Monday, November 17, 2014

November: Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and I am reposting the most read post in seven years, "Barren and Blessed".  I have written much on adoption over the years as Julia is a “Gladney baby” and Brighton was adopted through a private agency, but for some reason this one struck a chord with people.  I know within the 2 years since I wrote it, more friends or friends of yours may have come up on this dilemma of infertility and whether or not to pursue adoption and how to respond to God throughout any waiting process.  Feel free to share if you feel it would encourage a friend.  

The farther I get from those precious days when I was handed my sweet babies, the fact Julia and Brighton are indeed adopted slips my mind.  I have these passing thoughts of hereditary or genetic issues and then remember, oh, they have a whole other genetic make up!  I guess biological parents hear how much their children look like them, but I am still surprised how often we get it.  From complete strangers-- that make an effort to tell us.  It’s sweet, though not important, but it lends to my forgetting at times they weren’t born from my barren womb.  They grew in two selfless young women whose hearts had been turned by God to release the babe in their womb to waiting, prayerful parents.  I find it impossible to use our earthly language to express the depth of my gratefulness.  Maybe in heaven I will be able to put words to all that stirs in my heart when I think of those two women.

You’ve heard me say it before-- I PRAISE GOD for my barrenness.  I’ve written before all that God did in those years of waiting for Julia and I wouldn’t trade that time for ANYTHING.  I told Him then I didn’t want to miss Him --or anything He wanted to do-- in that desperate time and He was faithful to answer my prayer.  He was FULL to brimming around me and in me-- maybe to the point that I haven’t experienced since.

One morning years ago in the midst of all the waiting, Psalm 136 did a little dance on the page.  It’s that Psalm where it starts with “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” and every other line is “and His love endures forever”.  And with resignation-- and hope, I wrote this on an index card because this is where my heart was,  “We may never have close friends, but His love endures forever. We may never be financially comfortable, but His love endures forever.  We may never have a great church, but His love endures forever.  {And this one the hardest to write-- I remember oh so clearly the morning I did it.}  We may never have children, but His love endures forever.”   I wrote it down-- in black and white.  And posted it up.  That was where I needed to rest.  There is where I needed to abide.  All of these things I wanted, but He needed me to BELIEVE that if none of this ever happened, that He’d be enough and I’d be satisfied.  And that I wouldn’t be disappointed.  Ultimately.

So if you find yourself waiting for your first baby, your second or third-- or even a husband to begin this whole process, I encourage you to put your fears in black and white and surround them, top and bottom, side to side with the Truth of “His love endures forever”.  Or with any Truth that soothes your soul.  Some other ones I held onto were Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the God of all mankind.  Is anything too hard for me?”  Psalm 31:1 “Lord, I trust in You alone. You are the God who always does what is right!”  If I didn’t believe He always did the right thing, what did I have?  I would only have my guessing, my wondering, my what ifs.  And that’s a miserable place to be.

Last thing--press into Him.  And that’s not just some spiritual cliche-- if you are barren, you know what I mean. PRESS. You need Him.  And He wants you.  All of you. He wants your heart, your emotions, your desperation, your grief, your anger, your disappointment, your confusion, your depression, your broken heart...... If you can’t do anything else, HOLD ON to the FACT that God is good and that HE always has your best in mind.  Take a walk through the Psalms- “He is good and His love endures forever.”  He says it over and over and over.  Because, I think, He wanted us to be SURE of that because He knew our present realities would try to convince us otherwise.

 He. Is. Good.

Press in and give thanks for your barrenness.  Let Him fill it with Himself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Parents: 50 years and Counting

Aren't they cute?!  
Our family had the privilege of celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary last month.  I remember when we celebrated my dad's parents' 50th and being intrigued by all the "gold gifts" thinking they were surely rich out of their minds now that they had all that gold.  They seriously bought a curio cabinet to display all of the stuff they would never use.  Still, it is a sweet tradition and in 1970 something, almost everyone bought gifts like that.

However, giving my parents gold stuff did not excite me and I can promise you, "gold stuff" was the last thing my parents would have wanted.  They don't need it.  They wouldn't want it.  Besides, they don't have a place for a curio cabinet.

So we went nostalgic-- personal, I guess.  The immediate family wrote letters to Mom and Dad and we put them in a photo book that also served as the guest book for the shindig at the pond house.  Maybe I should capitalize "pond house"..... I think it has earned its status as a proper noun by now.
We invited as many friends and family as we could to come by the Pond House and see my parents-- and eat, of course.   The night before we gave them the book after dinner with some of our "like family" friends and I think they were pleased we didn't give them a gold bowl.

I'd love to share with you excerpts of letters written by my family.  These letters came to me during the crazy season I just pulled out of and I remember when the first one came in and glancing over it.  I closed it immediately because I felt my throat getting tight and my nose stinging and I knew I didn't have the emotional energy to sit at my computer and cry.  So I never opened any of them until it was almost too late.  You know I'm a words girl-- so to read these tender, memorable words from my family.... it was just too much.  So because I didn't read them then, it just worked out that I had to read them the night I was trying to finish the project till like 2 in the morning--so I could beg Shutterfly to get it to me on time-- which they did-- and even got a handwritten note from "Allison" thanking me for asking her to do ME a favor--- when I was SO fresh and rested and had all the energy I needed to handle the emotions of putting something so sentimental together.  It was a long night.  All because of the love expressed.

Part of Blake's-- and if you think I write long, he's the one.

{To Mom} I guess because of [Dad gone while running the new store in Soperton] and the time Dad was in Vietnam, you and I built a very strong bond. I always wanted to make you proud and it was amazing to me that I never had to play a football, baseball, or basketball game without you there. You were the perfect sports mom and you were one of the only moms that understood each game. You never embarrassed me at a game, (except when I ran through a stop sign at 3'd base for an in the park homerun and you made Coach Wayne take me out of the game). But even that taught me a valuable lesson so I guess I will let that one go.

{To Dad}Most kids dream about being a sports star or famous person. I just wanted to do what you did. I wanted to get married, work at Dennards, have some kids, raise them in Treutlen County and be respected like you were. I'm still working on the last part, but I have lived a dream life. I go to work everyday with one of my best friends and have a great time when l'm there. You have always tried to put me in positions to be successful and I am grateful for that.
But from all the things you have taught me it was this...You made a commitment to one woman forever. We have never had to talk about it because that is how it is supposed to be. By example you have showed me what it takes as a man to keep a family together. Thank you for that and all the good times we have shared.

To both of you, thanks for the hours spent as a family of four at the dinner table. Adele and I tried hard to follow that example and it wasn't always easy. I am grateful that I always know my parents would be wherever and whenever I needed them. But most of all, thank you for raising me in church. lf you had done nothing else for me, you put me where I needed to be on Sunday. I learned so much from great Sunday school teachers, pastors and pillars of our little First Baptist Church. However, you two taught me that I would be loved at home because we were a family that loved the Lord and tried to do his will. No parents could ever give their children anything better than that foundation. Thank you and have a great 50th anniversary celebration.

Blake is quite the writer.  I LOVED his letter and it was hard to just pick pieces of it.  I got one like this for my 40th birthday and guess what?  I could only read it once.  But I know right where it is.  He is great at expressing his heart through words.  

Most of Mom's cousins showed and surprised us all!

Part of RJ's

{To Nana} I also have found out that the strongest person I know is not the person that can lift the most weight. You are the strongest person I will ever know.  I have seen you battle your cancer and kick its butt!  I never heard you complain about it one time.  I don’t know if I have ever heard you complain about anything in my entire life.  You have shown me how to be a tough guy, and I truly thank you for showing me how to not be a whiner and complainer.  Words can never express how thankful I am for your guidance and showing me that I always need to keep God first in everything that I ever do.  
Thank you for all of the great memories that I will cherish forever!  They will truly never be forgotten.   Thank you for the example you have been to me.

{To Papa} One of the most important things you have shown me is how to live my life the right way.  I have always looked up to you and have wanted to be just like you.  From being around you and Nana you have shown me the right way to treat a woman.  I think that is one of the most important things I could ever learn from the both of you.  Such a strong marriage is not something that you see in this day and age.  But with the guidance you have shown I know that I will be able to do the same as you and Nana have done.  
Thank you for all of the great memories and life lessons you have shown me throughout my life!

If you look across the pond, you can see part of the house through the trees on the left.

Part of Hunter's

{To both} Ever since I was a very young child, I remember you being the grandparents who I could look up to and always depend on, no matter what. And you are still that way, to this day, and I give you my deep gratitude for that. I have such a rich treasure chest in my mind and heart, full of all the many, many memories that we've made together. The trips that you’ve taken me on are once in a lifetime and not many people can say they’ve done the things I have done. Not only were the trips a learning experience they were memories I will cherish forever, from our tree house hotel in Disney to sleeping with Old Faithful right out our back porch.
The memories I have and the memories to come have been because you both made the best decision 50 years ago. Without your “I do’s” I wouldn’t have the best papa and nana around, and the rest of my wonderful family that y’all started and raised to what I will always call perfection. I love you both more than you can ever imagine and pray that I will be the grandparents and parents that you both were. Thank you for everything.

Even Jeff chimed in--

I remember the first time I came to Soperton, GA.  The two of you came home early from a white water rafting trip to check this city boy out.  That was close to 23 years ago and I don’t think that you have slowed down since.  It has been a privilege to be your son in law, and as you know, you raised a beautiful daughter and that of course has been the greatest gift to me.   {Aww....} 

Sadie-- the lady that helped Mom so she could be a helper to Daddy

And a bit of mine--

You made the choice to honor it- that commitment- everyday and we have reaped the benefit of that fruit year after year after year.  Sure, you did it for you…..for each other but I know it wasn’t easy.  {You two are incredibly pig-headed. I wouldn’t know ANYthing about that.}  But because of a million little choices the two of you made, Blake and I ~and now our families~ get to enjoy full and abundant relationships with each other and, next to my own family with Jeff,  it is one of the BIGGEST BLESSINGS OF MY LIFE.  I hope in some way, this can communicate my gratitude.  I couldn’t be more grateful.

And so the weekend went-- kind words from so many friends, people coming by they haven't seen in a while, good food, family time, football, hunting-- just the normal Soperton stuff.

Riding solo but under my supervision while they parked the "mule", they managed to hit one of the freezers in the barn, bending the door, breaking the seal.  Freezers are a major asset in the south- in hunting and fishing territory.  I ran up to the house to get Jeff, grabbed the handiest tool I could find in the barn-a sledgehammer- and I held the door with all my weight while Jeff "sledged" away to straighten the door.  Hopefully the seal still holds.

This was the first time they were all together-- RJ had just gotten in town.  I loved looking over and seeing this.

I love these girls.

I love these views.  Home.  Did I mention it was a BEAUTIFUL weekend?!

Hanging behind the counter in the pharmacy-- can I just tell you-- I get it honest.  Tempered in 22 years of marriage but it's still there.

The store getting dressed up for Christmas

The pine tree picture

The first night- the four of us- we stayed up till like 2--getting all caught up.  What a gift a family is.  We weren't, nor are, like Hunter may think- "perfect"- so far from it, but we love each other.  Deeply. We don't even have a ton in common-- except pharmacy, maybe, but the rest of the family protests when that comes up-- but we have a sweet history and value time together.  Mom and Dad-- that's the fruit of your commitment and all the little things you did and fostered through the years.  I hope you can enjoy it-- even with us spread to Texas.  I am grateful for all the plane tickets, vacations and for all your trips here.  You've been great long distance parents and grandparents.  I love you both-- so much.

Happy Anniversary.  From ALL of us.