Why You Should Say Yes Even Though A Bear Might Eat You

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A few weeks ago some girlfriends and I set out for a night of adventure. We were going to backpack to Snowmass Lake, near Aspen, CO.

We intended to start at Maroon Bells and trek the 8.3 miles over Buckskin Pass to the high alpine lake. We would camp there for one night and hike out the next morning, 8.7 miles, on a different trail. We had thought ahead and dropped a car at the exit point in Old Snowmass. We had planned carefully, filling our packs with only small, lightweight, essential items: tents, sleeping pads, a pot and a little stove. That way we had room for the necessary 8 lb camera (two of the four of us were professional photographers) and the 5 lb bladder of wine (4 of the 4 of us were pros at drinking boxed wine).

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We flung heavy packs into the back of the truck and headed for the Bells. As we drove, anxiety began to creep into my spirit. It only got worse the more we talked to people and read the signs. Bears have been a big deal here this year. The forest service has made a thing of it more than any other year. Besides that, we were getting a late start. I knew that could be a problem if the weather turned and we were exposed above tree line.

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We parked our car and purchased the passes for the shuttle ride to the trailhead. The salesman cautioned us about the bears. We were also cautioned about the porcupines. We were warned there was a 70% chance of rain. We were warned to get over the pass before 1pm when the lightening would hit. I got even more nervous. I kind of wanted to back out. I thought of the fact that I now have two babies at home. I thought of the fact that because this was my home turf and I had made this trek before, I felt responsible for the lives of the girls who were with me. I thought of lots of things and most of those things had me scared.

We rented a bear canister from the forest service, repacked our food and gallon of wine, and boarded the shuttle bus that was to lead us to our death… er, I mean, “adventure.”

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It was a 20-minute bus ride from Aspen Highlands to the trailhead at the Bells. We heaved packs off the shuttle floor and onto our backs and made our way down the shuttle-bus steps. A few paces through the parking lot and I found myself approaching a sweet old ranger man patrolling the area. He was fit. His hair was greying. I think he had on wire-rimmed glasses. He looked like a grandpa. His voice was gentle and kind. He was precious in his brown ranger shorts and boy-scout-ish, short-sleeved, button down shirt complete with patches. I decided to share my fears and ask a few more questions. I asked about the bears. I asked about the porcupines. I asked about the rain. When I got to the lightening he lost his patience.

“Oh for God sake,” he said, rather harshly, “If you want to be safe, go to the mall.”

My friends chuckled. I was stunned. That’s not what I was expecting from sweet old gramps. I spun on my heel, almost toppled under the weight of my pack, and munched on that trail mix for thought the rest of the hike.

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The first half of the hike was the hardest. In the first few hours we climbed a few thousand feet. Our lungs noticed the change in altitude. Thick clouds unfolded like a down blanket above us. I couldn’t overcome my anxiety. I was constantly looking to the sky. If the lightening didn’t get us that day, I was sure the bears would that night. I was coming up with backup plans. I was contemplating exit strategies. I was trying to figure out how to convince my compadres that perhaps we should abort the backcountry trek and just camp at a drive up campground instead. Basically, I wanted to bring my friends to the mall.

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Good thing my girlfriends are rockstars. They were one small part unfamiliar with the magnitude of wilderness dangers, one large part committed to the adventure. They wanted to press on. Gosh, we need friends like that. I need friends like that. People who won’t let us turn back on what we have set out to do. People who won’t allow us to let our fear take over. People who are committed to the adventure.

This past May, through much prayer and consideration, the hubs and I resigned from our full time jobs as youth workers at the church. I have half wanted to take back the decision since we made it. The allure of perceived security is magnetic. I almost tried to talk my way back into my job after I quit. I have almost applied for other full time positions. I almost cannot trust. Almost.

Many well-intentioned friends have offered up cautionary words about our decision. The words have come at me like bear warnings and threats of lightening. How much should I let these posted signs deter me?

Many well-intentioned friends have asked us questions.

“Why’d you quit?”

“What’s next?”

I’ve tried on answers like backpacks looking for the right fit. There is only one answer that feels right. It’s the answer the makes most people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable too.

“God is calling the shots without telling us what’s next. The truth is, I don’t know.” God said, “Commit to the hike. Follow me on the trail. I will unfold the map as we go.”

I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who likes to see the map ahead of time.

I think God would be okay if we didn’t listen. I think he’s gracious with us as we struggle through trusting him. But I also think his gentle and sweet and kind and blunt and matter-of-fact statement to me, AND TO YOU, is, “If you want to be safe, keep doing xyz. [If you want to be safe, go to the mall.] If you want to be tested and grow and see beauty unimaginable, if you want to live a life of adventure, if you want to go deeper with me, if you want to see what I have planned – and it’s good – follow my map (not yours). Trust. Follow ME.”

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Though excited, I am nervous to share this faith journey with you. What if things don’t go as planned? What if God doesn’t come through? What if we fail? What if we look stupid? What if we make God look stupid?! What if a bear eats us? What if lightening strikes?

I’m inviting you on our journey because of all the other possibilities. What if we get to experience beauty and things and life and adventure in new and profound ways only because we said yes? What if the wildflowers are better this year than any other? What if there is a mountain goat at the peak? What if the bears don’t come and the lake is gorgeous and the conversation is a blessing and the friendships are strengthened and the hike is good and the wine is delicious? What if God keeps his promises? What if he shows up like he says he is going to? What if HE REALLY IS THAT GOOD?

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Is there an adventure God’s been trying to bring you on? Is there an area in your life where you just need to move your food from a ziplock to a bear canister, grab a friend, and hit the trail? Is there an area where you just need to trust?

My family hits the trail in just a few weeks. Will you follow our journey on the blog? We very well might fail. We also might succeed (whatever that means / looks like). Either way, you’re invited.

In the next post I am excited to tell you where we are headed!

With love,

Kara

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Foster Care: Things that Make You Go Hmm

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The other day Ana and I were playing at the park with friends. Her friend took a sip from his water bottle, then passed it Ana’s way. The dad chimed in, “We only share our drinks with family, son.”

The logic made sense to me. It also brought me back to those first few days when Ana came to live with us…

Ana moved in and it was just a day or two before she was reaching for my spoon, my water glass, and my ice cream cone. Her simple and unspoken requests were innocent enough. She was hungry. She was thirsty. She loves ice cream.

Her toddler hands reached.

My adult brain hesitated.

I was mid-gulp of water and caught off guard. The same thing our friend said out loud at the park manifested as a brief internal struggle for me. I too only like to share my glass and my spoon and my ice cream – especially my ice cream – with my family.

The appeals were small. The implications of my response were not. We had just met this child and didn’t know how long she would be with us. How were we going to define this relationship? Was she… “family?”

These are the things you don’t think about when you sign up to be a foster parent. These are the things they don’t train you for. We could not have guessed that something as insignificant as sharing a glass of water, could represent something as meaningful as sharing a life.

The hesitation was fleeting, though this wasn’t the last time I hesitated. Simple things “normal” families take for granted, like cleaning off a child’s bloody boo-boo, and taking family photographs, begged the question be answered again: “How would we define this relationship?”

I tipped the glass up and helped Ana’s little head swig back a mouthful of my water. I handed over the ice-cream cone and watched as a tiny tongue smeared saliva all over my treat. With these seemingly insignificant gestures, we were family.

XO,

Kara

Love is Sacrifice

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This is my first year celebrating Mother’s Day as an “official” mom. The adoption of our daughter was finalized last November and our son was born 3 weeks after that. If I’ve learned anything so far in my short experience with being a mother, it’s that love is bigger than I ever realized, and, that love means sacrifice.

Between being pregnant and nursing, I haven’t had a whole cup of caffeinated coffee in over a year. Couple that with an average of 4 wake-ups per night, and the caffeine restriction on top of the sleep restriction feels like a cruel joke. It seems like decades since I’ve watched anything non-cartoon on TV. I haven’t been to the gym in a loooooong time (okay, not super bummed about this one), and rarely, if ever, do I find time anymore to do things I enjoy like reading books without pictures. So yes, motherhood involves a great love and (what feels to me like) great sacrifice.

As Christians, sacrificial love is at the heart of our faith. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I take this for granted. Sometimes I take for granted the fact that Jesus died for me. Sometimes I forget that Jesus didn’t WANT TO die. Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives right before he was arrested was, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” That’s why 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Love involves cost.

Beneath the surface of the emotion of love, there are choices. Jesus died for us because he loves us more than he loved his life. I wake-up every time my baby needs me because I love him more than I love sleep. Love is saying yes when we desperately want to say no. Love is doing things we don’t want to do. Love is sacrifice.

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This Mother’s Day weekend I am not only grateful for the babies God has entrusted to me, but I am grateful that because of them I am able to understand God’s love a little more. This is how we know what love is. This is the heart of Jesus. This is the heart of a mother.

To all the mommas out there, thank you for the sacrifices you make on a daily basis. Happy Mother’s Day.

Xo,
Kara

 “Let my life be the proof, the proof of your love. Let my life look like you, and what you’re made of. How you lived. How you died. Love is Sacrifice.” – For King & Country

Family Livin’ in a Tiny House

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In a quaint mountain village, nestled in groves of aspens and pines, sits a sweet little chapel. If you were to cross a certain wooden bridge over an alpine creek, and follow the path past the bell tower and under the looming blue spruce trees, you would find yourself at the entrance to our sanctuary.

Inside, an understated stained glass window casts fresh light onto the alter. Towards the back of the pews, by the drinking fountain, there is a conspicuous door marked “private.” Most people don’t notice it is there, but if you went through that door and wound your way down the cluttered hallway, my family would welcome you to our tiny home.

If only you would fit.

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We are a family of 4… 5 if you count the dog… living in 692 square feet. That 692 square feet also happens to be in a church.

This is a post about life in the tiny house we share with God.

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My husband and I moved into this cozy apartment with cathedral ceilings 4 years ago, in the summer of 2011. Since that time we brought our energetic dog Roxy home from the pound in 2012, welcomed a foster (and now adopted) daughter through our doors in 2013, and in 2014 brought our newborn baby boy home from the hospital. With each new addition to our family we declared, “we have run out of space.” And then we added one more. And one more. Seriously this time. We have run out of space.

The other night my daughter and I brushed our teeth in God’s bathroom. No joke. We pit-pattered through that door that says private in our jammies, barefooted, toothbrushes in hand, past the last row of pews to the two-stalled restroom that you use on Sunday morning. I think the Easter choir was a bit confused when our shoeless, PJ clad selves accidentally barged in on their rehearsal, but such is life. Our life. We couldn’t use our own bathroom because infant Ziggy had monopolized the bedroom / bathroom space with his need to sleep. Our bathroom – with its curtain for a door – is not an ideal situation when you want your baby to get some rest. And your toddler to have healthy teeth. And to keep the pee outta the bed.

I present our dilemma. And thank God for his bathroom.

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Welcome to our life in a tiny house. In a church.

I type this at my kitchen table, laptop taking up almost the entire surface. The clip clop clack of my keyboard clicks in the darkness. I can hear my daughter’s deep sleeping breaths 8 feet in front of me, the hum of the refrigerator just to my right, the lull of Ziggy’s sound machine floating through the cracked bedroom door. Peaceful noises come together in new ways at midnight, inside the walls of a tiny house.

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Last night at 3 AM I lie awake in bed considering my options. We were half-way through a feeding cycle and I desperately needed to take care of some mommy boob business before getting back to sleep. But I knew if I walked past Ziggy there was a chance he would smell my sweet fragrance and wake up. I should note that to the rest of the world the fragrance may not be so sweet because of the bathroom / shower / sleeping baby situation, but at least Ziggy still seems to like me. I can tip-toe. I can be very quiet. But I haven’t yet figured out how to not smell fabulous to my sleeping son.

I weighed my choices. I finally decided if I was going to get any sleep at all, waking Ziggy was a chance I had to take. I crept past him to our bedroom door and out to the living room to retrieve my pumping device, thaaaaat was unfortunately plugged in next to my daughter’s slumbering head. I had to climb over her body and reach down behind the couch for the outlet, shifting her mattress and clunking the heavy-duty cord against the wall in the process. She slept on. Phew. Toddler up at 3 AM crisis avoided.

Sleepy eyed, I lugged the pump out my front door and down that cluttered hallway to the only outlet I could find that wouldn’t wake my family. Nothing like pumpin’ in the pews. Now how many people can say they’ve done THAT in the middle of the night?

These are the things that happen in a tiny house. In a church.

Thank God for his church. And it’s outlets.

As you can see, when the kids are sleeping, every move is carefully considered. Do I really need to pump? How bad do I need ice in my water? How bad do I need water in general? Tomorrow I better bring three bottles of water to bed so I don’t have to run that loud faucet. Or bring no water to bed so I don’t have to pee. Peeing is an issue. Every night I think to myself, “I can probably hold this pee just a little bit longer.” If I do pee I better not wash my hands – that dang faucet. If I put toilet paper in the bowl first the pee isn’t as loud. Definitely won’t flush until morning.

Sometimes Adam pretends like he’s camping and goes outside. Hmm… I’ve considered it.

Oh, life in a tiny house.

The sun starts to rise and I’m up. I might not have gone pee all night so as not to wake the kids, but Lord help me, coffee is worth it. Solana sleeps in the living room on the pull out couch. The living room, which is right next to the kitchen, which is home to the coffee machine. Riiiggghht. Like I said, every move is carefully considered. I pull out the coffee. Turn on the light under the microwave. Grab a mug from the cabinet and the cream from the fridge. Accidentally bump a glass. It clanks. Whoops. I peer past the sink. She’s still asleep. The glass bonking and the coffee mugging and the creamer pouring and the microwave light and my breathing and the measuring and the 89 decibel faucet haven’t woke her. You don’t realize how loud coffee brewing is until your kid is sleeping feet from the machine. You don’t realize how much you need coffee until you’re willing to risk a wake up for it.

It’s time to start the day. I know I should get myself ready before the kids wake up, but showers require some light and some water and some noise and I decide that at least this morning, the shower isn’t worth it. Oh, but I still have to pee. Into God’s house I go. Most people go there to pray. I do that too. But I also go there to pee. Thank you Jesus.

Adam is up and has roused the dog for her morning walk. She stretches her way past Ana and shakes her sleepys out. She does this not once, but twice. The metal tags on her collar clang against each other. How is Ana still sleeping?! Husband heads out the front door and a rush of invigorating altitude air fills our space. A night full of sleepy breathing can make a tiny house stuffy. My new obsession with diffusing essential oils is helping, but it’s still not the same as fresh, outdoor, mountain air. Wish I could bottle that up and diffuse it.

Adam is back and all at once the day gets started. Dog takes her cozy corner. Ana sits up and yawns to see the whole family in her room. Couch bed is made and pushed in. Couch cushions are put back. Coffee table is relocated. Ziggy’s swings and play mats are pulled out for the day. Adam unloads the dishwasher. I dance around him to pack A’s lunch. Ana drags 15 toys into her “playspace.” I step on 5 on my way to the bedroom. The laptop comes off the table. Breakfast is served. Sink is filled with dishes. Ana gets off to school.

Ahhh. For a minute I can just stand still outside and breathe that mountain air.

Then it’s into my office that’s just steps from our tiny house that should be called disaster house. We clean non-stop and still our home is always a disaster. Stuff is everywhere. I am over stuff. I am at work now and I still smell a little bit good and a little bit bad.

These are the adventures of tiny house living. In a church.

Amen.

Kara

P.s. We are moving soon! Stay tuned!

“An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” G.K. Chesterton

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering… Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” – Romans 12:1-2 Pretty sure in this one, God is talking about brushing your teeth barefoot in your jammies in front of the Easter choir.

You can read more about our tiny house living here. In that post, pre-newborn, things were still looking fairly clean. I may have also cleaned up for you a bit that time. We’ve rearranged and here is the new normal. Don’t judge me. God says it’s not nice, and we live in his house.

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Honey, I Want To Love You Like This

Him.

His gaze shifts as she rises from the table. He puts a hand on her chair. Steadies it as she scoots back. She makes her way across the room. He looks past his beef tenderloin and gnocchi dinner. Past the vodka on ice, three olives, in the martini glass. She’s just headed 20 feet to the restaurant restroom, but he doesn’t take his eyes off her.

“You still watch her like that?” my husband comments.

“62 years,” he replies. “Gotta make sure nothing happens to her.”

Her.

She wakes up early. Gets the coffee going. His with just a little cream. She likes it black. She brings him his mug and then layers up on the sweaters and jackets, hats and scarves, and gloves to ward off the fall mountain chill. They are headed outside to watch the hot air balloons take off. It is balloon festival weekend in Snowmass. They take their place on the berm, side by side. The sun has just risen. The same fire that fills the balloons to make them rise lights up her eyes. She waits with awestruck anticipation. Like a child. Like someone who has only seen a hot air balloon once in their life. Or twice. Or never. The balloons begin to ascend. Colors and patterns float up and speckle the morning sky.

“Oh look Vin,” she says. “Aren’t they beautiful!”

Him.

The cruise ship had lots of options to offer its senior citizens on port days. Historical tours. Boat rides. Bird watching. Bingo. There was the all you can eat buffet and the lounge chairs on the deck that were good for reading books about the war and retirement. Then there was also this… the option to participate in an oceanfront yoga class. The sun was hot that day and the sea water crystal clear. He’d never done yoga. Wasn’t very flexible. Was on the backside of 80 and had forgotten to pack his yoga pants. It was no matter. He knew something. He knew that life is a grand adventure and to really live it sometimes you just have to say yes. Even if that means a little down dog in the sand.

Her.

She stops to the side of the crowded brick walking street. Turtleneck peeking past the scoop of her sweater. It’s a warm summer day in Barcelona. She reaches into her purse and pulls something out. It’s a little green bottle. Jim Beam. She unscrews the top and puts the plastic to her mouth, the olive skin of her taut cheekbones shines in the sunlight. She doesn’t even take a sip. Just lets the liquid touch her lips. “For the cough,” she says, a twinkle in her winking eye. There are people bustling all around us. Street performers. Tourists. Locals in a hurry. Vendors hawking their wares. Most don’t notice grandma and her airplane sized bottle. Those who do, smile. This same bottle has been in her purse for two weeks. Grandpa let’s out a breath and his lips curl up when he looks in her direction. I could tell what he was thinking. “That’s my girl.”

Them.

After 62 years of marriage there is no him and no her anymore. Not in the “I’ve lost my own identity” kind of way, but in the, “I am nothing without my teammate,” kind of way. They are what love can look like when you say yes. On repeat.

After 80 plus years of life there is still no “we’re too old,” with them. There’s just, “what do you need?” and “how can we help?” and “what fun can we have?” They are what life can look like when you say yes. On repeat.

Need a last-minute Santa for the Christmas Eve church service? “You bet,” he said, “but not unless Mrs. Claus is by my side. 62 years. Not going to change that now.” Want hundreds of homemade cookies made for your wedding? “Sure thing,” she says. “With his help we’ll get it done.” Could use some new shelves for your kitchen cabinets? “I’ve never used an electric saw before,” he said, “but I will figure it out. ” (Okay that one actually reeeeaaaalllllly scared me, and took a slice out of our patio table).

You probably think these stories of love and adventure are sweet?

You probably hope some day this is you?

Please hear this.

It can be.

Someday you can be them.

Because once upon a time they were you.

There were nights when he worked late. Times he just needed a beer with the boys. There were days when she got tired of the kids and the laundry and doing the same damn things all the time. They stressed about money and paying the bills. They needed a vacation. They worried about things, like whether or not to take that new job, trade in that old car, and where to send the kids to school. They made new friends and lost touch with old. They got short with each other. They fought. They made up. There were days when they went to bed mad and woke up mad and there were nights when one of them slept on the couch.

They got from where we are to where they are and here’s how they did it.

They said yes.

Yes to God. Yes to each other. Yes to adventure.

Husbands, can you be like this? Wives, can we be like this? Will you join me in the yes parade?

Let’s drink coffee and watch balloons fly and hold hands in the sunrise when our hair is gray and our skin has wrinkles and I wear turtlenecks and your belly sticks out. Let’s make people smile at the beach, and at weddings, and on the cobblestone streets of Barcelona, and in the jam-packed pews of the church on Christmas Eve. Let’s go big or go home. And when we get to their age, let’s go big and then go home. Because for goodness sake, when we’re 80 and we’ve gone all chaturanga in the sun, we’re going to need a nap.

XO,

Kara

 

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What Love Looks Like

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“I miss my papa,” she said.

It was nighttime. Dark in the room. She rested her tangled head of curls on my shoulder. I held her and did a few paces around the bed before crawling into it. We were staying at my mom’s house in Arizona. We were day 4 into a 10-day stretch of being away without Adam. This was the 3rd night in a row she had whispered this to me, and the whispers continued until Adam arrived.

Adam got to town one night around midnight and sneaked into the room Solana and I were sharing. I had told Ana her daddy would be there in the morning. She was pleasantly surprised when she woke up in the middle of the night to find him lying next to her. She spoke to him with quiet and giddy excitement. She made him stick out his arm so she could nest into the crux of his armpit. He hugged her tight. He was love wrapped around her.

I smiled into my pillow. “This is what love looks like,” I thought.

At first blush this little encounter probably seems unremarkable. A child loving and missing their parent is a given. Or at least I had always thought so. Instead, I stand as a witness to a brokenhearted father who poured his love out to a little girl who wanted nothing to do with him.

You see, Ana came to us with chapters of mistrust for men already written in her life’s storybook. At a year and a half she had been burned and had learned her lesson. Men were no good. Men hurt people. Men were something to run from.

I remember a night not so long ago when I stood in the kitchen with my husband. We were new to parenting. New to foster parenting. We were tired. Beat down. Uncertain what the future would hold. Uncertain we were doing anything right. Ana was sleeping and though Adam is a man who is strong and steady he looked at me with tears in his eyes. He was deflated. A well of untapped hope and love and unmet expectations for fatherhood was finally bubbling over.

“Your kid is not supposed to hate you,” Adam choked. “This is not how first time fatherhood is supposed to feel.”

I ached for him. This was a path he was walking alone. For months I was the one who got to hold our daughter and hug her. I dealt out love and felt its warmth returned. I was the one she ran to, cried for, and wouldn’t let go of. She was looking for someone to feel safe with and I was her girl.

I played babies and blocks while Adam did the dishes and the laundry. I gave baths and got smiles while Adam walked the dog in the cold and took out the trash in the snow. Adam worked behind the scenes to keep things in our house together. Our daughter hardly noticed him.

In the beginning Adam would reach for Ana often. Time and time again she recoiled, or screamed at him, or ran away. She hit Adam, pinched him, and pulled his hair. If he dared to pick her up she flew into hysterics. He quickly learned and started to reach for her a little less. He gave her time and space to heal. He never stopped reaching altogether though, and if ever there was the off chance that she was willing to give just a little something, he was right there to relish in her love and let it sustain him until the next time.

On occasion Adam would let us know he was hurting. Mostly he just kept his head down and loved like he does. Quietly. Persistently. With the hope but not the expectation that he would be loved in return. He kept on doing the dishes. He took out a lot of poopy diapers. He did not give up.

My husband’s patience with our daughter has taught me more about God’s love for us than anything I’ve ever read or seen or heard about before. Day after day God washes our dirty laundry and throws out our poopy diapers. So often we don’t even notice. But He is there. Loving like my husband did. Quietly. Persistently. With the hope but not the expectation that we would love him in return.

I think it’s time to stop running. I think it’s time to let your daddy love you.

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XO,

Kara

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not give up. It never fails. – said at every wedding ever

 

All of the pictures in this post were taken by the lovely and talented Melissa Young, who just so happens to be Solana’s auntie and my sister. Thank you Mel. You are THE BEST!!

http://www.melissayoungphotography.com

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Daughter, This is Who You Are

A story about the honest, imperfect, messy love in adoption.

Hugs for Momma on Adoption Day. Photo cred to Adam Gilbert

Daughter,

It is the middle of the night. Your newborn brother is sleeping soundly next to me. I should be taking advantage of that by trying to sleep myself, but I can’t. There are things you need to know. Things you might wonder about when you are 12, or 15, or 20. Things I need to say before time turns the answers to your questions about memories and conversations and reasons why into foggy hues of grey.

November 24th, 2014 was your adoption hearing. You would no longer be “Little A,” a number in the state’s foster care system, or a child in limbo.

November 24th was the day we would be recognized for the family we had become.

November 24th was one of the best days of your daddy and I’s life.

November 24th was the day you would get a new name.

I had visions of the perfect celebration for your adoption day. I should have known. Instead, your adoption day turned out a lot like how adoptions really are.  It turned out a lot like how life really is. It was messy. And honest. And imperfect.

And it was beautiful.

Adoption Day!

“You wish to change your daughter’s name to Solana Alejandra Gilbert?” the judge inquired from the front of the courtroom.

You had skipped your nap that day and you were loaded up on a party weekend’s worth of sugar. There was a substantial audience of state workers present to witness our new beginning. We had tried to explain to you in advance what was going on, but it had to be more than a bit confusing. Any of these things may have thrown you off that day. Or maybe it was just the fact that you were two. At any rate, it was a court proceeding to write home about (or maybe one to keep a secret!).

That day your dad and I sat at the same desk your bio mom had occupied throughout her involvement with the court. The judge hammered us with questions about ourselves and our intentions and our family. During this time you made it your mission to distract us and everyone else from the business at hand. You fidgeted and squirmed, whined and loudly demanded your way, and splashed drinking water all over the expensive wooden desk. The floor beneath you was littered with your deconstructed paper cup. You paid zero attention to the judge’s questions or to my pleas for you to behave.

And then the judge came to the name change question.

“Adam and Kara, you wish to change your daughter’s name to Solana Alejandra Gilbert?”

Your over-stimulated little head shot up from your busy work. “I noooooottt Solana Gilbert,” you proclaimed to the world loudly. You said it with conviction. You looked the judge in the black robe straight in the eye.

Well… Crap.

I flinched.

The judge raised an eyebrow.

Your daddy kept his composure. “Yes. We do.”

Only a few months have passed since that day and you have already embraced your new name. We know this because when Santa Claus called out “Solana Gilbert” at your preschool, you bolted out of your seat and ran to his lap to retrieve your gifts. Your dad smirked. I know what he was thinking. “Who’s Solana Gilbert now?”

Your reaction in court on adoption day probably sums up adoption pretty well. It’s not lost on your dad or I that one of the best days of our lives may carry with it some heaviness for you. While your adoption day is a day to celebrate the making of our family, it is also forever a day that will represent the loss of your bio family. Your dad and I get that. We want you to know that however you feel about it throughout the years, it’s okay. And your feelings do not have to be a secret. You already made them clear when you were two. :o)

A messy beautiful adoption day in all its realness.

I am not sure if it was “Solana” or “Gilbert” that you were reacting to in court that day. I don’t think you were sure either. I do want you to know that changing your first name was a tough decision and one that your dad and I struggled through making. We spent months talking it over. Ultimately, here is why we did what we did…

Let me start by saying it really makes no difference what your name was yesterday, is today, or will be tomorrow. We love the person you are, the heart you have, and the fact that we get to call you daughter. Your name does not change YOU.

But…. we did reason that perhaps your name would impact the way you saw yourself. We wanted to give you a name that we felt fit who you were. We wanted to give you a name that would tell you what you meant to us.

There is a story in the Bible where God gives the gift of a name to a dude named Simon. Jesus says to Simon, “now I am going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.”

I’ve always been a little jealous of this situation.

Some people… many people… spend their whole lives trying to figure out who they “really are.” Simon was lucky enough to have it stated for him by the freakin’ God of the universe. God said, “you are a rock,” (the rock on which I will build my church) and Simon left the conversation with a new name and a sense of purpose.

We chose the name Solana for you because it means sunshine. That is “who you are, really are.” (Unless that is not who you want to be and then when you are old enough we will talk.)

You are our sunshine

We also felt a new name would befit your new future.

Throughout our interactions with your bio parents one thing struck us. We could not help but notice how consistently alone they were.

In one particular meeting I watched as your lawyer delivered unpleasant scenario after unpleasant scenario to your bio mother. Your mom sat by herself on the lonely side of the room in a cold metal chair. She was told that she had made progress towards getting you back but that it probably was not good enough. She wiped a tear away. Nobody was there to hold her hand, pat her knee, or pass her a tissue.

My eyes were looking at your mother in that chair, Ana, but my heart was seeing you. Like a scene from A Christmas Carol, what could have been your future played out before us. Your papa and I left there that day determined. The lonely side of the room was for the girl you were and could have been. The lonely side of the room was not intended for the girl you were going to be.

Your father and I know we cannot control the decisions you will make as you grow up. You are your own person. But here is the deal. If as you get older you find yourself in a mess… a mess that involves a cold metal chair… my darling you better pull up two more. The girl named Solana will not be sitting by herself. Your papa will be holding your left hand, your momma will be holding your right, and daughter, I dare someone to tell you that you aren’t good enough.

This is who you are. Really are. You are Solana. You are our sunshine.

We love you,

Your Parents

 

gilberts adoption day