The One He Loves

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Growing up, my elementary best friend was our pastor’s daughter of a very large church. Everyone knew who she was and treated her special because of it. My best friend all throughout middle and high school had the best dad ever. He was a very prestigious and well known businessman in our area. He taught me what it meant to be respected by men, and he was the first inkling of what it could be like to be fully loved by a father. He taught me how to wash cars and that I should be treated like a princess. I’m so thankful for him.

But he wasn’t my dad. And if I’m honest, there were so many times I wished he was.  

A few months ago I had a dream that wrecked me to my core. It changed me forever. I’ll never be the same.  

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In the dream, I was at our church that we attend now. Everyone was scurrying around, you could hear the buzz among everyone, because Tim Tebow was there. I remember not being too impressed. 

I have this thing with famous people. They put their pants on just like I do every morning, they’re normal people just like me, so I don’t get too worked up about them. It’s not to say the anointing on their life shouldn’t be honored, it definitely should. But for those famous people that are Believers, it’s just that, an anointing from God. He’s the famous one. 

Back to the dream, I walked in church and was running late (shocker). The only seat that was available in the entire church was the one behind Tim Tebow to the left. I sat down in the seat ready for worship. 

And Tim Tebow turned around to me and started talking, doting on me, saying all of the nicest things. He was treating me so special. I started to cry because what he was saying was so kind, but I had seen this before.  

He thought I was our pastor’s daughter.  

It was a compliment. I love our pastor, and feel very much like he’s a spiritual father to me. 

“Wait, wait, I’m so sorry. I think you’ve misunderstood. I’m not the pastor’s daughter,” I said.  

“I know, but your Papa’s. Your Papa’s daughter.” he replied.

In the dream, I ran to the back of the church where I normally worship and laid down on my face, sobbing, completely undone.   

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I woke up from the dream crying. And every time I remember this dream, even as I’m writing this, my heart swells and my eyes fill up with tears. 

I remember Papa God whispering to my heart that favor follows me because I’m His. That I’m a big deal, because I’m His daughter.  

My best friend’s dad was great, but He doesn’t hold a candle to the Father I’ve found in God. That dream positioned my heart to not only receive from Him more fully but receive from others too. It marked me in a way that I’ll never be the same. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about John, the beloved. So many people poke fun at him, because he wrote those words about himself, “the one that Jesus loved.” But the more I think on it, the more I think we might could learn from him. 

John’s identity was fully established by being loved by God. The deeper I go into the heart of the Father, the more I’m learning that His love changes everything. And the greatest part of me, is that I belong to Him. 

I’m my Father’s daughter, the one that He loves.  

This dream I shared is yours too. You’re the one in the story with extra favor, that is spoken highly of, and doted on. Because if you are in Christ Jesus, you’re only identity, you’re true identity is established in the love of God. 

You’re the Father’s daughter, the one that He loves. 

When Infertility Still Stings

There were four yesterday. FOUR.

Sweet black and white pictures of little nuggets (that mostly look like aliens) fill my newsfeed.

And all these years later, it still hurts. Not nearly as bad, but it does.

I still get baby shower invitations in the mail, and it still stings as I hang them on my fridge. I rest my hand on an empty womb and I'm reminded, again, that my body was created to produce children. But unlike most every other woman in the world, mine doesn't.

I still ache. I still grieve. I still tell my husband when he asks me what's wrong. He still hugs me tight, and tells me how sorry he is. And I still run to Jesus, every single time. I still cry out to Him in the shower. I still run to Him in that pain.

And He's still there.

He still reminds me, 

for now

, that is not my story.

This is... and it's much better.

Almost two November's ago, we got "The Call."

Well, I got a text.

"We're getting a baby," my husband TEXTS me. WHO DOES THAT?!!!!

So I do what any

waiting mother

does, I run out of my classroom, and call him immediately. "Yeah. The case worker called me because she knew you were in school. You're going to be a mama! A birth mom chose us. It's a baby girl. She's due in January." I believe he was in shock. The rest I didn't hear. I heard a few sniffles on his end, and he heard loud sobs on mine. I was dancing around in the teacher's bathroom in the elementary school where I teach. Our math coach heard my hollering, she came in to hug and dance with me. Pretty soon, the teachers on my grade level started peeking their heads out into the hall to see the ruckus. My principal was there within seconds and wrapped me in a huge hug. I quickly texted our families to let them know before they found out from anyone else.

The rest of the day was a blur. Pink, bows, monograms, dresses, and dreaming of HER face filled the rest of my day and all of the days to come.

That was the day. That was my positive pregnancy test. I'll never forget it.

The days followed were filled with anxiety, excitement, and all of the emotions in between

. You can't possibly understand the extremes unless you've been there. Waiting. Yet again, but in a different way. This time in hopes that a baby just might call you mama.

We met the strongest woman I know

. We immediately connected and it felt as if we had always been family. She allowed me AND my husband the amazing privilege, to watch her child, our child, come into this world. I cut the cord binding them to one another, she was placed in my arms, and the weight of the miracle in that tiny baby's body crushed me.

The nurse asked who should wear the "mommy bracelet" and her birth mom looked at me and said, "Jessica is her mommy. She should wear the bracelet." In that second, she gave me permission to be Selah's mom.

After all of the waiting. After all of the negative pregnancy tests. After all of the gallons of tears I had cried over the years, longing to be a mama, in that second, every single tear and moment spent waiting, was worth it.

She's almost two now. That six pound, itty bitty baby, who made me a mama, is almost two.

And I can barely deal.

And the

story of how her little brother came home to us

, just makes me cry. His birth mom chose life for him. She made the brave choice. The hard choice. He is a miracle, and a little fighter. He has

overcome so much already

, and although our days are still hard, they are beautiful. He is our miracle.

I fell into the bed last night, dog tired. Like the kind of tired where you lay in the bed and your feet are still pulsing. I was rushing through the "before I go to bed list," remembered a few things I forgot to do, and then thought of the next day only a few hours away. I started feeling overwhelmed. Micah's Gotcha Day party is this weekend, he also gets dedicated on Sunday, and we have lots of therapy and doctor appointments to still make this week.

Selah wanted me to hold her from the moment I walked in the door yesterday. She would hold up her little hands and say, "Hold you, mommy. Hold you." So instead of washing the dishes that towered over the sink, or sweeping the cookies she threw in the floor, or making 24 calorie formula for my little guy, or priming his feeding tube, or packing my lunch for the next day, I picked up that little girl. I took her in the living room with that sweet baby boy, and I enjoyed those tiny hands wrapped around my neck.

I snuggled my nose in her neck and kissed her squishy cheeks over and over. I made baby noises and silly faces with her brother. We all laughed at one another. And I was there. Right in the moment with them.

When my feet were aching in the bed after a long day, and I started my "overwhelmed, you picked the wrong girl" speech with Jesus, His Spirit reminded me of MY story.

He reminded me of the hurt I felt when I saw those black and white pictures in my newsfeed. He reminded me of the sting I felt as I hung up that baby shower invitation on the fridge today. And He reminded me of how much better I know Him now because of all of those years of waiting, still with a barren womb.

He also reminded me of my story. The story He has written in my life. The story that is so much greater than me, but one that tells of His Kingdom. Not the story I expected, but better than anything I could have ever dreamed. He reminded me how tired I was because

I worked a full time job

that day, came home, and was a mama to TWO babies.

Infertility still stings. Some days worse than others. But I still run to Him, He is still there, and He still reminds me of the beauty He has made from my brokenness.

The story He has written, the way I know Him now, and the two brown babies sleeping upstairs, have made every.single.second, worth it.

So when infertility still stings, remember He's writing a story greater than you. A story that tells of Him and His Kingdom. Nestle up close to Him, and remember all He has done.

It's worth every.single.second.

*Photos by my friend,

Rachel Ackerman

.*

A Word to All The Mamas

Our bags were thrown on the counter, still packed from our hospital stay.

Brandon was frantically searching for the "therapy" paci. It's supposed to strengthen his suck, they say. I was

holding

wrestling my very sick seven week old, begging for him to just drink an ounce. I held him the way one of the thousand therapists showed us at the hospital when he decided to stop eating. But even with professional techniques, his nails dug into my skin, his back so arched he was basically standing on my leg, and his little, tiny frame desperately begging to be nourished.

He was exhausted from being poked and prodded on in the hospital. After all, learning to eat has been a long journey for him. I was running on fumes. Not just from the hour of sleep I got the night before, but from the seven weeks of mothering a sick baby... and an 18 month old. My husband rubbed my back, trying to be strong for me, but after the week we just endured, I knew he was just as scared. Just when I thought there were no tears left to cry, I felt a single hot tear drip down my face. And it turned into a waterfall of the emotions I had been holding in over the last few days.

Just like my baby's little body, my heart felt malnourished.

Dry. Bone, slap, dry.

And then I heard her words, "You are leaving a legacy. These babies, they will be Kingdom Warriors. I know you're tired, but you're doing it, mama. This legacy, this story, is so much bigger than you. Bigger than you can ever imagine. Keep doing it! Keep doing it, mama!"

And then I prayed for grace and patience, put that bottle back in his mouth, and got another ounce in him.

Adoption is hard sometimes. The waiting. Paperwork, pre-placement visits, post-placement visits, more paperwork, the money...

Bonding with a child that doesn't look like you, or share your DNA. It's hard if I'm being honest. The questions. All the questions. Explaining your life story to everyone. All the time. The pharmacist was the most recent inquirer. When all you want to do, for heaven's sake, is get the medicine that might work, this time. "Yes, I understand he does not have my last name. But he is mine. I promise, he is mine. No, I don't have his Social Security number. Try this last name, and see if he comes up. I understand, but this is all I have. I am his mother, and this is all I have." Hard. And frustrating.

Being a mama is hard sometimes. Honestly, lately I've found myself jealous of other mamas and their healthy kids. The posts on Facebook of their 3 week old sleeping through the night drinking 10 ounces of milk, breastmilk, that is. (Not really, but really.) And I'm over here, up every thirty minutes, walking up and down the hallway upstairs. Bouncing, twisting, singing, crying. Praying maybe the next feeding will be better.

My dear husband walked in the door the other day, and said, "Have you seen yourself today? You look a little frazzled." I ran to the bathroom and literally busted my gut laughing so hard. It felt good to laugh.

And PS I can't believe I actually posted this. But it's real. This is real life, people.

In the middle of the night when I walk down the stairs to get a bottle from the fridge, I see that

white couch

. And my heart literally aches. Almost grieves. In between screams, I go and lay there for a few seconds. Not saying a word, just

breathing

. Knowing that He is always with me and I can find My Place in Him, but wishing for the minutes where I could sit and pour out my soul to Him, there, in our place.

The last few weeks, I have offered up the most pathetic prayers. And I'm okay with that.

Sometimes, the best we can do is turn our hearts toward His.

 I'm not even sure most of them contained words, mostly groans, but I know they were heard.

Even though he hadn't eaten much that day, I still went. A night with my friends. We ate sushi and drank a good glass of wine. And a few hours away did my heart such good. I was feeling strong enough to pick up the babies and keep doing this mother thing. Right as we were leaving, I ran into the mother of one of my sister's high school friends.

She pulled me aside and before she opened her mouth, I knew the Spirit was about to speak to me. She went on to tell me that she woke up in the middle of the night the previous week and started fervently praying for me. Tears started streaming down my face, because the time when she was awake praying for me, I specifically remembered being awake walking him, praying for him, begging for his healing.

Her normally sweet, soft voice, had a tone of Authority. Although there were hundreds in that room, it felt like it was just her and me. I could almost feel the Spirit's hands cup my face. She said, "Listen to me. I feel that God has a word for you. He wants you to know that you are leaving a legacy. You are building a legacy. Changing diapers, walking and bouncing and twisting a sick baby, you are raising Kingdom Warriors. And this Story, that you find yourself in, is so much bigger than you. You can't even imagine how big. What you're doing matters, mama. I know you're tired. I know you're heart is exhausted, but what you're doing matters. It matters for the Kingdom."

As I was wiping tears from my face, she hugged me, told me she was praying for me, and walked away. Just like that. An obedient sister. She had no clue the taste of her words, to my parched heart.

So after quite the scare with our little man, and our hospital stay, I am more than happy to scream to you that HE IS EATING!!!!! And not just a few times, but EVERY (almost) FEEDING. Now it takes some serious effort, a completely silent room, a swaddle, a kung fu hold, and an unbelievable amount of patience. We are starting all kinds of therapy, and are so thankful to finally get some help and relief. I have seen more smiles in the last few days, and heard the sweet coos of a happy baby. AND, wait for it, he's sleeping through the night! Yall. Say it with me, "sleep!" I've never been more thankful for sleep in all of my life!

Last night as I was praising God for an empty bottle, I realized I can't be the only one who has ever felt this way. Whether your an adoptive mama, a bio mama, a waiting mama, a sleeping-baby-through the night mama, a breastfeeding mama, a formula feeding mama, a mama to one, or a mama to fifteen, there comes a time in every mama's life when it's all too much.

You feel like you will never sleep again. Ever. You walk around smelling spit up all day. It's almost like your bladder gets the memo and grows a little larger. You learn to nibble throughout the day, because there's no way you're eating at mealtime. Your sweet husband who normally tells you how beautiful you look, will sometimes ask if you've looked at yourself that day. You'll find stinky milk cups under the seat in the car, and if you have to put that kid in time out one more time for that same thing...

You long for the days when you can sit with Him. And then you realize, when you can't seem to get to Him, He always finds a way to get to you. It might be through a text from a friend, the prettiest cloud, a little bird's song, or honestly, the fact that there were no clothes in the dryer and you could simply move the wet ones over. I love when that happens.

Then sometimes, an obedient sister, opens her mouth and speaks straight to your soul.

However He does it, He finds a way to pursue your bone dry heart.

And He says, "Listen to me. I am writing a story that is bigger than you. It is bigger than you can ever imagine. Those sweet babes who you love so much. Through them, you are leaving your legacy. Every diaper you change, every second of sleep lost, every bedtime prayer, every song about Me, every big prayer you pray for them, you are training Kingdom Warriors. What you're doing matters. I know you're tired. I know you're heart is exhausted. Let me be your rest. Find your strength in me.

It's okay if your prayers seem pathetic, I especially lean into those."

You're doing it, mama. You're doing it!

*Photo by Rachel Ackerman Photography*

What you're doing matters.

It matters for the Kingdom.