letters to you :: the moon and the waves carried me to you

The weight of you felt heavy that day, I remember it well. 

It was a full moon — one of the Super ones that lit the sky into a brilliant shade of luminescence. The energy pulled me close and I paced down the halls at work. Anticipation pulsed in my veins and I struggled with how to go about my day when all I wanted was to some how find my way to you.

You're coming soon, I whispered. I just knew. 

I sat outside that night and ate my dinner, staring at the moon and creating mantras for only you and me. Something about papa and I being ready and how you didn't have to wait anymore — we'd be here on the other side to catch you.

I kept staring at the moon, convinced that if I looked hard enough, and waited long enough, you would appear beside me. I had a lot of those moments when I waited for you. Moments where the love for you was so strong I felt like I could pluck you out of thin air. These were the days where the words would stumble over themselves trying to get out of mama's head and onto the piece of paper in front of her. Ricocheting off of each other, hollering at me to get this down — get it all — write it before we leave forever. 

I tried to write that night but couldn't. Staring at the moon I could feel the words batter my ribcage. They were pushing up and out faster than I'd ever experienced and I ran up the stairs trying to catch them. 

When I sat down at my desk at work and pulled out my notebook, nothing happened. The words were just there and now they were gone. I could still feel you, I just couldn't articulate it. How do you explain that sort of magic? I managed two lines before my hand threatened to cross them out completely. I don't remember the lines, but I remember it had something to do with the ocean's waves, carrying me to you. Even writing those lines felt entitled. How can I be feeling this? I wrote  something about how difficult it is for me to accept gifts and then sighed, clicking the pen shut.  

I got up out of my seat. 
I stretched. 
I paced the hallway again. 
I came back to the paper. 

I knew the words were there — I knew there was a message for you, from you, with you — I couldn't tell I just knew you were so close I could feel you. Right there. Breathing. Every time I focused on the feeling it felt heavier in my bones. 

And then, the words —

They say the moon
carries energy. 
I feel it as I go about my day. 
She becomes a living, breathing thing. 
"Listen," she says. 
People stop and watch her rise iridescent, 
Her light pushing away the blue black
of night
I feel you in her gaze, silent and aware
You're waiting - I know this
like I know my own skin. 
You can come now. 
We're ready. 
The moon is pulling you
out-out-out- 
do you feel it?
Do you hear my heart skip a beat?
Do you feel my tears on your cheeks?
I'm watching the same sky
feeling the same moon call me out,
her energy pushing me toward our
beginning.

I sat back when I finished writing and tried to catch my breath. These words came from a deeper well than I originally anticipated and I had to swallow back more than a few tears. I was so anxious to see you and hold you and kiss you and know you. I wanted it to be now. I wanted to trace the line from your eyes to your nose to your mouth, wanted to whisper in your ear, "mama's here. You're safe. You're home. You're so very loved." 

Two days later, with the light of the full moon still burning up the night sky, your papa and I made our way to you. It was time. I stared at the road shining with moonbeams and wiped the tears from my cheeks. Soon, the ocean would catch those tears. Soon, I would write other words about waiting and the strength of your Mama Rad. But driving down those country roads through Texas and Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and the Carolinas I knew then what I knew a few nights before: the moon and the waves were carrying me to you and little lion, my wait was almost over. I couldn't wait to hold you close. 

Posted on February 27, 2017 and filed under Letters, Mom-Heart.

What's in a Word?

It started with a word.

I was sitting at a stoplight, praying about my word for 2016. It was October. I remember leaning against my window and the chill on the glass surprising me.

I have words for every year. Normally, by this time, I know my word. I kept wondering why I hadn't gotten a word yet. I wondered if I missed it somewhere. I wondered if I would even have one. It wasn't like I was resisting a word, but for the past five years, my words have been anything but kind. While I was curious why I hadn't received one, I wasn't actively pursuing it.

I was hesitant. But that day, something had me thinking about it. 

So I'm sitting there, praying about my word, and I whisper under my breath —

I think it might be rooted.

There was something about that word that called to me, something about grounding and breathing and remembering who I am in this flesh and bone. I thought it might be a hint. I looked out the window, contemplating, and the answer hit me square in the chest. It was the most audible I've ever experienced the Spirit's voice.

"Your word will be mother."

My breath hitched. My heart flinched. 

And then I started to weep.

I didn't share anything about my word. In fact, I wrote about the reasons why I wouldn't be telling anyone other than my closest friends and family. This was not meant for public consumption. This was going to be an internal shift — an intimate pull toward what caused me the most pain. I knew the truth: my words are never about the obvious. Not really. So even though there were implications beyond what I fully grasped in that moment, I focused where I could: the mother heart of God.

.::.

Next came the message.

It was less than a month after first hearing my word. I was in the middle of teaching when it popped up on my notifications. I paused for a moment, not really knowing the person who reached out to me. 

...for a few days now I've been resisting reaching out to you....she said. She consistently receives prophecies for other people, she told me, but rarely shares them. But for me, she kept hearing tell her, tell her, tell her. 

And so she did. 

This is the year your adoption will be resolved.

I started shaking when I read it. The tears came immediately, sparking a visceral reaction similar to when I sat in the car at the stoplight and heard mother whispered across my soul. I wiped my tears and responded as best I could, thankful she risked vulnerability to share. Regardless of the outcome, I knew I couldn't ignore the message.

Just like I knew I couldn't ignore the way mother was etching its way into my year.

.::.

Then there were the eagles.

I would see them flying outside the window at work — back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It was late spring by then, and I was a few months into living my word. I had a necklace with Mother Mary on it. I was leaning into the discomfort of what it means to love God Herself and how that influences me as a woman. 

I was trying not to think about the adoption.

The eagles though — they kept haunting me. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I would watch them and know without a doubt they were meant for me. But then they disappeared. For weeks, I saw them every day — and then suddenly it was as if they never existed. I missed the way they calmed me, how methodical they were in flight. How majestic and overwhelming they looked against the backdrop of crystal blue sky.

So on Mother's Day, I asked to see them again. 

Please? Just so I know You're still listening. Just so I know that this whole adoption thing isn't a joke...let this be Your message to me that You're working — that You see — that this process is moving. 

That afternoon, I saw them. Like specks of dust against a cobalt sky, they were just within my vision across the fields below our offices. I got greedy. 

That could have been a fluke, I prayed. Let me see them close. Let me know this is You. 

And then they were everywhere. Swooping past my window close enough to touch. Circling above me at a stoplight. Following me on a backend road on my way to my niece's birth in College Station. I never went more than a few days without seeing them, ever present, always circling back and forth, back and forth, back and forth above me.

They were my guardians, seeing what I could not.

.::.

In July, Russ and I were driving back from my mom and dad's. I'd seen eagles there, too. When I told my mom about them, she looked at me and smiled. 

"They perch on my fence all the time. They sit there, watching."

Something vibrated in my core, spreading to my throat and down my arms. 

Soon. 

On the way home, I looked at Russ. 

"It's happening soon, love." I whispered. Tears were already running down my cheeks — it's what happens when Truth comes up and out and I can't hold it in anymore. He didn't say anything, and I wasn't expecting him to — both of our hearts knew what happens with hope deferred.

I wouldn't say anything either. 

.::.

About a month ago, a friend sent me a message with a picture of her holding a starfish. 

"I saw this and thought of you," she said. "I threw it back into the ocean. What does it spark in you?" 

Immediately, I thought of a time I threw something back into the ocean. It was a shell. On it, I'd written a dream. 

I want to be a mother. 

That was three years ago, though — it couldn't have anything to do with this...could it?

"I keep getting the word return," she added. 

I told her about my throwing seashells back into the waves and she responded immediately. 

"Oh love. Love. Return to the dream. You have to return to the dream." 

My heart broke open then because I realized I was already there — at some point, in some way, I'd found my way back to the mother root. I'd never been so scared of anything in my life. I knew the possibility of pain involved. I knew this was where vulnerability, for me, was born. The tears traced a path down my cheeks and I let them rest. I was too tired to even attempt to dry them off. I couldn't stop thinking about my word. It kept repeating internally, a syncopated rhythm of hope and fear and promise. I fell asleep early that night — my heart too tender to process the questions. 

How did I find myself in this place again? 
How will I ever recover if the answer is no?

A week after that, I knew. I wasn't even thinking about it when it happened. I was in the shower and stressed because we were running late. I had a mental list of everything I needed to do and then...

The truth came up and out and poured through every vein like an effervescent light. I stopped for a moment and stared at the drain, focusing on something solid. My hand reached for the tile next to me and I took a few deep breaths.

So this is what it's like, I thought.

I didn't know how I knew, but I knew. 

Our call was coming.

.::.

The call came four days later. When I saw it was our agency calling, my heart stopped.

I was right. 

I picked up the phone to answer it and then placed it back down on the desk. I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready for the absolute high and anticipation I was experiencing to plummet so succinctly. That up and down had happened so many times it was a ritual. Expected. I decided to wait until our caseworker left a message, because then at least I knew whether or not I would be calling her back. Once I got that notification I stepped away from my desk and out into the hallway. 

"I want to talk to you about a birth mom," she said. 

There it is. 

The crash.

I rolled my eyes and hit the call back button, the frustration building with every ring. We'd talked about this before....they knew we didn't want a placement. They knew we wanted a hospital call. They knew we weren't willing to take that risk.

I walked over to an area in front of the elevators and looked out the window at the people walking below me. Our case manager answered the phone and told me the situation. 

"We had a birth mom call us," she said. "and her due date is November 23." 

I paused. "Okay." I was already prepping myself for how I would tell her we weren't interested. I was ready for the you're her second choice or we've shown her your book so be ready for a match....

"She asked for you guys specifically, Elora. She said she didn't need us to find a family because she already knew who she wanted to choose." 

I wish I could explain what happened then. I wish there were words to articulate the feeling that washed through me as I listened to her tell me the story. I kept shaking my head. This didn't make sense. I pressed my hands against the window, my fingers turning white with the pressure. I needed resistance, something to offer support. I was desperate for something to help me stay present in that moment. 

Remember the people walking across campus. 
Remember the way the clouds are building to your right. 
Remember the way your hands are shaking. The way your chest feels heavy and light. 
Remember how it feels to have the tears of six years of waiting pressed up against your throat.

The window of my expectations shattered. 

I thought about timing. 
I thought about sitting at a stoplight and hearing your word is mother. 
I thought about messages and gifts and words spoken.

I knew then, just as sure as I knew anything else: it was time. This was it. 

Our little lion man was coming home.

I was a mother.

Posted on September 16, 2016 .

Hail, Mary

I was shopping for clothes when it happened.

I grabbed my phone and checked my email out of habit.  In the middle of the mundane was an email so unobtrusive I almost missed it. 

Hi, Elora. We had a hospital birth. We're showing your profile. 

I remember shoving the phone in my pocket. I didn't even react until I got outside and was able to call my best friend. I couldn't handle all of the emotions at once and told her, "so this happened. I don't know how I feel. I think I feel nothing. But ask me again in about 30 minutes because I may be losing my shit." 

That was a year ago. 

And I did lose my shit. I knew it would happen because it always does. These are the moments where if I could, I would pluck my answer out of the ether. And there are times where it feels as if the energy around me is so electric that if I try hard enough, I can make it happen. Obviously, this hasn't happened yet. But it's a strange feeling to experience and leaves you feeling lit from the inside with a flame that can't be quenched.

I didn't sleep for days. Instead, I paced the apartment. I got paint on my fingers. I tore up books and taped the pages on our bedroom wall. I etched prayers into canvases and covered them with acrylic and tears. 

It took a week for us to find out that the mom would be keeping her baby, but the effects of the week lingered long after the news. This doesn't surprise me. When you've gone so long forgetting / denying you're even part of the process, the surprise of hope can sink into your molecular structure and change you when you're not looking.

.::.

I've been thinking of those days lately. Maybe it's because we're approaching another hard season. This one is ripe with anniversaries. 

Anniversary of our placement. 
Mother's Day.
Anniversary of the birth. 
Anniversary of the birth mom keeping him. 
Father's Day. 

Every year, from about mid-March until about July, I remind myself to breathe. 

Eventually, the breathing gets easier. The spontaneous weight of grief also seems to grow easier to bear.

.::.

Yesterday, I woke up at 3am. One of our dogs decided he needed to drink enough for two camels, and whether it was the pull of the new moon or an internal shift or the amount of naps I had while sick last week, I never went back to sleep.

In the midst of my tossing and turning, I remembered a name that popped into my head the night before. Rather than counting sheep, I took to rolling the name around my tongue to see how it felt. It only seemed to make me more alert. Eventually I got up and walked around our apartment, whispering prayers and giving in to yoga. 

Help me find the story, I prayed while saluting the sun. 

Later in the day I texted Russ.

"What do you think about this name?" 

"I like it," he replied. "Do you have a feeling?" 

I almost started crying right there at my desk. How does one answer a question like that? And how did I find myself with someone who understands the cemented way these feelings wrap around me like certainty?

"Not really," I said. "I just can't stop thinking about the name so I thought I'd get your thoughts."

Today though...today I have a feeling.

.::.

We were listening to a guy tell a story about a wedding when she leaned over and handed me a necklace.

"It's Mary," she whispered. "From the Vatican." 

I held the chain in my hand and ran my fingers over the raised medal. 

"For me?" I mouthed.

She smiled. "Yes." 

I put it on immediately and felt the way Mary pressed up against my skin, a constant reminder of her presence.

I thought to myself as I turned my attention back to the concert, did you know He was coming? Before they told you — did you know? 

.::.

There are a lot of things I don't know. 

I think in some ways, I thought this would get easier as I got older. 

Figure out a life plan...check.
Buy a house...check.
Reach relationship goals...check. 

I'm finding out it's pretty much the exact opposite. None of these things are a given, and they definitely aren't easily understood. The only thing I really ever know for sure is the feeling I get when something is happening with the adoption. It's like the gift of intuition times a million with the added bonus of fireworks and goosebumps because it has to do with your future child. And I wish I could explain to you the way it feels to have your heart suddenly shift in focus and kneel down, ears to the ground, because the vibration of promise is moving closer and closer. It feels like a metal rod poking your gut. It feels like you can't help but twist and kneel on the ground yourself. It feels like a pressure building in your throat. It feels like I need to go quiet and get still. It feels like I need to get out in the wild and scream and run through the fields. 

It feels like hope and fear and anticipation and grief and love and sorrow and joy and peace and it's all wrapped up in an excruciatingly confusing skin that doesn't know how to handle the restlessness inside.

.::.

Tonight I texted the one who gave me Mama Mary to wear around my neck. 

"My intuition is going a little haywire re: adoption. Will you pray with me?" 

She responded almost immediately that she would, and "is he coming for Easter?!"

I told her I didn't know. And then I tried to explain how I felt, because i knew she would understand, and I told her all I knew was that I kept finding myself touching the indention of Mary on my necklace. 

Hail Mary, full of grace....

She responded. 

The Lord is with thee. 

And then I started to cry. 

Posted on March 8, 2016 and filed under The Process, Mom-Heart.

letters to you :: they call you by name

She asked if I was missing you. 

Maybe asked isn't the right word. Knowing this friend, it was probably more of a statement of understanding. Hand on my back, deep breath in and out.

"You're missing Jubal right now, aren't you?" 

I cried, then. Clunky tears that fell to the ground and left a puddle on the wood. I do not hide the missing, but I've lived with the weight of you in my bones for so long that sometimes I forget there's actually a hole. You are my phantom limb and this time of year is when I feel that ache the most. 

The other day I walked outside and saw that Papa placed a BABY ON BOARD sticker on the back window of our car. I froze. 

"When you told me you got this sticker I didn't realize you were going to place it on Rex Manning now.

He peeked his head up over the roof and shrugged. 

"What? I'm future-casting." 

I laughed then, swallowing the lump in my throat, and opened the car door, pushing away the thoughts of how I would respond to the questions from those who do not call you by name.

Those are the questions where it's easiest to shrug and look away. It's best not to hit them with the full weight. Those are the moments I bite my tongue and look at the sky and raise my Hustetler eyebrow because 've waited long enough, don't you think? 

But then there are those who do call you by name. They remember when the weight of it all begins to chafe. This is what's hard to explain — the need of me letting go of this particular burden. The ones who call you by name? They are the keepers of the flame. They see the hope flicker within and they refuse to let it die. 

They've wiped the tears. They've shaken their fists. They've giggled with anticipation. 

They're in this until the end.

"I prayed for Jubal the other day." 

I stare at the text message and read it over and over and over again, letting your name fall on my lips, the softest tickle of a whisper. 

Jubal Vox. The voice of a trumpet.

I close my eyes and voice the prayer that's been stuck in my gut for weeks. 

Jubal. We're ready. Come home. 

Posted on October 20, 2015 and filed under Letters.

reality is a mangled hope.

I'm sitting here in my office, staring at the clouds in the sky out the bay window, and thinking about Easter and Good Friday and the death and life of Holy Week. 

But not really. Because in every breath, in every movement, there's a thread of maybe in my bones that I haven't felt in years and I don't know how to act — how to believe in the midst of this week. It's hard to believe when there was a time everything you knew for sure collapsed underneath you.  

In the past month, Russ and I have had more movement in our adoption than we've had in the past two years. We still haven't heard anything. This isn't an announcement. There's still nothing official and come later today or next week I may be wanting to erase this post from existence. 

But right now, my reality is a mangled hope attempting to find its breath again.

I told one of my best friends the other week that there's a barbaric cynicism preventing me from truly hoping — from letting myself go there — probably because I know the pain a broken heart brings, however expected, and I try to avoid that thank you very much. 

And yet, with a single email, our lives can shift into an anticipatory wait rather than purposefully ignoring the changing table stuffed in our closet. 

This is what happened on Saturday. I was shopping, my mind on anything but this, when my inbox startled me with words like birth mom and hospital call and showing your profile. 

I had no idea how to handle the information. I laughed, actually. Laughed and blinked and hit the home button of my phone, dropping it into the pocket of my shorts. 

Out of sight, out of mind. 

But not out of mind. Not really. Not in the least. Almost instantaneously these thoughts and emotions and feelings came swirling up my chest, greeting me in the throat. 

Pain. Hope. Grief. Excitement. Frustration. Anger. Beauty. Love. Fear. Doubt. Cynicism. Belief.

This is normal. Talk to me about our adoption on any day of the week and I'll be detached and formal. It's easier that way. Just give you the facts, shrug when I get to a difficult moment because that's easier than crying, and swallow the emotions. 

Talk to me about our adoption in the midst of a maybe and you'll find an emotional Elora who doesn't know how to handle the situation because how do you? How do you hold space for the grief of a family separated and the hope of one brought together? How do you believe on the behalf of your heart, barely beating with the rhythm of motherhood, at the same time you're bowing your head on behalf of people you've never even met?

And I mean, let's be completely honest. How do you hold the weight of a decision when it's not you? How do you hold the anger and the frustration and the grief and ALL OF THE QUESTIONS because what's the purpose of going through this time and time and time and time again when every single one of them is a no?

It makes you exhausted. It makes you question. It makes you cynical. 

Until the next maybe — the next email — when all of the sudden every single emotion reminding you of your hope and desire reappear against your greatest attempt at stuffing them away for safe keeping. And just like that, every breath points back to this child you don't even know and yet miss with every waking moment. Just like that, you're looking around your apartment and wondering where you would put the crib and how you could,rearrange your space for the little bundle taking up residence in a swing or changing table or blanket on the floor in the now-open-space where the dogs used to wrestle. 

And you're doing every single one of these with the hesitancy of a wounded heart.

Because it's one thing to live a maybe by yourself, in the privacy of your mind and soul, and it's something entirely different allowing others to see your vulnerability. Please just let this be it becomes your prayer not only because of you and your tired waiting arms, but also because you really don't want to share the thousandth no with everyone who waits and inhales and holds their breath along with you. 

Posted on April 3, 2015 and filed under Mom-Heart, The Process.

When Hope is Too Heavy a Burden

Only a few people knew. 

Last year, it was all about asking. Every where I turned, my spirit kept whispering Just ask. Just ask. How will you know unless you ask? 

And at first, I took to my art journal. I wanted to believe — wanted to hope that 2013 would end with that expectant hope being realized in our own life, but it felt like a precarious balance. 

A balance I was willing to endure in silence. 

My art journal has always been the place where my thoughts first see the light of day. And last December? It was full of hope. Expectancy. Shaky-yet-blissful belief.

After a few weeks, the burning inside grew wings and I couldn't not talk about it. 

I posted on a Facebook page.

"I can't really explain it, y'all. It's just a feeling. I think — I think we're close. I think we're going to be placed by Christmas."

There were mentions of prayers and solidarity. A friend had a dream of Russ and I sitting in front of a Christmas tree holding a baby boy. The dates December 17 and December 20 settled in my bones. 

And then there was the Sunday where I couldn't stop myself from asking for prayer at church. "Pray our baby home?" I said in between tears. "It's just been so long..." my voice cracked and I backed away from the mic, rushing back to my seat and gripping my husband's arm with one hand and my best friend with the other. 

I felt maternal. It's the only description I can think to use. With a ferocity I never knew, I was so certain I could pray our baby home into my arms. 

Every morning, I woke up expectant. I'd watch the time flicker and move to past-the-point-of-updates from our agency and attempted to resist the doubt. 

I knew what I felt, right? 
2013 wouldn't end with us still waiting, would it?

December 17 came, and it turns out my intuition was keyed in on something. I got an email. 

"Hey. I saw this and wasn't going to send it to you because reasons, but now I can't stop thinking about it so maybe?" 

There was a little boy waiting for a family in a hospital in a different state. He'd been born earlier that day. I called the agency, told them our story, and managed to get the cell phone number of the social worker. 

It only took five minutes to know something wasn't adding up. We'd have to pay another 20k to adopt this baby. The money would be due at the time of placement, which would be December 20. 

I blinked against the synchronicity and fought the tears as I hung up the phone. 

"You weren't wrong," my spiritual director would tell me later. "There was a baby boy." 

"...just not ours." I would reply.

Eventually, my hope faded and with it, my belief. 

I stopped waiting.

No one knows about the texts we got about various maybes. The little girl who's mom didn't want her anymore. The family who chose us but then decided to stay within their ethnicity. The almosts that filled our experience these past four years grew increasingly more difficult. 

When we moved into our new apartment, I wouldn't let Russ bring the crib up from the garage. The changing table rests in our closet, unused and stuffed to the brim with baby clothes. We've given away almost every package of diapers we had stashed. Our friends are using the baby swing that collected dust for over a year. Part of me just wants to give it all away. 

.::.

A few weeks ago, right before a Story 101 call, I got a notification on Facebook. A friend, the kind who storms the gates on my behalf, posted a request. 

I want heaven and earth moved for them. I want a baby in their arms by Christmas. 

My breath caught and the tears came immediately. The parallels between the last year and this year were not lost on me. But yet, so much was different. Namely, my belief. I'd grown comfortable not thinking about our continued wait. I set my roots down in the land of We Don't Have Kids and without even knowing, left my bags behind in the land of Motherhood. Leaving those bags behind meant not having to deal with the ticking clock. It meant not facing this growing grief inside.

I didn't want to hope. 

I heard someone say the other day that cynicism is just a lazy form of grief. And isn't this true? Don't we all run from the heartache and into the waiting arms of Disbelief? We're safer that way. 

These past few days, grief has chased me. My word for 2014 was soft. In so many ways, I thought this word endearing. What an incredible word to hold while I walk my first year of motherhood. 

Now, 11 months behind me and still empty armed, I know this is the last area waiting to be softened. The year has bludgeoned me in all sorts of ways, demanding my rootedness and ownership of who I am in the deepest places. Yet, this place — motherhood — remains hard. Bedrock. I'm not sure when the concrete poured into the crevices of hope. Whenever it happened, it was slow and methodical, reaching some of my deepest beliefs.

But it can't stay that way. I know it can't. I've come too far and gained too much freedom in order to remain hardened in one of my most vulnerable places. So I welcome the Softening, shaky limbed and weepy eyed. 

This morning, I started art journaling again. I woke with a brick in my gut, a sign that my intuition is pointing to something in the distance, and I'm wanting to run away. 

Acknowledging the grief of our wait is excruciating, but holding the expectant hope that lands in your bones without warning is downright torture. 

Last season, I asked others to believe with us.
This season, I'm asking for you to believe FOR us. 

I don't know if we'll be placed by Christmas. There are a lot of things that would need to happen. I don't know when the day will come when we finally get the call we've been waiting to hear for over four years. 

But what I do know is that we can't hold this hope anymore. 

Our shaky limbs can't carry any more weight.

Posted on December 3, 2014 and filed under Mom-Heart, Faith.

missing limbs.

I first celebrated Mother's Day four years ago.

Russ and I woke up to a crisp May morning and he whispered in my ear, Happy Mother's Day. I smiled and scooted closer into his arms and rolled my eyes because we'd been in the process of adoption for less than six months. Mothers Day? I don't get to celebrate Mothers Day, do I?

We didn't even have any paperwork in outside of our acceptance into the Ethiopian program, but it was a different feeling. 

We woke up slowly that morning, laughing at the way our surrogate son came barreling down the stairs and into my arms. 

"Happy Mother's Day, moms. I love you." 

I leaned into his embrace for a moment, cherishing the brief show of affection. 

"I love you too, Devonte." 

We went to a local bakery that morning, nestled in a dying shopping center. That's when we met chef, a French patisserie connoisseur who quickly became a favorite. We picked his brain about France. He made us surprise specialties and crepes.

That morning was magic—I still remember it as a day filled with laughter and sunshine.

.::.

The next year, we drove north to spend time with Russ' mother. The past year brought changes and huge shifts in our own adoption. We said no to Ethiopia. We said yes to domestic. And just two months prior, our home study had been approved. 

"Be ready." Our caseworker said. "This can happen at any moment." 

Our surrogate son wasn't living with us anymore. He still texted me though—happy mother's day, moms. I miss you. 

I smiled and showed Russ the text and turned back to the book I was reading. 

What I remember from that day? 

The butterflies. Every morning, I woke up with the expectation that this could be the day—that we could get the call. I knew with everything there was to know that the next year I would become a mother—a real one. One that everyone notices. 

.::.

Last year, I wake up on Mother's Day with empty arms but a full heart. I stretch, my eyes falling on the nursery waiting for our son, days? weeks? away from being born. The butterflies are even stronger now because we have a date. A name. Our hearts are carved with his initials. 

For the first time, I feel like a mother. 

I walk into the kitchen and my husband gathers me in his arms. 

"Happy Mother's Day" he whispers. Our roommates' son comes crashing into the counter with his wide eyes. 

"HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, E-LO! Baby J is almost here!" 

I laugh and wipe at my eyes, suddenly overcome. This past year has been a lesson in patience and disappointment. 

"I know. He is, isn't he." I catch a private smile from my husband. "It could be any day now...." I whisper.

.::.

The ads have been rampant for a few weeks now. I've been so busy—so focused—that it wasn't until Wednesday that I realized oh. Mother's Day. 

Well, shit.

Because it's one thing to resist something and watch it grow into a beautiful desire. It's another thing entirely to see this desire disappear—just vanish—right before your eyes.

I do not feel like a mother this year.

The mama-heart that was pulsing to life this time last year has all but ceased to beat. And well, I don't know what to do about it. 

Because how do you explain it? This grief? How can I suck the joy and the marrow of celebration out of a day meant for so much good? These babies—the two we've said yes to and then watched them disappear without even holding them—they weren't really ours to begin with...

...so how do you grieve that? How do you explain this phantom limb that shows itself during the oddest of moments?

I don't know. But it's messy, this life. And I can see my friends who mother well and I can celebrate them. I can. Because they deserve it—you deserve it. And most likely, the tears in my eyes will be out of gratefulness for how you show me motherhood as well as the emptiness of my own arms.

Because for me, it's turned into just another day on the calendar where my missing limb seems more pronounced.

Posted on May 5, 2014 and filed under Mom-Heart.

some honesty.

I'm not sure when the shift occurred. 

Maybe it was when night crested on Christmas day and we marked another year-we-never-thought-would-pass-without-a-child.

Or maybe it was when a side comment occurred reminding me of how many people started after we did and now have tiny feet and tiny fingers filling their view.

Or maybe it was when my year of risk folded into a year of soft and I realized—I'm just too tired. 

.::.

I've mentioned it before, how easy it is to simply forget you're in the middle of an adoption process. You go day-by-day and you're in this limbo of invisible pregnancy and no one knows. There's no internal shifting, no slight butterfly whispers of baby kicks. It's just you, just your spouse, just the empty closet-turned-nursery-turned closet again.

Over the past year and a half, I've avoided planning things. I've kept my calendar wide open—as much as possible—because of the what if of how our world can change. There was a slight reprieve in the spring, when we had a definitive date pointing us toward something. I'd even say this summer was included, because no way in hell did we expect anything to happen after having the unthinkable happen twice.

But slowly the thoughts came back—first in brief momentary glimpses and then full-on waves of emotion. It could be today. It could be today. What if it's today. 

And well, after a few months of that, you get exhausted. 

.::.

"Thank God we can't tell the future. We'd never get out of bed." - Tracy Letts, August: Osage County

If I knew what I know now—if I could see how long this would last or how much heartbreak it would cause, I'm not sure if I would do it all again. I say that knowing after it's all said and done, when the wait is over and the pain dulls, my thoughts will change.

But now? I just don't know.

And so I'm scheduling into June. I have a significant trip planned in April. I'm daydreaming about vacations Russ and I can take in the summer. I'm hiring an intern and working on expanding Story Sessions. I'm tossing out my yoga mat every morning and making routines and creating rituals.

I can't live in the world of maybe today anymore. 

The definite one day has turned to maybe in my heart. And I don't know what to think about that, but for now, I'm just holding the empty space. 

It's not my job to fill it with hope and expectation anymore.

Posted on January 11, 2014 and filed under Faith, The Process.

prayers of the people.

On Sunday, I stood up in front of a room full of people I didn't know and through tears, muttered our truth—"my husband and I have been in the domestic adoption process for almost four years, and this season God is teaching me that part of receiving is asking. So here I am, asking..." 

I stumbled through more words and prayers and please come home soons and then sat down next to Russ, his hand already reaching to wrap around my own. Every part of me was shaking. I didn't plan to stand up and speak. We've done well to remain somewhat in the background since June. But sometimes, you can't win against the overwhelming urgency of the Spirit within and when my limbs turn heavy and my gut shifts into falling feathers, I know. It's time to speak.

But I hesitated standing up for so long. Every time someone else stepped up to the mic, I would feel the nudge. Every time, I would push it away thinking it's just me or what if they get the wrong idea or  don't want anyone to think I'm trying to get attention. And every. single. time. I fought against those words, I would hear how will they know what I've done if you don't speak? 

So I spoke, believing something would shift on our behalf. 

.::.

We said no to a baby boy today. 

The same friend who sat next to me on Sunday and grabbed my other hand when I sat down after speaking emailed me a forwarded message from an out-of-state agency. 

Urgent Adoption Need it said and my heart fluttered in my chest a little when I read the subject. 

This friend didn't know I've thought about today all month. She didn't know that for whatever reason, the 17th stood out as a date I needed to pay attention. 17th and 20th. 17th and 20th. These days have circulated through my heart and soul for weeks.  So when I got the email on the 17th of December (after our own agency shut down for the day) and when I saw the due date set for the 20th, I paused. 

Immediately, I emailed the agency. 
I called my friend. 
I got the phone number and made a call. 
I spoke with nearly everyone who was still in the office. 
I'm pretty sure I was given the personal cell phone number of one of the case workers. 

And when I got a hold of her, my breath caught because could this be it? Could everything be pointing to tonight? 

We spoke for about ten minutes, long enough for me to know the baby still needed a family and this case worker believed us to be a good fit, when the bomb was dropped. 

"What's your budget for the adoption?" 

"I-I'm sorry? We-we don't have a budget." (small chuckle) "We paid off our adoption this time last year....we don't owe anything with the agency we're with right now...." 

"Well, you could probably just get a loan. You'd need to come up with 28,500 dollars before picking up the baby here in a few days." 

I could feel the room closing in around me and I recognized the feeling. I'd felt it before—many times—and I just closed my eyes against it because it wasn't it. It still wasn't right. After four years and countless leads and too many hopeful emails and phone calls to name, we were the ones walking away. 

We got off the phone a few minutes after that, but I already knew the answer. I already knew this baby was not meant for our arms. And it sucked. 

.::.

Sunday, when I stood in front of strangers, it was part of Prayers of the People—one of my favorite parts of liturgy. During these few moments, you gather around each other and help carry the load. Lord, have mercy echoes up and around you when you state a request. Thanks be to God cracks the silence after a praise. And even when you stand up shaking, like I was, the strength you receive from the whispers rising up with you emboldens you.

And after tonight, I'm even more certain of what He's teaching us.

This season, I'm learning that part of receiving is asking. And so here I am...asking. Would you join us in praying our child home? 

It's been long enough. It's time for jubilee.

Lord, have mercy. 

Posted on December 17, 2013 and filed under Faith, Jubilee.

legacy.

What do you do when everything you hold turns to ash?

I'm thinking about this question today, six months after our last post and more-than-ever-antsy out of my ever-loving mind.

A year ago, I spoke of provision. It didn't make sense. It pointed to hope and holiday cheer and possibly-maybe-oh-God-please placement before Christmas. But it was all supposition, quiet little statements and questions I wrote secretly within my art journal. Our adoption was suddenly and inexplicably paid off and so naturally my thought process turned to not how but when? 

Today, I'm stunned into silence again but mostly because of legacy.

I'm thinking of emails sent across the pond and money transferred and generosity displayed and not a thought crossing any of the minds that time is short and so thank you seems small.

I'm thinking of how someone is more than likely (he better be, do you hear me up there?) hugging our child before we even get to and how this makes me sad and crazy and at the same time I shake my head because of course. Of course he gets to meet our child first. 

I'm thinking of holding squishy arms and baby legs and whispering so close I can taste the baby-breath he helped bring you here. This one? Did you meet him? Do you know him? He helped bring you to my arms.

Because time is so short. And sometimes, thank you is so small. 

Posted on December 5, 2013 .

a piece of the puzzle

The envelope was unassuming when I pulled it out of the mailbox.

Thick with multiple sheets of paper stuffed deep, ambiguous and unfamiliar address taped on the top left, it very easily could have fallen in our slosh pile. But my eyes glanced over the address one more time, and I noticed the initials meant something to me. It’d been a while since I’d seen those letters clumped together.

What is our adoption agency sending us now? I wondered. I didn’t even wait until I got to the car. I tore a piece off the corner and raked my finger across the sticky tape.

“We received this in the mail recently. We thought you and Russ may want to read it.”

I turned the page and stopped cold.

It was a letter from the birth mom. 

.::.

A few weeks after she decided to keep her son, I sat talking with a friend.

“How are you feeling about everything? How are you feeling about her?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s still all surreal. I’m upset and hurt, but there’s no anger here.” I motioned toward my heart, “you know when the first birth mom went all crazy and the placement broke, I immediately deleted her number from my phone. I wanted no part in that crazy brokenness and confusion.” I clenched my hands and took a deep breath.

“But for some reason, I don’t think this is over. I’m going to hear from this mom again. I know it.”

“You haven’t deleted her number?” My friend asked, her eyebrows reaching up behind her bangs.

“I haven’t deleted her number.”

It grew silent then—me lost in my own thoughts, my friend at a loss for words.

.::.

The day before I pulled the letter out of the mailbox, I confessed to some friends that I can’t see us with kids. It’s as if the picture I saw with such clarity has been ripped from my grasp. It doesn’t make sense. “Maybe I’m numb, I don’t know. But it just doesn’t seem possible. At least not likely.”

This is what adoption’s like you know. At least the waiting part. You fall into a rhythm and if you aren’t careful, forget that you’re expecting. You fail to remember that at any moment, your whole universe can shift and fold in on itself only to bend out in a completely new shape.

This has happened to us four times.

Twice when we got the call that we’d been matched and twice when we got the call that the placement was broken and we weren’t getting a kid after all.

Now we’re just stuck in limbo. Disillusionment came in and made himself a home right where Belief use to sit.

Until we got the letter.

.::.

I finally had their kid…I thought to myself. Now I get to love on him. Sing to him. Write to him. I thought of him as theirs, until the morning when I started to doubt…at 4:15, I received a text from my mom. Keep him. If it’s diapers you’re worried about buying, I’ll buy them for the first six months. If it’s being a good mom you’re worried about, stop. You’ve always been an incredible mother.

You know those moments where clarity hits with such force you lose your breath and feel breathed into at the same moment? Reading these words provided the answers I’ve been wrestling for these past few months. “We may never know why…” has fallen off my lips more times than I can count. And here—right here—with words I could touch and speak and whisper and scream and laugh and cry, was the answer.

Isn’t that aways the way? Even the answers seem nebulous. Hard to reach. Confusing.

.::.

I sat in front of our apartment and read the letter out loud in stilted whispers. I wanted to feel the way these words fell from my mouth. I remembered the conversation with my friend about the connection with this woman—how I knew she would contact me—but I never imagined a letter. I read her words over and over and over and over, looking for one more piece—one more way to understand the emotions swirling inside.

I’ve learned that the toughest situations turn out to be pretty good stories.

She said this in the last paragraph, a way to tie up all of these messy pieces of her past year. The unexpected pregnancy, the fear of support, the unknown hanging over her head. She felt peace and acceptance with the adoption agency though, and with this couple who possessed a strong soul. And I wondered as I slowly made my way to the front door, fingering the letter against my arm, if that sentence didn’t hold a bit more of the answer.

Posted on September 9, 2013 .

when the silence comes

The day before it happened, I received an email with a good word from God. n it, the sender let me know he’d received a vision of me speaking to a group of people—slender, poised and smiling. It was clear I was on a mission, he said, and as soon as that vision appeared, this person heard God say He had plans to use me.

There was just one catch. I had to get rid of the unforgiveness in my heart.

Until then, I wasn’t really hearing His voice. Until then, I would believe Satan’s lies. I would minister out of my pain.

he next morning, Russ and I woke up to pictures of who we thought was our son. “Fat-full and happy,” the text read. We stayed in bed and giggled and touched the screen as if it were the next closest thing to actually caressing his face.

We spent the day putting together swings and strollers and finalizing things in the nursery. I packed the diaper bags and laid out his first nightie on the changing table. That night, we traveled to my parent’ so we could borrow their car on the trip to get him the next day. The closest phrase I can use to describe that day was deep-soul peace.

At least, until that evening.

he call came after Russ went outside with dad to find the carseat latches in the seats.  I looked at my mom and she clutched her hands together, sticking them in between her legs. Right before I answered, I looked at her and whispered this makes me nervous. She widened her eyes, echoing my anxiety, and bounced her feet against the carpet.

I toyed with the hem of my shirt as I listened to the voice on the other end.

“Elora, I’ve been thinking and praying and wondering all day and I just gotta…I just gotta say. I think I was scared.” The birth mom’s voice halted and skipped and my heart crashed along side the breaks. This wasn’t her calling to tell us just to come. This wasn’t good news. I knew that as soon as I heard her voice.

And then she paused and I heard her smile. “Please don’t hate me. Please. Please don’t hate me. But…I’m keeping him.”

I swallowed to keep from screaming. I placed my hand on my chest, as if pressing in would stop the pain, and my mom caught the shallow breathing and got up from her seat across the room and sat down next to me, grabbing my hand in hers.

“How can I hate you?” I asked, more for my own benefit then her, really. I heard the front door open and my dad and Russ burst through the hallway laughing. I’ll remember that moment forever. Two knowing, and two having no idea.

Things are a blur after that, but I remember staying on the phone for an excruciating amount of time as my mom got up and pulled my dad into the kitchen. She started crying. Russ leaned his hands against the counter and dropped his head. kept thinking, “how could I hate her? How do I respond to this? How does one make it through this type of news? And twice?”

I wanted nothing more than to shatter into a million pieces, each broken bit screaming my discontent. I wanted to thrash. I wanted to punch things. I wanted to curl into a ball and weep. I wanted so many things but knew nothing of what I needed.

Instead, I hung up the phone and stared at my feet, He gives good gifts He gives good gifts choing through my mind like some harsh joke. My mom came and sat next to me, pulling me into her embrace. I lost it. Holding on to Russ with my other hand, I let the tears fall, hoping some how, some way, they would wash away the past year.

When we got home, we threw the baby things in the closet-made-nursery-now-closet-again. Russ pulled me close to him as we went to bed and I thought of the last twelve hours. Of how we can wake up with the world beginning and fall asleep with it crashing around us.

I never fell asleep that night.

//

It’s been a month since the world fell out from beneath us. A week after our adoption fell through, Russ was passed over for a promotion he deserved at work. We just need one win, God.  wrote in my journal. Just one win. 

//

We went back to the beach this past week. There’s nothing more healing than for me to sit on the shores of Mama Ocean, and Russ knows this, so we pinched and pulled until we were able to manage a few nights in a small coastal town a few hours away. We went last summer and as we drove into town, it looked as if the year had been just as harsh to the surroundings as it had been on us. Broken down buildings. Closed up restaurants. Bent and collapsed piers.

All pressed up against the bay. Calm. Waiting. I stared out into the horizon, trying to find where the sky met the water. The lines were all a blur. I thought about our seventh year of marriage, how it was supposed to be the year of jubilee, how at the beginning it held such hope and promise and excitement and now all those lines were a blur in my past, pressed up against a whole lot of brokenness and disappointment.

But there had to be a beginning somewhere, right? At some point, one line ends and another takes its place?

//

It wasn’t until our last night there I felt the swift touch of the One who a little over a year ago asked will you just let Me father you? For the majority of the past month, I’d heard a lot of silence coming from His side of things. And I knew enough about Him to know that didn’t necessarily mean disapproval, but it still made me wonder. It still made me ache.

e were on a sunset cruise. The captain raced across the bay, the winds making the waves choppy and our muscles taut as we hung on to the railings. And then, he stopped. Just like that, we were wind-whipped and in awe of the silence. To our left was an island full of birds and to our right, the big red ball in the sky dipping low to kiss the shore.

was reminded then of the Silence. A month ago, I scratched in my journal how the hell is this athering? How am I supposed to hear You now? What the fuck, od? Am I supposed to get up after this? Am I supposed to trust you after this? I felt wind-whipped. I felt bruised and battered and broken. And I was so, so tired of holding on for dear life.

In those moments after the birth mom called me, I remembered the email I received the day before and wondered if this was what it meant. I wondered if it was true. I wondered if the second broken placement was a penance of some sort for the unforgiveness I held on to, for the ways I’ve placed boundaries around my heart, for the moments I’ve refused to talk with people for fear of manipulation. I whispered then, the tears falling fast and hot on the pages, “is this my fault?”

I felt Him then. It was a quick caress of the cheek. It was a turning of my head to find His gaze. It was those hands finding my own and gripping tight.

“I’m here and I hear. I’ve been here. I’ve been sitting beside you, weeping with you. This—everything you’ve experienced—it’s not you. And it’s not My heart for you. I know you don’t understand and that’s okay. I’m angry too. And I’m here. Even in the silence, I sit with you.”

nd as I watched the sun dip low this past week, I felt Him brush up beside me as my heart thudded to a halt. Birds sang and flew all around me. The water resonated with the pink-orange glow of the horizon. And there, straight ahead and right underneath the sunset, was the line separating the end of the bay and the beginning of the night sky.

It was almost as if I could see His smile.

//

I’m not enough of a theologian to put this past month into a perspective that’s clean enough to wrap these words into a clever point. But I know there’s something to believing lies and ministering out of pain and living with unforgiveness. I know now that no one really knows my heart—not really. No one has the ability to step in and speak into what I have or have not forgiven. And if I do speak, I still want it to be holy and broken. I want to find this pain and minster out of it because it’s through His own broken body we find our healing. I pray that in moments of human frailty, I’ll remember Who sits with us in the silence, when words fail and our hearts are breaking in a million pieces. I may not have all the answers. But I know He can take our weakness. I know He can hold our brokenness and our anger and the questions of “how could I hate her?” and “how the fuck am I supposed to get through this?”

Because the One who drew in the sand and caused the thud of grace to echo in fallen stones will somehow point us to the line in the horizon where we’re able to see the hint of a beginning.

And when our child comes home, whenever it happens, we can point back to these moments of confusion and pain and breathless anticipation and whisper, “see? It was always you. Always.”

Posted on July 5, 2013 .

when never comes twice.

Last time this happened, I saw it coming.

There was the hesitancy of the birth mom, the reminders from our case worker, the persistent nagging in my spirit. I lived in a heightened state of catastrophic expectation. Because I want this so bad, I thought, God will surely take it away from me. 

We were a little over a month away from the due date when the rug got swept from beneath us.

This time? I'm just in shock. There was no moment of clarity of ohmigosh I don't want this child or this isn't right or she may decide to keep him. I never questioned. I felt a peace similar to that of my wedding day: calm, collected, anxious, excited. 

We got home on Saturday night after hearing from the mother and we immediately stuffed every baby related thing into the closet-made nursery-made closet again. 

Russ pulled the swing and stroller from the living room. I pulled the bottles from the cupboard. And as I clutched the overalls hanging in the closet and the onesie I set aside for our first night home with him, I felt my heart break a little more.

I fought from sweeping everything off the dresser in one violent motion and really, the only reason I didn't was because I didn't want to pick any of it up once it fell. It was just too much emotion inside—too much anger and sorrow and confusion and bitterness. And the whole time, the whole evening, I kept thinking He gives good gifts. He gives good gifts. And well, that was just like the icing on the cake, really. The worst possible broken record playing through my mind. 

This? It's good? Well. I'd like to disagree, thankyouverymuch. 

I don't understand why this had to happen. Twice. I don't understand why in every way this was directly opposite from our first match in the fall and it still produced the same product: heartbreak. 

But I do know this:

We made it through those first moments when we thought we'd get a daughter, and we'll make it through these first moments when we thought we'd have a son. 

Right now, we're angry. We're hurt. We're frustrated that yet again we're back on the waiting list. And I'm praying-and-trying-to-believe-but-not-doing-a-very-good-job at hoping that this time, the wait won't be months. 

On Saturday, my dad told me that we just needed to worry about the very next step. Nothing more. So now, our next step is praying and believing in a miracle. Somehow, somewhere, it'll happen.

It's worth noting - we have been over.whelmed. with the outpouring of love from our friends and community. To those who've prayed, texted, emailed, dropped by, wept, cussed, interceded, questioned and loved on our behalf - thank you. Your words of life and willingness to sit with us in this grief has been balm to our souls. We love you.

Posted on June 3, 2013 .

waiting.

Hours. Days. Weeks.

Those are the words floating in my head right now. Will we hear in minutes even that our Little Lion Man has arrived? Will it be hours? Days? Weeks? We've neared that final stretch in waiting, and in so many ways it's so much more difficult to go about our normal business when we know—feel even—the shifting in and around us.

At night it's worse. I close my eyes and the butterflies crash against my chest and every small noise jolts me awake because was that my phone vibrating? 

Last night, I took to Tylenol PM and a shot of bourbon while watching Midnight in Paris with Russ. I'm not resting. I know I'm not. And it's because my heart and my mind and my soul just can't wait until this boy is in my arms. Yet, despite this best type of anxiousness, I'm simultaneously careening toward an event I have no idea how to handle. 

Me. A mother.

Us. Parents.

We've had a few people tell us to enjoy these last days. To soak in the moments where it's just us and no other obligations. And these words are spoken in love and care.

But they drive us bananas.

In August, Russ and I went for a long weekend getaway and during our second day, I looked at him resting on my chest and whispered, "this could be the last time it's just us."

He smiled. It was a slow smile—the one that makes my blood run electric—and he said, "I'm okay with that...I think it's time."

And it was time. Even then, ten months ago, we knew the love we had stored up in our bones was ready to blossom and share. Perhaps that's one of the things that makes expecting and trying and intentionally starting a family so beautiful: you know. You know in that deepest core it's time to share. 

So when we hear the oh just you waits and take this time, trust us and enjoy your last days of freedom! It does nothing but make us long for our son even more. We've waited three years for this to happen. THREE. YEARS. 

So I'm okay with saying I'm done with waiting. I'm okay with looking at those people and in my most gentle way of correction, shake my head and say, "thanks but no. We know how to enjoy each other and we both are ready for this next step and there's no way for you to understand the excruciating emotion I'm experiencing right now so I choose to not listen."

And then I turn around and close my eyes and whisper to no one and Every One and pray that somehow our son hears, "we're still waiting, little lion man. We can't wait to hold you in our arms."

Posted on May 25, 2013 .

a breath away

My calendar's gone empty.

Back in November, I bought this massive day-to-day calendar complete with dinners, dollars, goals and year plans - not to mention an entire section on branding. I've latched onto these pages like salve, trying to make my way into some type of coherent stay-at-home-ness where I actually accomplish something. For the most part, it's worked for me. I've finished a whole lot more than I ever anticipated.

Until recently. This week, in fact. 

Russ and I met little lion man's birth family this weekend. While sitting there in the middle of Gatti-Town outside of Houston, their daughter running back and forth and watching the arcade games and fingering her token card, it hit me kind of suddenly: this is really happening. 

And then the mom looked at us and told us that all of her pregnancies have ended early. How she birthed her oldest at 37 weeks and her youngest at 39 and as she's saying these things, the words are computing but my heart just keeps beating faster and faster because he's almost here. Our son. He's almost in our arms and we've waited almost three years to even say that out loud.

So this week, my calendar has remained empty. I've slowed down my check list and have tried to rest a little more than usual, even though that's almost laughable because of the anticipation building.

Every morning I wake up and the butterflies flutter to life, and it's a different type of question - a different way of looking at will it be today? 

Because our son is only a breath away, and this mama heart is pulsing to life in a brand new roar.

Posted on May 16, 2013 .

40 days.

Over 40 days ago, we received word that our little lion man was on his way. 

And in less than 40 days, we'll be holding him in our arms.

Before deciding to write this post, I knew that it was very possible to go another 40 days  without ever writing another word. Not because I don't have anything to say, because yeah. I have thoughts. And lots of them.

But I'm becoming more and more private with these thoughts and worries and dreams and fears. I'm processing, slowly, the shift Russ and I are about to experience.

And this mama-heart is bursting.

Because for the past three years, I've been counting down to a date that didn't exist. Now, I have a date. I have a name. I have an ultrasound I can stare at and pray over and dream about. 

And he's almost home. 

Posted on April 26, 2013 .

letters to you :: little lion man

little lion man,

sometimes, it doesn't seem real.

sometimes, in the rush of my day, i forget you're coming. i get sidetracked, you know? 

but there's always this filter running through my heart - a whisper of what's ahead of me - and if I stop long enough to listen, i hear it.

earlier this week your papa and i saw you for the first time. it was a grainy picture sent to us via email. as soon as i saw the picture i felt something shift inside. my heart beat faster. my throat got all tight. my eyes started leaking.

it was the first (of many) tears your mother cried over you. and i sniffed the tears back and giggled because there you were - right there - so close but not here. not yet. 

for a moment, i saw you. you're still so young in this picture - the size of a small vegetable - but with these big eyes staring right at us. it was like looking through some type of portal. a picture of life with you - grabbing for things, squealing with delight, looking at the world with wonder.

it's enough to make me wish away these next few months. but i wait. just like i have these past three years. and i marvel at the way you're capturing my heart not-yet-here but almost-and-so-close. 

- mama

Posted on March 31, 2013 and filed under Letters.

for when you know.

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Perhaps you remember the first time we filled you in on some news. Some friends of ours knew beforehand and gifted us with some amazing pictures, and we parked in an illegal parking lot in downtown Austin and snuck onto the property of a pretty exclusive hotel (they have gates, people) and held the little baby girl onesie and smiled and tried to hide our nerves because it was official. 

We were going to be parents.

And then in less than a week, I wrote another post because I needed to let you know: as official as this whole thing is, it could still not work out. Remember that? I think it's where I began to worry.

Or maybe it was when the birth mom looked at us and told us, "you know, I'm so excited about this pregnancy. I mean, I always wanted a daughter and I can just picture her nursery filled with Hello Kitty stuff..." and "have you considered the name ABCDE? I always loved that name..."

In any case, the strength to finish out those ten weeks seemed almost insurmountable most days. But in what seemed like a single breath, ten weeks made their way down to four, and before we even knew for sure that the birth mother was going to keep the baby girl, I knew deep in my bones.

I was standing at the sink when I felt it. I was talking with a friend and she off-handedly made a comment about us needing to do something before the baby came in November. The feeling sprang up from a place I didn't even know existed: I don't want this baby, I thought. And then I freaked because ohmigosh. This isn't the baby we're supposed to adopt. 

I brushed off the instinct as nerves - the due date was fast approaching and I knew enough of the emotions and hormones from my friends (pregnant and adoptive moms alike) to know how our bodies react in all sorts of ways before our lives are changed irrevocably.

So when we received the phone call letting us know we wouldn't be parents, the mourning I felt was real but expected. 

Which, if you've ever experienced anything similar, you know that's a perfect storm. 

These past few months have been incredible. I mean that. More than a few times, I find myself smiling because all this? The story-coaching, the eCourses, the book ideas, the ideas swirling - none of it would have happened.

We received another call on Wednesday.

I'll fill you in on the story later. What I want you to know now: there's something to be said of knowing. And in less than two months and 16 days, Russ and I will bring home our son.

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Posted on March 19, 2013 and filed under The Process, Jubilee.

the weight of emptiness.

I found the post in the midst of archives, one speaking of mother arms and what it meant to feel the weight of emptiness.

I found it and took note of the date - nearly eleven months ago - and I shook my head.

Because a year ago, when I wrote that post, I would have never believed you if you tried to tell me what the next few months would include.

Letting go of my position at work and publishing a book and {finally!} getting the phone call we were praying for - we were going to have a daughter - and then...

...and then nothing.

Silence.

Our placement fell through and the publishing agency closed its doors. And for someone who struggles to dream, I felt the earth give way.

I said the right things. I took risks and started a business and created an eCourse. But when anyone asked me how I was doing, the split second between the question and my smile said it all - 

- I stopped believing it would happen.

I did. I stopped believing there was someone out there waiting for parents like us and I stopped believing that the end result for this whole process would be a baby. It was as if emotionally, I couldn't take it anymore. So I served up a righteous helping of denial and made myself comfortable.

But thankfully, He doesn't ever let us forget His promises.

Reminders came in stumbling across posts I'd written about His faithfulness. Or a message from a friend letting me know she was thinking of me. Or holding another friend's baby boy and praying for him - for his story - for what God has for him and knowing deep in my gut that this would be me soon. 

Because waiting mama arms never lose the weight of emptiness.

----

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Posted on March 14, 2013 and filed under Mom-Heart.

the month, the week, the day, the second...

Every day around this time I feel my heart sinking. It's worse on Fridays.

It marks another day I won't be receiving a call. It marks another week we've heard no news.

And this mama-heart just keeps beating louder and louder.

Before Christmas, I had some trouble sleeping. I went through everything I posted this year and read every single word all over again. In so many ways, it was amazing to see just how much God moved on our behalf.

But in small way - in a way I can't think about too much because I feel my heart fold in on herself - it really, really hurt.

Last Christmas, I never imagined us still being without a child. In March, I felt as if we were being pulled along by something bigger than us - something we couldn't even control. Like we were on some kind of freight train headed straight to our child and there would be no stopping - no slowing down - until he or she was in our arms.

And then one day in April before I left for work, I felt this imperceptible nudge in my spirit. I remember when it happened. I remember standing up from the couch, feeling the nudge, and then letting my body fall against the cold leather again.

I sat there for a few seconds before breathing deep and whispering, "what is it, Father?"

Three beats of silence.

And then, and then...."today is the day. Are you ready?" My heart skipped a beat. I swallowed. I looked around. I shook my head because surely I didn't hear what I just thought I heard. Surely it was just my hormones/emotions/wishes/demands speaking for Him.

"Don't screw with me, God. Please. You know me. You know my heart. What do you mean today is the day." 

(I did say this, by the way. I pushed the heels of my hands against my eyes and I fought the tears and I begged Him to not screw with me. As if I'm a toy. A puppet on a string.)

I never got an answer (do we ever?) but I know I heard Him that morning. This flesh-and-blood heart fails me more often than not, but that morning my heart and soul worked together and I experienced something so profound I still haven't found words to describe it.

It was if my soul nodded and my heart pulled me up by her strings and turned me toward our future child.

And this was nine months ago. And I'm not sure what this means and I'd be lying if I haven't wondered but I also know more than anything I could ever fully express that this process has introduced me to an element of the mysterious.

So on days like today, when the clock is inching toward evening and every second is another second I'm without, I know Who is with me. And I know He hears me.

And I know somewhere, He's holding our baby in the palm of His hand, just waiting for that second the phone will ring.

On days like today, I take comfort in Him knowing the month, the week, the day, the second it all happens.

Even if my arms ache from emptiness.

Posted on January 4, 2013 and filed under Mom-Heart.