissed her baby's cheeks... As she experienced her moment of salvation, as she wept over her son, her Lord. 

May Mary's Easter be my own. May I feel her horror as our Lord was tortured and crucified. May I know her grief as He was laid in the tomb. And may I experience her joy, hope, and love that He offers as I hold the hands that have conquered death and the grave. 

We serve a risen Savior, my friends. Glory be!!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Giant

was headed to a new school in August. A school in which the majority of my freshman class had grown up together since they were knee high to a grasshopper. I, on the other hand, was new. I had made the volleyball team, thankfully. In the summer practices that preceded the beginning of the school year, I kept hearing about this one teacher... Her name was spoken with a mixture of fear, respect, dread, and even a touch of terror. 

Them: "Who do you have for English?"

Me: "Brenda Davis..."

Them: "Yikes! You'll want to be careful in her class. She does NOT play around. Just do your work and stay under the radar, you'll be fine."

So the first day of school arrives and I almost pass out with the dread of going to English class. (Or it could have been the 105 degree heat that day... I grew up in Mobile.) I walk into her room and take a seat, get out my notebook, and sit quietly, waiting for the dreaded teacher from the black lagoon. An immediate, thick silence enveloped the room as she walked in. 

Mrs. Davis, except for her blond hair, was clad from head to foot in black. Black shirt, black skirt, black shoes, and even black fingernail polish... It was like looking at Viola Swamp. My insides quaked as she let the door slam behind her and she started talking. It was obvious she didn't play around. I knew from that first moment that this would be one class that I would absolutely NOT be able to play around in. She demanded respect, that was for sure. And I was bound, bit, and determined to not become a casualty of her (in)famous wrath.

Fast forward a few months, when Mrs. Davis had finally started wearing some colors other than just solid black... 

High school wasn't exactly the best time of my life. I mean, come on... I was the chubby new girl with acne in a school full of skinny, flawless skinned girls. I found myself, already prone to depression, slipping further into a world of loneliness. Cut off from the world around me by my steadily dropping self-esteem, not to mention my inability to express my deepening sense of depression to any living soul. I was smiling on the outside (after all, that's what everyone expected from me), but my insides definitely didn't match the outside image that I portrayed. 

One particularly rough day, Mrs. Davis noticed that something wasn't quite right. I don't remember what the issue was, or the timing of our conversation, but I do remember breaking down and crying to a woman that I was terrified of. She brought me into her room, closed her door, enveloped me in a hug, and held me while I cried my eyeballs out. All of this would have been enough, but when I finally pulled it together and she let go... she was crying, too. This inexplicable act of compassion, of love, sealed the deal... I had just connected with one of the most influential people in my life. Ever. 

Through all four years of high school, I relied on Mrs. Davis for support. She understood me on a level that most people didn't. She was my teacher for three out of my four years there, but our relationship went much deeper than that. She was a friend, a listener, a shoulder to cry on, an encourager, a speaker of life... She was one of my giants of the faith. Her appeal wasn't simply that she was nice to me or that she showed compassion to me in my most vulnerable times... But she exuded the love of Christ. 

She was Jesus with skin on.

{This was a phrase she used frequently while I was in high school. She still uses it today. And I repeat it... Quite a bit, actually.}

I don't get to see Brenda as often as I'd like anymore. I only go to Mobile a few times a year, and even then, our schedules don't always line up. But more often than not, I end up over at her house. Sitting on her kitchen counter while she cooks, or snuggled up in the front bedroom where you can literally feel the presence of God washing over you. She's met almost all of my kiddos and I know that she prays for me regularly. 

She's still my giant. She's still my Jesus with skin on. 

I treasure every hug, every word of encouragement, every prayer. I have tucked away just about every word she's ever said to me, and I try to live by them. I never both open and close a thank you note by saying, "Thank you," and I think of her every time I use "a lot" to describe a quantity of something. (Don't really live by that one, per se, but I do always chuckle to myself when I use it.) My love for this woman is deep. I miss her so much sometimes that it hurts. I miss her bone crushing hugs and sitting in her lap. I miss her laugh. I miss how easily her eyes fill with tears. I miss her words. 

Every girl deserves to have a Brenda in their life. I don't know who I would be without mine...

BD ~ I love you. You mean more to me than you could ever possibly know. I appreciate you. And I thank you. For every word of life you have spoken over me, for every prayer you have uttered on my behalf, for every hug you have given, and for every moment that you have put your own life aside so that you could be my Jesus with skin on. I. Love. You. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You are so worth it.

Every night we do the same thing...

We snuggle while I whisper over her.

I love you, sweet girl.
You're my favorite girl.
And you are so worth it.

Last night, my voice caught and tears began to form as I said to my little baby love, "You are so worth it."

It made me think about my Jesus. My savior who declared that I was worth it so many years ago as he suffered on the cross.

He still calls out to me, with his scarred hands held out, waiting for me to fall into his arms...

Erin, you were so worth it.
You were worth every hit.
Every drop of blood.
Every thorn.
Every slap.
Every lash.
Every cut.
Every hurt.
Every nail.
You, my sweet daughter, were worth every single bit of pain. 
Your redemption is complete.
You are paid for.
You are whole.
Your heart is mine.

Yet time and time again, I declare myself to be unworthy of such a love. I refuse to believe that it is available to me. I act as if I am unloved and unwanted. 

And in my unwillingness to accept His love, I have nullified the most incredible gift anyone has ever offered me. I have pushed Him away. I have told Him that His sacrifice, His ultimate sacrifice, is not enough for me. 

So now I run back to the cross. 
Back to His sacrifice. 
Back to His love for me. 
Back to His scarred hands and His open arms. 
Back to His voice... His whisper... 
You are so worth it.