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A Different Kind of Thanks

In this season of expressing gratitude for the many gifts we’ve received this year, writing a letter to our son’s birth mom seemed a worthwhile endeavor:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for choosing life for your son. You had other options but you made the courageous and painful decision to birth him, knowing that you would not be the one to hold him, wipe his tears, hear him laugh, or watch him grow.

Thank you for choosing us to parent this tiny, male soul that you so carefully nurtured in your belly for 39 weeks.

Thank you for trusting us to love him well-not necessarily better or more than you love him. Just, well.

Thank you for taking the time and effort to meet with us before his birth so that we could all be at ease with each other.

Thank you for never giving us false hope and for keeping your word throughout this tumultuous process.

Thank you for the continual updates while you were in labor, for letting us know of his arrival, and for inviting us to be with you immediately after his birth.

Thank you for sharing with us the details of his first breath.

Thank you for giving us the honor of naming him. Samuel Creed, meaning “we believe that God has heard”, is an answer to 18 months of intense prayer and waiting.

Thank you for inviting us to meet his birth dad, grandma, and aunt. They were and continue to be unbelievably kind to us.

Thank you for taking an interest in our life story and in our journey to adopt.

Thank you for considering our feelings in this very emotional process.

Thank you for the tight hugs, the shared tears, and the willingness to taste both the bitter and the sweet of our lifelong connection with you.

May you always know how deeply grateful we are for you~

Glendon & Katie

Samuel Creed

Just in case you didn’t know, October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. If you’re anything like my cynical self, you might be thinking, “Here we go again with another ‘thing’ to celebrate. Must we bring awareness to some issue or people group EVERY month? Geeze.”

WELL, I’M NOT ASKING THAT QUESTION ANYMORE, PEOPLE. That’s right. This month, I’m partying like it’s 1999.

Why? Because we were finally able to bring our baby home!

To get a better picture of our reason to celebrate, check out this timeline of the past several months of our lives:

November 2012: Began to pray and seriously consider the possibility of adopting a baby with Down syndrome.

December 2012: Decided that this was the road the Lord was leading us to travel.

January 2013: Began the overwhelming process of researching adoption agencies. Prayed. A LOT.

February 2013: Chose an adoption agency. Began to research grant organizations.

March 2013: Met with our social worker to start the insane amount of paperwork necessary to complete our home study.

April 2013: Had our first home visit, where a social worker came to our house to meet with our family of four. Registered with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN), an organization that matches birth families with adoptive families specifically looking to adopt a child with Down syndrome.

May 2013: Officially home study approved. Continued with grant application process. Read books on adoption. Read books on Down syndrome. Read, and read, and read.

June 2013: Heard Selah and Jude pray for the first time, “Dear God, Please bring our baby brother or sister home real, real soon.”

July 2013: No news from NDSAN.

August 2013: Received our first phone call about a potential baby. Waited for 36 hours, then received word that birth family did not choose us. We were devastated.

September 2013: No news from NDSAN.

October 2013: No news from NDSAN.

November 2013: Spoke with Stephanie, Co-Director and adoptive family contact of the NDSAN. Wondered if we should explore international adoption or if there was more that we could be doing while we waited. Encouraged to continue with the domestic adoption process.

December 2013: Received a phone call about potential baby. Learned 24 hours later that we were not chosen. We were saddened. Received a phone call about a potential international case, then waited for two weeks, only to learn that this would be an in-country adoption only. We were saddened again. At the end of this month, we received a phone call about a potential birth mom.

January 2014: Spent the bulk of this month sharing details of our lives with potential birth family and eventually met them. After we drove away from our meeting, I put my head in my lap and cried to my husband, “They’re not going to pick us. They’re not going to pick us.” After that emotionally draining day, I came home and cleaned like mad. While on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, a deep sense of peace came over me as I thought, “These babies are not meant to be ours.” Then, I had another good cry.

February 2014: Our suspicions were confirmed when we learned that we were not the intended choice for this birth family.

March 2014: Received a phone call about another international case. Learned that this baby would not be ours to parent. Received a phone call about potential baby. We were not chosen for this little one either.

April 2014: While on vacation, we received a phone call about another potential baby. Within a week, we learned that birth mom had chosen another adoptive family. We were saddened. Updated our home study, an annual requirement in our state.

May 2014: While sitting at our desk, updating our adoption profile for the NDSAN, I got the overwhelming sense that Stephanie was going to call about our baby. That’s right: OUR BABY. In fact, I was so sure that she would call, that I stood up and walked toward the phone, which had yet to ring. Ten steps later, it did. Caller I.D. read: STEPHANIE NDSAN. She shared of a baby boy due in August. I stifled a cry. I knew in my spirit that this baby was to be ours.

June 2014: Made contact with birth family. Began to navigate complex legal matters for out-of-state adoptions. Made tentative travel plans.

July 2014: Continued contact with birth family. Continued navigation of legal matters. Continued travel plan preparation.

August 2014: Lived out-of-state for most of this month while working with medical team and legal systems. Baby boy was born August 12th, 2014, exactly one year later from the birthday of that first baby we had learned of through NDSAN.

September 2014: Returned home to settle in as a family of five!

What seemed like continual rejection over the past several months was really God’s faithfulness in disguise. Some weeks, that painful truth seemed nearly impossible to accept. While we knew that our loving God was behind all of those closed doors, there were many days when we did not feel His presence. Our son’s name, Samuel (God has heard) Creed (to believe) reminds us however, to believe that God hears our prayers.

After all, He answered ours in the form of a ten pound baby boy who has the most beautiful almond-shaped eyes we’ve ever seen.

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Photo taken by Richelle Gregory Photography

An Invitation

“The number one reason people do not give is because they were not asked.”

I heard this quote from a friend years ago and have thought often of these words during different seasons of my life.

One of those seasons is now.

Most of you know that our family is hoping to adopt a baby with Down syndrome. It’s been 15 months since our home study was first approved. For personal reasons, we have not done any major fundraising to date. We’ve simply told our story and offered (via email) a couple of opportunities for folks to financially support this endeavor. Many of you have responded in the most generous of ways and we thank you for that.

In our efforts to share our journey with more people, we are posting this letter so that you can read of how God continues to care for us through His people. We want to share with you (especially those on Facebook) so that you can choose to pray or give or both. As the truth in the above quote reminds us: If you don’t know about the opportunity, you cannot respond; by sharing this opportunity with you, we are inviting you to participate.

Dear Family & Friends,

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support as we trust the Lord to bring our baby to us in His perfect time. Yesterday (August 6th), we learned from Lifesong (an adoption grant organization) that we have been given an additional $2,500 matching grant from our church! We are excited to report that a portion of these grant monies has already been matched! This particular grant not only allows for you amazing folks to give online, but it also allows us to immediately access funds to cover our expenses. We expect that we will need $1,800 more (of the $2,500) to be matched in order to cover our remaining expenses.

Now, I (Katie) am no math guru but that would be 180 people giving $10 each. Or 100 people giving $18 each. Or 18 people giving $100 each. Or one person giving $1,800. Do you see what we’re doing here? You get the idea.

Our goal is to receive all funding for this grant by August 21st. We can receive funds beyond that date until our child is home and/or the adoption is complete.

Would you prayerfully consider giving toward our adoption?

Here are some of the specifics in how you can give:

  • Checks must be made payable to “Lifesong for Orphans”. In the memo note, please write “Carper #3879“ (our family name and account number), to ensure that the monies go to our account. Mail to: Lifesong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. Lifesong has been blessed with a partner that underwrites all U.S. administrative and fund-raising costs (TMG Foundation and other partners). This means that 100% of your donation will go directly to our adoption!
  • To give online, please go to http://www.lifesongfororphans.org/give/donate. Select “Give to an Adoptive Family.” Complete the online form and fill in the “Family Account Number” (#3879) and “Family Name” (Carper) fields. Please note that PayPal charges an administrative fee (2.9% + $.30 USD per transaction). Your donation will be decreased by the amount of this fee.

In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use. Individual donations of $250 or more and yearly donations totaling $250 or more will receive a tax-deductible receipt. Receipts for donations under $250 will gladly be sent upon request. Lifesong is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization.

We are so grateful for your continued words of encouragement, your willingness to ask us how we’re doing in the midst of our wait, your generous spirit, and perhaps most of all, your prayers to the One who’s led us this far. We could not travel this road without you.

Humbled,

Glendon & Katie

If you have any questions, please contact us via FB messaging.

Time

It’s been over a year now since we were approved by the state of Pennsylvania to adopt. We expected to have a new little one with us by now. A little one in need of a home. A little one with an extra chromosome.

But here we are. One year later and our arms are empty of a sweet baby to hold.

And yet our hearts remain (mostly) full of hope, as we continue to wait, pray, and trust.

As I’ve had time to reflect on this May-to-May journey, I’m reminded of the wonderful gifts we’ve enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) while waiting to bring our baby home. Here’s a glimpse:

  • Time to spend with Selah and Jude. A new baby will be an adjustment for our little family of four and while we are preparing as best we can, we are also savoring this sweet time to pick up and go with our two older gifts.

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Hiking in the Smokies~

  • Time to sleep. Let’s face it: newborns rob you of this precious commodity. For those of you who think newborns sleep just fine, well, you can just SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE. At this stage, any lack of sleep is a result of my foolish decision to stay up later than I should. My sleep pattern is not (yet) affected by the needs of a 7 pound bundle of joy.
  • Time to travel. An amazing turn of events allowed me to go to California this month to see my younger brother. What a treat to explore the beauty of the west coast with one of my favorite people! We had a refreshing, memorable visit. If Carper Kid #3 had arrived prior to my trip, I would not have been able to go or I would have gone anyway (because I would NOT waste that golden plane ticket), only to be plagued by guilt for not staying at home to help my dear husband wrangle two kiddos and a newborn.

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California trip: Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park; Hangin’ out with my amazing brother; Joshua Tree National Park

  • Time to complete projects at home. I’m a fan of anything DIY so I’m taking advantage of the time and space to re-organize, paint, re-purpose, scrapbook, and simplify our home. These tasks can be very difficult to accomplish while caring for a wee one. I’m thankful for the time and mental energy to grow creatively, whether crafting, writing, reading, or drawing.

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A sampling of recent DIY projects~

  • Time to spend with Glendon. Many people told me that our first year of marriage would be the most difficult. While I don’t think we should speak such negativity to engaged couples, our first year was probably the toughest. Also, the third. And ninth. But whatever. This eleventh year however, has been wonderful. Since we began this adoption process, our marriage has grown in ways I didn’t expect. We are communicating more intentionally, laughing more frequently, and praying more fervently. We are thankful to be walking this sacred journey TOGETHER. No one else can fully understand the ache of our wait or the pain of rejection by birth families and no one will fully  understand the joy when we finally hold our baby. No one except Glendon can enter the intensity of those experiences. And the fact that my Love is thrilled to bring home a little cherub with an extra chromosome? I mean, really, I don’t know many guys who are excited about parenting a soul with special needs. He’s a rare gem, this one.

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Goofin’ around while watching the sun rise over the Smoky Mountains~

So, instead of lamenting, “Ohmygoshwhydontwehaveourbabyyetwhatstakingsolong”, I am choosing (at least today), to accept the gift of time given to us these past twelve months. I look back on May 2013 through today and celebrate what our loving Guide has done in our hearts and in our family.

And if the wait continues another year, then (and only) by God’s grace, I will make the most of those precious days, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember

Frederick Buechner had this to say in his book, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces:

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find.

But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us.

The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”

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My family camping at Shawnee State Park in Pennsylvania, summer of 2005. Del is centered in the back row, wearing navy blue. My dear sister stands in front of him.

Today, my family and I enter that room, Remember, as we consciously reflect on the life of my brother-in-law, Del, who was killed 7 years ago today. We don’t remember so that we can wallow in tears, though I’ve shed a few. Rather, we remember so that we can thank the Grace that gave life to Del, the Grace that gave to us such wonderful memories with him, the Grace that brought us through that dark, awful night of his death, and the Grace that continues to bring us through the difficult days without him.

Del, we love and miss you deeply and look with hope toward eternity, when we will see you again.

Cones and Canines

Our dog Sadie recently went to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and some sort of “-oma” removed from her lower eyelid. As many of you animal-lovers know, these procedures require anesthesia and an all-day-stay at the vet for any four-legged friend. We hugged and kissed our beloved pooch, drove away, and spent the rest of the morning running errands.

By the time we returned home, unloaded the car, unpacked the bags, and ate lunch, we had only an hour before we needed to leave for our second 45-minute trek to pick up Sadie. Between the coats and hats and shoes, the in-and-out-of-the-car-drill, and the buckling of seatbelts, it’s a Christmas miracle that we arrived at the animal hospital in a timely manner.

After paying the bill and beaming like a proud parent while the vet tech raved about Sadie’s positive response to this stress, we finally got to see our sweet pup. But when the tech brought Sadie to the waiting room, Selah and Jude began to cry. Why? Because our spunky little Bichon looked like this:

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The poor thing was wagging her tail when she saw us but the kids did NOT want to take her home. Through tears, Selah yelled at the tech, “Take that thing off!” And Jude just stood there and cried, mumbling something unintelligible. I gently, awkwardly took our space-aged-looking dog into my arms while consoling two children and sneaking a glance at the other pet owners, trying to gauge their reactions to our drama. Just as I suspected: Every dog owner in that room was fighting tears, lips quivering, hands placed over their hearts as if pledging allegiance to all things canine. I would have laughed out loud if I hadn’t been so preoccupied with comforting my cherubs and trying to see over the ginormous lampshade Sadie now wore around her neck. At that point, I was more concerned with tripping over all our paraphernalia and ending up with one of those cones around my own neck.

The ride home was spent answering questions related to Sadie’s surgery and her silly looking E-collar (short for the Elizabethan collar). Selah and Jude began to relax as they learned that Sadie needed this awkward accessory to help prevent her from scratching or injuring her stitched eyelid. I sure hope somebody explained this to the folks in that waiting room because I’m pretty sure they were all a hot mess, too.

Once we got home, laughter replaced tears as we watched Sadie attempt to sniff for a spot outside to relieve herself. Every time she put her head down to locate an area, her cone would catch on the ground and she’d jolt to a stop. Or she’d accidentally scoop up gravel with her new cranial shovel. Her continual attempts to figure out how to function with this collar of shame had us chuckling.

Inside was no better, really. She walked around, hunched over with her tail between her legs, refusing to look at the camera.

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She couldn’t gauge how much room she had between the dining room table and the chairs or the couch and the coffee table. We’d hear that plastic contraption drag along the floor as she tried to squeeze in those tight spaces only to get stuck, unable to back out or turn. And I lost count of her first attempts at jumping up on the couch. She couldn’t see on either side of her unless she turned her whole body and she was unable to scratch any part of her head, including behind her ears, which must have been sheer agony.

Sadie’s first night post-op brought me back to those newborn days of waking up nearly every hour to tend to the needs of our tiny babes. Her whimpering continued until I brought her downstairs to sleep on the couch. She finally snuggled up to me but with that plastic cone in my face during the wee hours of the morning, you can imagine how well I slept. Just before sunrise, the one thought running through my mind was how we can send a brilliant astronaut to the moon and Skype with folks all over the world but this is the best we can do for a 10 lb. dog with a few stitches on her eyelid.

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After 10 days of frustration, Sadie’s E-collar came off on Monday, much to our delight. I’m thankful for the comic relief she provided, especially in light of the past few weeks. I joked with Glendon that we could put a small bulb up her nose and use her for night hikes at camp.

Yeah, okay, maybe not.

The Thing With Feathers

I’m not exactly full of hope these days.

About 10 months ago, we completed our home study, a major step in this difficult process of adoption. Since then, we’ve had five birth families choose us as a potential adoptive family but each time they’ve chosen another adoptive family. FIVE. That’s an average of 1 birth family every 2 months. Every phone call is pregnant with the possibility of a little one joining our home. We pray, make tentative plans, and keep our mouths shut around the kids. We learned early on to exclude them from this precarious part of the process.

One day, my 6 year-old daughter overheard one of these particular phone conversations. Rather than trying to evade her honest questions, we opted to share with her and our son about a potential baby. We thought that the kiddos could join us in praying for this baby and for the birth family as they made their decision. When we learned that we had not been chosen, we gently told our kids that God had another family to love and parent this baby. Based on their reactions, you would have thought someone had been bludgeoned to death in our home. The screaming and wailing that ensued left my husband and me in shock. And the theological comments that surfaced left me speechless, “Why won’t God answer our prayers?! GOD MUST HATE US!” And from my 4-year old son, “We’re NEVER gonna get a baby! No one will ever choose us!” Insert even more wailing. We did our best to assure them of God’s love for them, for this sweet baby, for the birth and adoptive families.

Little did I know that I would echo the cries of our children months later. This weekend, in fact.

We got another phone call last week. This was the most promising phone call we’ve had to date. Seemed like a perfect scenario. Seemed like we might actually be chosen this time. Seemed like perfect timing. Seemed like God was moving and leading and providing a baby for us. Twenty-four hours later…another adoptive family was chosen.

This was the hardest “no” for me thus far. Maybe I’m weary of this process. Maybe I’m weary of “no” being the answer to every request. Maybe I’m weary of reading the countless success stories, knowing that we are not among them. Maybe I’m weary of rejection.

I found myself crying out to God, “Why won’t you answer our prayers?! Don’t You care about our dreams? Didn’t You lead us here? This is too much to handle emotionally. I’m DONE.” We’re not asking for the American dream here. We don’t want a bigger house. More money. More power. More glory.

We are simply asking the Lord to bring a baby with Down syndrome into our home. A soul who might not otherwise know the love of a core family. This is more than a wish or a dream. For us, this is a calling, an act of obedience to pursue what He has put in our hearts to do.

Or has He?

I have really begun to wrestle with whether this journey is for us. I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve misread Him all this time. I’m beginning to question my ability to trust His leading. I’m starting to wonder if God gives me dreams rooted in His, leads me down the path toward fulfilling those dreams, and then watches from a distance, laughing when they’re all dead-ends.

Go ahead. Throw all of your theological comments my way. I’m a former preacher/missionary kid and I graduated with four years of Bible college. I know all the “right” answers. I get that God is good. I get that He is Love. I believe in His sovereignty. But so help me if I hear one more time that “God works all things out for the good of those who love Him” (out of context, by the way) or “God’s timing is perfect” (while you hold your own baby) or “He has just the right baby for you” (false hope). Those are Band-aids for a gaping wound. Please spare me.

So, with all this rejection, what the heck we are doing on this journey anyway? Can I trust the Lord with every closed-door? Every dead-end? What if we never get to parent a child with Ds? What then?

Today (when I’m not too angry), I’m asking God to help me find rest in the mystery of His character. His ways are unknown, unsearchable. He does not need to tell me “yes”, even when I ask for the most noble of things (or babies) with the most noble intentions.

He owes me no explanation.

He owes me nothing.

But He beckons me to HOPE. Not to hope in a possible baby. Not to hope in answers. But to HOPE in Him.

Does this way of thinking help? Sometimes. Sometimes it frustrates me. But today, ironically, the knowledge of the Mystery has helped me to be a bit more settled in my spirit. I still struggle with how to rest in Him with the unknown but I want to believe that He remains close to me, even when His ways cannot be understood. And deep down, I want to stay open and faithful to Him even if He never grants my request.

What about you? Have you been told “no” so often that you wonder whether your path is the one you’re supposed to be traveling? Do you need to re-route? How do you know? And what is the role of hope in your journey?

 

Samwise

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Years ago, my husband and I attempted to watch the first movie in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of watching The Fellowship of the Ring late at night and both fell asleep before the credits rolled. A few years later, we made another attempt so that we could soon watch the newly released second movie, The Two Towers. This attempt was equally unsuccessful aaaannnnd… we snoozed again. We didn’t dare try to watch either movie again and as such, have never seen the third movie, The Return of the King.

Until the end of last summer…

We set a few of ground rules that would allow us not only to watch this fantastic trilogy but to absorb the truths woven throughout. Our plan was threefold:

1.) Do not start movie past 9 pm.
2.) Watch only 60-90 minutes at a time.
3.) If eyes begin to close, immediately stop movie.

These guidelines proved very effective and I highly recommend them if you struggle to keep your eyes open during epic movies exceeding two hours. We finally finished the trilogy in October. Hey, don’t judge us. We know we’re only a decade behind the rest of our culture. But that’s okay because we took our time and let the nuggets of truth in each movie sink into our minds, creating some great dialogue in our home and beyond. We continue to chat about our favorite characters, quotes, and scenes and marvel at how some of the people and places mirror our current lives.

While I have thought often about the various scenes throughout each movie, I have spent more mental energy processing the characters. My favorite (for now) is Samwise Gamgee, played by actor Sean Austin. Samwise represents the ideal friend, the sidekick to the main character, Frodo, whose mission is to return to Moldor, where the powerful Ring can finally be destroyed. Throughout each movie, Samwise proves to be loyal, trustworthy, honest, strong, kind, and perhaps above all, the daily giver of hope to the burdened Frodo, especially as they struggle to survive.

In many ways, I could relate to both Sam and Frodo. Glendon & I traveled some very dark roads in our personal lives late summer/early fall, a dreadful season that left us feeling abandoned in ways we did not foresee. I desperately needed a Sam in my life, someone loyal, someone I could trust implicitly, someone who would put her arm around me and help me along. My Sam looked differently than I expected during those months but I am grateful for the few who walked with me, as best they could. (You know who you are.)

The two scenes that I cannot shake are found in the second and third movies. In The Two Towers, Sam offers his hobbit wisdom to Frodo, reminding him of the deeper purpose and hope beyond their present circumstances:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

The second scene that meant a great deal to me is found in The Return of the King. Sam and Frodo have suffered great loss, separation from their friends and co-warriors, betrayal, hunger, thirst, total exhaustion, and at times, delirium. They reach a point where Frodo, overwhelmed by the deceitful villain, Gallum, and the power of The Ring, can no longer go on. Sam picks up a severely injured Frodo, hoists him over his shoulder and says to his friend,

“I can’t carry it {The Ring} for you but I can carry you.”

That scene sent me over the emotional edge. I cried. HARD. I cried because those words spoke to my own sad, burdened soul. I cried because I needed a Samwise to say those words to me.

“I can’t carry this heavy burden for you, Katie, but I can carry you.”

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It’s February now. We’re nearly 7 months beyond those shadowed summer roads and I’ve learned a few lessons from this amazing trilogy. No matter what your journey looks like in this season, maybe you’ll find these to be useful along the way.

Lesson #1: Everyone needs a Samwise. You need a trusted friend (or relative) who is willing and able to venture into your darkness WITH you. This someone is committed to you, knows your strengths and weaknesses, walks with you, helps you as you bear your burden, and points you to the destination beyond the darkness.

Lesson #2: Samwise will probably fail you. There may be times when your most trusted friend can only journey so far into your pain or circumstance. Even Sam admitted that he could not carry The Ring for Frodo. I don’t know what that failure looks like for you. Maybe you hope for more time with that person, more conversations, greater depth. I have found that when I adjust my expectations and extend grace where necessary, my emotional health thanks me. (I know, I know, easier said than done.)

Lesson #3: Some burdens are meant for only you to carry. For all of the stories and quotes I’ve read on this topic of friendship, the only Friend I know who is “always there for me” is the One who died to give me life. And on my best days, He is enough. On my insecure days, I need someone dressed in skin. The burden I carried this summer could only have been carried by Him. I’m thankful that He gave me a Samwise (or two), as well. They were not able to carry my burden but they helped to hoist my wide load over the emotional obstacles and point me to the Truth:

“Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.”

I hope that you have a Samwise in your life. And perhaps more importantly, I hope that you are a Samwise.

Or at least you’re on your way toward becoming one.

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Reason to Sing

I recently spent a wonderful day connecting with past and future Plateau summer staff, as well as fellow camp professionals at Cairn University. When I returned home that evening, I was saddened to read the various emails/FB posts of folks all over the map who are struggling, discouraged, hopeless.

The murder of a police officer in FL…

A five-year old prepping for major brain surgery…

The serious impact of this winter weather…

The deaths of two local teenagers in a car accident…

Or what about:

The shocking diagnosis of a life-altering illness…

The unknown test results that grip you with fear…

Your child with special needs, whose appointments and therapies flood your calendar…

Your prodigal family member, who seems numb to any consequences…

Your slow, downward spiral into financial ruin…

The aching loss from the death of your loved one…

That evil companion, chronic pain, who leaves you writhing, desperate for relief…

Your fall into the deep pit of discouragement, where you cannot imagine a way out…

The exhausting daily battle to choose joy in the midst of the mundane…

Family drama that squelches any desire to visit “home”…

Your false guilt that paralyzes your ability to make any decision…

Your frustration and fatigue from work, where change seems futile and you wonder how you can continue…

These stories matter because these souls matter to me.

After reading those emails/FB posts, I took a moment to listen to a few songs by All Sons & Daughters, a band whose music first captivated me in 2011. Their folksy sound, strong vocals, and meaningful lyrics…seriously, what’s not to love?

In my feeble attempt to provide a space for you to feel like your story matters, I’ve included a live video of this fantastic band worshipping the Lord through their song, Reason to Sing. I found it helpful to close my eyes and imagine Jesus sitting right next to me while we listened together. I tried to picture His arm around my shoulders, His kind hands wiping away my tears, reminding me of His unending love and His presence with me and with the many who weep today.

Wherever life finds you in this season, would you join me in daring to believe that there’s a Reason to sing?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGhmvNGFENE

Personality

I’m often amazed by the different personalities within our  family of four. My husband, an introvert by nature, has the brilliant, organized mind of an engineer with a tendency to view life as a puzzle to solve. He processes conversations slowly and chooses his words wisely. He also has this goofy side that wears a horrible Rod Stewart-like wig and gets on the floor to tickle the heck out of our kids.

I consider myself the most extroverted introvert I’ll ever meet. I appreciate deep conversations, hilarious stories, and coffee dates with friends. And yet I crave silence. Mmmmm….solitude (insert your best Homer Simpson here). I am a quick thinking verbal processor so I work at being patient with a husband who processes life at a much slower pace than his wife.

And then there’s our children…

A few weeks ago, I took Selah and Jude to the doctor for their annual check-ups. Aside from trying to figure out who needed which vaccines, I wasn’t expecting to learn much. Or at least to learn more than I already know about their personalities.

Boy, was I surprised.

We arrived with our “tick about to pop” look due to the unseasonably frigid temps. After unbuckling seatbelts, collecting coats and hats, and making sure no one had frost bite, we made our way inside. While waiting for our favorite doctor, Selah paced the small room and tearfully, frantically said, “Mom, am I getting a shot? If I do, I’m going to scream. Mom, which shot am I getting? Will it be in my arm or leg? It’s going to hurt like crazy. Oh, I don’t want a shot!” Because her shot records are literally all over the map (she has lived in 3 states in her 6 years of life) and she hasn’t had a shot in over 2 years, I could not figure out which one(s) she needed. I had tried to prepare her for the possibility of a “small pinch”, maybe two. Meanwhile, Jude sat on my lap, relaxed, making random comments about bodily functions.

Doctor entered the room, smiled, and greeted Selah and Jude, who remained shy, suspicious. While Doctor looked at his laptop and chatted with me, Selah mumbled loud enough for all to hear, “I don’t know why anyone needs to look at me. I’m NOT sick. Nothing is broken. I’m fine. I don’t even know why we need doctors. This is so stupid.” I can only imagine what Doctor typed as her comments filled his ears.

Selah volunteered to be examined first. After mumbling more about this seemingly pointless visit, she sat up on the table and allowed Doctor to assess her from head to toe…but only so far. She laid down and when Doctor gently put his hands on her belly, she slapped them away and said, “Don’t do that.” He kindly told her that he had to feel her belly to see if she had any poop inside. That made her giggle, barely. He finished the exam but not without more scowling from his patient.

And then came Jude, who happily climbed onto the table, giggled while I took off his shirt, and grinned throughout his entire exam. When Doctor checked his belly, Jude looked back at me and “whispered” loudly, “MOM, I THINK HE’S GONNA CHECK MY WIENER.” As my faced reddened, I managed a basic explanation as to why Doctor needed to check his wiener. (The first explanation had already taken place en route to the doctor.)

After the physical exams were complete, we learned that Selah did not need any shots but that Jude needed two. Selah was exuberant, then hugged her brother, fearing the worst for him. Jude got quiet. The nurse came in, gave two quick “pinches” on Jude’s arm, and left us. Jude sucked his thumb and held on tightly to his stuffed bear. But he never made a peep. Not a wimper or cry. Nothing.

I marvel at the differences in these two created souls. Selah, our intense, determined, compassionate deep thinker wants life figured out NOW. She loves Jesus and sings worship songs with great fervor, wanting to know the meaning behind the lyrics. She hands out justice on her terms and recently informed me that she “wasn’t made to wait.” She is fiercely loyal, hilarious, highly aware of her surroundings, and sensitive to the moods of others. And she’ll slap your hand if you’re a doctor and you try to touch her belly.

Jude, our smart, impish, typically easy-going fellow plays contentedly for hours. Literally. He gladly entertains himself with stories about his cars, trucks, tractors, trains, and Legos. He often creates scenarios where his toys argue with each other but eventually reconcile and he can memorize any song. He enjoys making others laugh and wants to marry a certain girl at church who finds him funny. And he’ll giggle his way through any physical exam.

Which personality do you think our culture values more?

From my observation and experience, Jude’s mellow, more compliant disposition appears more acceptable. This saddens me as I see the beauty in both personalities and I want so badly for my daughter to be appreciated for her strength, depth, and creativity. There are some who “get” her but Selah has begun to notice that “everyone loves Jude.” She is keenly aware of how others perceive her. I can see now that her sensitivity to others may also be a liability.

I can’t change our culture and I can’t make people appreciate the personalities of my children. That’s not my point. That’s not my job. My point is that no matter what personality type our culture may value, I want to appreciate each of them. And not only Selah and Jude, but each person in my life.

Can I learn to do that? Can I take the time to get to know the introverts without forcing them to be more outgoing? Can I laugh out loud with the extroverts and still be authentic? Can I be a little more sensitive to the wallflowers? Can I choose kindness and restraint with those personalities that challenge me more than I care to admit? Can I really see each person as handmade by the Almighty? Some days I don’t and some days I just want to be around people who are like me. And to be honest, some days I just want to be around me. I’m slowly learning to see the handprint of God on each personality and to extend grace, even to the ones who annoy me.

I hope that Selah and Jude will believe the Truth that God delights in them. Both of them.

I pray that they hold fast to the characteristics that God values (like humility, justice, and courage) rather than aim to meet the expectations of our changing culture.

I pray to be the kind of mother who helps them navigate the strengths and weaknesses of their personalities.

I hope that they will see the love and creative Genius behind their design.

And I want them to give thanks to the One who created them.

Because I sure do.

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