Monday, February 19, 2018

ten years....

Yesterday our sweet Caroline turned 10!!  Double digits, baby!  I guess that makes this blog officially a decade old, too!

We planned a fun overnight shopping spree in Richmond for our gal who wanted clothes.  

BUT, as life likes to do, our plans were thwarted suddenly when we noticed another skin staph infection developing on my leg (just inches away from the one I battled 2 months ago and landed in the ER...what in the world).

So what was SUPPOSED to be our fun birthday overnight was spent in the Urgent Care...

(That's how I'm blogging.  I'm in pain on the couch waiting to get in to see my doctor today...)

Thankfully I was able to pull it together to get to a few stores and Caroline got some cute stuff.  

Just not at all how we all wanted to celebrate 10.

But since I've got a little time, I'll give a super quick update....

Caroline's LOVING her new public school.  She's got a group of diverse friends, her grades are great, she's in almost every club and activity they offer... show choir, math club, jump rope club, gifted & talented program, she's got a major role in their big play this Spring, you name it.  She's also started on violin and if I could just get the girl to practice more often, she has SO much talent for it.

Now I am FAR from a crafty person, but she and I came up with this art project together with $3 canvases and a $1 bag of dried beans. 

Jameson is growing like crazy in every way.  He's taking swim lessons at the Y, going to pre-school every day to get ready for kindergarten next year, and is in love with everything that involves fighting and battles... Star Wars, Kung Fu Panda, and most recently Black Panther.

Jameson & his friend DJ
He BEGGED us to use his own money to get a Black Panther costume. 

Marc surprised him by taking him to see Black Panther on opening day.  He wore his full costume and people in the theater were all snapping pictures with him!  

My basement apartment Airbnb has been killing it.  Booked almost solid.

And I've been loving it so much that I've now got 2 clients who want my services to help me set up and manage their own Airbnb spaces!  Dream job.

Marc is doing great.  Back to work after Christmas break and rolling along this semester teaching Romans in RUF.  He's taking students to an inner city mission trip in Chattanooga, TN, in just a couple weeks. 

 Students over for the Super Bowl!
I know my recent blogs have been rather raw and ambiguously depressing.  There's no doubt we've endured our fair share of suffering in the past 6 months. But it's finally beginning to feel like we're coming through on the other side, and for that I am SO grateful.  We'll still wear the scars, but at least there is healing ahead.

Monday, January 29, 2018

finding my words...

Hello my blog friends,

I'm sorry if you came here looking for fun updates and cute pictures of the kids.  They're doing great.  I hope to share more about what they're up to soon.

But I'M coming here to write and process.  So much is swirling through my mind after the year we've had, and though we didn't drown in the flood of suffering, I'm still catching my breath from it all.

I'm trying to find my words.

There are layers to our suffering that are too vulnerable to share, most especially on a public blog.  Marc and I have been deeply wounded in many ways this year, and I'm limited in what I can say and who I can tell.

That alone makes suffering so much harder, y'all.

When my daughter's hair was falling out, I took to this blog to write my raw, honest emotions as they came.  It was a huge part of my acceptance process, not only to write it out, but for others to read it and empathize with us through our struggle.  Our suffering was "out there," public, on display for all to see and respond.

I suppose if I have to suffer, I prefer to take my suffering communally like that.  It holds me up to know that others KNOW and care and are WITH me.

If I may be so vulnerable to admit, I'm not feeling "held up" right now.

I'm navigating these deep waters with Marc, a good therapist, and a couple of close friends.

And I'm supposed to believe that Jesus is with me, making a way for me, directing me along this journey.  He's carried me thus far, and He has been so, so good and faithful in the past.

But my fears tell me this time it's different.  The evil one whispers lies to me.... "no one is with you," "you don't belong anywhere," "you should have never changed."

An older, wiser friend sat through Caroline's hairloss journey with me.  She opened up the Bible and showed me in the Psalms how raw and honest were the words of lament.  And at the end of many of the laments (not all), the psalmist suddenly makes an abrupt right turn to say something hopeful to the effect of "yet will I trust Him..."

I remember my friend gently and lovingly telling me, "Amy, you're not in that final verse yet where you're able to proclaim your faith.  You're still in verses 1-4 of the lament, and that's OKAY."  She gave me time and space to not be okay.  I didn't have to fix myself or change my attitude right away.  And you know, looking back, over time I guess Jesus did that for me.

Right now, I'm finding my words.

There's alot I'm trying to figure out.

And I'm going to heed my friend's advice.  It's okay if the words I'm finding are mostly those of lament, disappointment, fear and doubt.

Is this whole Christianity thing even true?
God, are you even there?
How long, O Lord, will you turn your back from me?

Lord, I believe.  But help my unbelief.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Good riddance to you, 2017.

You brought with you deeper sorrows than I've ever felt.  You took away people and things that brought great joy into my life.  You held all the most terrible moments in your hands and seemed to rain them down on my head. You turned my hairs gray.  You took away any sense of "normal" I might have felt before. 

And now, in this beginning of 2018, I'm still left trying to piece myself together from the havoc you created.

Goodbye, 2017.  I won't ever forget you.

I'm still recovering from you, but I have a sneaking suspicion I'll look back on you and see how all your chaos and pain changed me. 

I think you pushed me down the path a little faster than I wanted to go.

And one day, I hope I'll thank you for that.

Monday, December 4, 2017

transracial adoption and jesus in the chick fil A...

If you've been following our journey on this blog (where I share much more of my heart than on social media), it's no surprise that our family has endured one of our toughest semesters yet on so many fronts.  (Read back a few posts ago and perhaps you'll get a sense for the amount of stress we've endured.)

Some things are improving, and some things remain very raw, sore, and difficult.  We are trying to find our way.

Life looks so different now than it used to.  Through these trials, I've found myself reflecting often upon transracial adoption (adopting outside of your race/across racial lines).  It's changed our life so radically over the past five years. 

When we adopted Jameson, (and that was a whirlwind of a story- whew!) we took the adoption experts' advice very seriously when it came to incorporating our son's culture into our family.

I know lots of white families that have adopted black and biracial children.  Some of them choose to ignore the topics of race and our racial history with their children (as is custom in white culture).  Someone I know even touted, "My friend's children don't even know they're black!" 


To be fair, every adoptive couple, just like every parent, has the right to decide how they'll parent their children on various topics throughout a child's life.  I'd even guess it's probably more common for white couples adopting transracially to simply include their child into their own life and culture with very little changes to expose their child to his/her own culture and identity.  (That's tough work.)

But here's the problem. 

All those cute little black babies raised by sweet white families in the past few decades are now ADULTS.  And they're talking.  They're sharing their experiences of being raised in white families, in white churches, in white neighborhoods.  Research shows they're struggling through their own identity issues as they're now living as black men and women in life, and they're often finding themselves ill-prepared to handle life as a person of color in society once they're out from underneath their parents' white umbrella.

It's Marc and I's mission to raise our children in such a way to honor their birthfamilies and to honor their heritage.  Since Jameson's adoption is across ethnic lines, it's an added challenge but we want to do everything we possibly can to learn about, celebrate, and incorporate the richness of his culture into our own family.

Even when it puts us in a strange wilderness like now.

Because we're not black.  We're not white.  We're a black AND white family.  Collectively.

And so that makes us constant pilgrims longing for a place and a people to which we belong.
We're in process from "old life" to "new life," where there is alot more color and diversity.  That may sound nice and exciting, but in reality, painful isn't a strong enough word to describe that transition for us. 

Don't get me wrong, I love wherever I'm headed, for I know it's God that is doing the leading, and He will surely guide us. 

But I'll be walking with a limp to get there.

Last week, I was standing in the airport Chick Fil A line with Caroline and Jameson before our flight home departed.  (Marc was on baggage duty back at the gate while we got food.)  Jameson was in my arms, and he was being a total sweetie.  Our faces were close to one another, and we were just engaging in a typical 5-year-old mom and son conversation.  When Jameson laid his head down on my shoulder because he'd been up since the crack of dawn traveling, my eyes met those of another man.

I'd seen this man back at the gate.  He was kindof an odd duck, almost like a black Indiana Jones.  The adventure hat, the vest, the chiseled facial features and muscular build.  Intimidating at first glance, but at the back of the Chick Fil A line, he was staring straight into my eyes in a way that was incredibly profound, full of compassion.

Was he trying to tell me something?  Or is this just my imagination? I'm trying to figure out.  I really wish I was more intuitive...

But he continued looking at Jameson and me, and he nodded his head slowly. 

I see you, Mom, his expression and nod told me. 

And then, he nodded at me AGAIN!  Slowly, intentionally, deliberately.  TWO NODS!  He was telling me something.   He was non-verbally affirming my motherhood to my chocolate-skinned son in such a tender way that I was incredibly humbled. 

I fought back tears and smiled knowingly back at him.  Thank you for seeing me, I wanted my face to say.  Thank you for affirming me in such a difficult season in life.

I turned around and we continued through the line.  As we ordered, the girls at the cash register were striking up conversation with Caroline, even to the point of name introductions.  And just as it was time to insert my credit card into the machine......almost out of nowhere the man walked up with his credit card in hand and told the cashier, "It's on me."

Y'all.  I just about burst out crying!  (It's a moment I've been WAITING to type about because it won't leave my thoughts and memory.)

I don't know who that man was, and I've even questioned if he was an angel?! 

Because to me, that moment was as if it was the Lord himself affirming me....

Amy, I see you.  You're doing this.  Though it's painful, and people will reject you and think you're crazy, you're on the right track.  You're giving everything you have to love your children and I'm proud of you.

It was like God was saying:

Not only am I going to affirm where you're headed, do not fear.  I'm even going to PROVIDE for you along the journey.  You won't go hungry.  Trust in me.  I'll feed you along the way, and I'll send the most unlikely people to do it.  

I know it's a little weird to compare this guy in the Chick Fil A line to Christ himself, but out of love, this guy rushed to the front of the busy line to pay my debt.

And in that moment, my faith was increased.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

maybe we need another reformation....

Today isn't your typical Sunday morning.

It's big. 

This Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of the protestant Reformation when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  Maybe that's not a big deal to you, but without it, our lives and arguably our entire society wouldn't be the same without it.

So that means churches everywhere across the globe (especially those in my reformed Presbyterian tradition) will be celebrating it together today.

(So, of course- Murphy's law-- my son comes down sick in the middle of the night, which means I can't go to church.  But while pouring him a warm bath, I got to thinking, and started jotting down a few thoughts.)

It's easy as a Protestant to look back on history and see who was on the right side of it, you know?

Yeah! The Reformation.
Yeah!  Martin Luther.

The church had become terribly corrupt and self-serving.  Its doctrine was out of line with the Scripture.   It oppressed people monetarily by demanding payment for the promise of eternal life.

That all sounds crazy to our modern ears, right?  Of COURSE things needed to change.

The church itself needed to be challenged, held accountable, and cleansed of its corruption at the time.

And thanks to the courage of our buddy Martin Luther to get it started, it eventually was.

But today I'm thinking more deeply about the terribly difficult road it took for Martin Luther and the Reformers.  Change didn't come overnight, and it didn't come without a great deal of suffering for all of those involved in the movement of resistance.  After demonstrating his own form of peaceful, nonviolent protest, Martin Luther's life was characterized by constant pressure to defend this movement called the Reformation politically and theologically against the dominant, all powerful Catholic church.

 I'm sure that was one stressed-out guy, y'all.

It's important to note that Luther's intentions were never to split from, but to "reform" what already existed if that was possible. He certainly wasn't playing by the rules, but he wasn't abandoning the system, either.

But like most any dominant institution or company, a few revolutionaries weren't going to change anything.  It wasn't until some of the cries of the Reformation like Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola deo Gloria, Sola Christus, and Sola Scriptura (Latin phrases meaning Grace Alone, Faith Alone, For God's Glory Alone, Christ Alone, and Scripture Alone) took hold of people's hearts and began to spread uncontrollably like wildfire that it was clear there would be no stopping this thing.

I wonder what it must have been like for Luther to stand alone in protest against a centuries-old establishment that he himself loved and belonged within.  To brave the wilderness, as Brene Brown would say.  Luther was risking his very life when he stood alone.

As people slowly caught on to Luther's seemingly "revolutionary" ideas of getting back to the heart of the Christian faith, I wonder how increasingly threatened those in power must have felt.  He was excommunicated from the church, called before emperors and asked to recant his beliefs.  But thanks be to GOD Luther remained defiant for the good and godly beliefs in which he was fighting.

And we're all better for it today, amen?

But here's what I'm thinking.  Just as the church had become misguided and corrupt by its own desire for power back then, we see it happening in our country today.  Maybe it isn't the doctrines of salvation that are being twisted as much as they were in the 1500's, but perhaps affirming and applying the doctrines of God's IMAGE and God's KINGDOM are being missed and more importantly dis-missed by a majority culture within our evangelical institutions.

The story of the Bible itself is a Savior who came as a poor, homeless man in order to 1) reconcile sinners to Himself AND 2) to reconcile two groups that hated one another (Jews and Gentiles) into the SAME FAMILY of God.  Though the racial and economic tension and reconciliation in the Gospel story is radically applicable to us today, our homogeneous churches are the fruits of generations who have focused on the first half of the Gospel without regard for the latter.

Maybe we need another reformation?

Maybe it's already happening.  Maybe that's what all this cultural mess we're feeling these days is about.

I sense the Spirit is in the business of waking some of His people up.

Do you sense the small wildfire burning within the hearts of those who yearn for true biblical, Gospel-centered justice?   Could it be that what's instinctively being labeled as a "liberal, political agenda" is really an attempt to dismiss the flames of reformation that are beginning to sweep our nation?

Do you sense division, even within the church?  It's okay.  The Reformation shows us that division and peaceful protest can ultimately be for the good of God's kingdom.  

Is the church engaging in healthy discussions on matters of race, poverty, and culture?  Understanding the doctrines of God's image and His kingdom demand that we pay attention to what's happening around us.   Is the church listening to the voices of the modern day Martin Luthers, or is it seeking to silence and excommunicate them?

Is the American evangelical church acknowledging, confessing, and repenting of it's own history that kept people of color from entering its doors just a few decades ago, creating the safe haven of the American black church, and does it humbly welcome them in today?   Does the church recognize its compliance of anti-Gospel practices and the long-term, continued lingering effects of hundreds of years of enslavement within our country?

Do churches have a genuine desire to ensure the diversity of God's image isn't just within the congregation, but also in leadership roles as well?   Or similar to the 1500's, is the long-standing institution of the church feeling politically and economically threatened and reacting in fear, desperate to maintain power?

What if (bear with me) the cries of this reformation are the words "Black Lives Matter?"  I'm sure the 5 Solas made those in the catholic church shudder back then, too.

In 500 more years, what will history show us about the American church's love for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized?

And whose side will you be on?

"God doesn't need your good works, but your neighbor does."  -Martin Luther

Friday, October 13, 2017

the slowness of recovery...

I just read over my last blog post.  Though there's likely a few more things accomplished on the River House, every word typed then still applies fully to this day.

It's hard, you guys.

Life isn't settling down into any sense of "normal" yet.  We wonder if and/or when it ever will. 

It's day to day.  We focus on what needs completing this day, and we're succeeding if we can do that.

There's layer upon layer to our current stage of suffering.  There's physical, material/financial, emotional, and relational suffering.  There are large looming questions of belonging and identity for us as a family.

Wounds are trying to scab and scar.  Many days, they still feel very fresh and raw.

And you know, it's all capsizing upon us as we're entering into what we're calling "new life."  Maybe we thought "new life" would be bliss.   

My therapist tells me this will get better.  But the chapter is so long, the path is so dark that it honestly feels like it might never change. 

(Sorry, this post does not contain much hope.  That's just where I am in the journey.)

I'm tired of reaching out, tired of asking for help.  This isn't resolving in 2 weeks.  There's no easy fix.  No one wants suffering, but we really don't want suffering (for ourselves or others) that lingers on and on.

I feel as though I can't even trust my brain right now.  One day I'm convinced of one thing, and the next, I'm convinced of the opposite.  My mom always told me we don't make big decisions when we're upset in the moment, so I'm learning to take one day at a time.  One step even. 

I don't have to have all things figured out.  I just have to focus on this day.

It's so timely that Brene Brown's new book is entitled, "Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging."  I'm reading it (well, listening to Brene read it to me) as if it were written directly to me. Where do I truly belong?  With whom do I truly belong?   (I'm thinking more broad spectrum along the lines of identity, culture, race, faith, politics, etc.)

Just as this home renovation is taking FOREVER, so does healing and recovery from "old life" to "new life." 

I'm looking for people who can walk down this crazy, windy journey with me.  People who are truly "safe" and can be trusted to love the unlovely parts of me.  People who are committed to me and my recovery.  People who want to understand and ask good questions.  People who are okay if I'm in process.

If I question.  If I cry.  If I say stupid things.  If I'm just a hot mess. 

And who understand it takes a long, long time.

God is most definitely at work through this suffering, but the process is slow and so painful. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

growth in neediness...


Hello, anybody there?

Oh hi there.  It's me again.  Yes, I'm really back!

Well, sort of.

I mean, it's been crazy.  Like really, really crazy.

Moving is really hard.
Moving into an unfinished home is even harder.
Moving into an unfinished home at the most stressful time of your husband's year is even harder than that.

Y'all, we've almost been drowned by the storm surge of life these past 2 months.  And it just continues to rain.

I know the sun will shine again on the other side of this, but right now we are caught in the flood and desperately trying to hold onto any life preserver in sight.

So, we've officially moved to the River House.   Pictures will come later.  I've only grabbed myself a few minutes and a laptop to write.

(And did I mention it's been really hard?)

The four of us are still, 2 months later, camped out in the basement of the River House.  The kids share the only bedroom, and Marc and I have a mattress on the floor of the small living area.  We have a functioning bathroom down here, and the kids have sortof learned to take showers.  (though they are dying to take a bath again one day.  God bless our neighbor who invited the kids over to get a real bath.)

Upstairs, on the main level of the house, our kitchen is now almost complete.  We have a dining room table.  We have a lovely new sectional couch and area rug in the Great Room.  It's going to be amazing.

We also have piles of tools and obstructed walkways with construction material and moving boxes/furniture that can't yet be stored until there's a room with a finished floor.

Compared to last month, we're getting there!

But compared to normal life, we aren't.

The top floor of the house (our bedrooms and bathrooms) is still deemed uninhabitable.  Though we've hired a tiling guy and plumber up there this week, it's a disaster.  I originally thought it'd be Christmas before we'd be able to move to the top floor.  Now I'm hoping by Halloween my kids can have their rooms and a bathtub again.

Y'all, there is really something to this idea of having a "settled" place.  Generally knowing where your things are.

But these days, everything presents itself as a challenge.  It feels like a triumph to get dressed beyond jeans and a t-shirt (my daily wardrobe for these past 2 months).  It feels like a triumph to cook a meal (which to be honest, I haven't much).  It's a true accomplishment to get my kids out the door to school without forgetting anything.  (And also an accomplishment not to trip over construction stuff as you're trying to get out of the door.)

Day after day, the constant, chronic stress wears on you.  Emotionally, physically, spiritually.  We've both found ourselves under medical care and in counseling to make it through this flood we're under.

Though I don't want to, I'm learning how to reach out for help in various forms of support.  And then reach out again.  And in my own humility, reach out again.

I'm learning what it feels like to be needy.  Like really, ongoing needy, where your problems don't go away in a couple weeks.

I'm feeling more in common with my neighbors who are impoverished materially.  Though they are abundantly rich in community, and I have experienced my own deficit in relationships through this.

I'm learning how serious stress is.  Upon our bodies and our minds.  How important it is to manage and reduce it, if that's even possible.

I'm learning that money is important, but saving it isn't worth losing your sanity.  Cue the therapist bills, medical bills, and contractor bills.

I'm seeing how resilient kids are.  How they can roll and adapt to new situations with relative ease, as long as they're feeling nourished and nurtured.

I'm learning how I'm simultaneously tougher and weaker than I thought I was.

I'm seeing our own limitations.  And the beginnings of aging bodies that can't handle what they could in our 20's and 30's.

Moving here, stepping down from my job as worship director, sending Caroline to public school, were to be the beginning steps of "new life" for us.  (a separate post on Caroline's great start in her 1st public school experience to come...)

Transitioning into this "new life" has been somewhat tumultuous, but we have hope that brighter days are yet to come.