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How to Get Out of a Rut {a Holy Week approach that reaches beyond holy week}

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Our friends waited downstairs in the kitchen, picking at brie and crackers and entertaining the other three of my children who weren’t unfamiliar with delays like this. The pizza got cold while Nate wrapped her resistant-self in his arms like she was a rag doll, easily folded yet lifeless at the moment. I heard bits and pieces of their conversation as I periodically tip-toed to the top of the stairs to decide if we should just eat without them. He was reaching, in — and she had shut down.

Finally, after the brie was gone and the appropriate hour for dinner was long past, I heard heavy steps on the stairs as he carried her down. One look and I saw that spark again. She’d been revived.

“What’d you say to her?” I whispered to him in the hallway.

He’d apologized. “For what?” I asked. Having seen her devolve beforehand, it was clear to me who had been in the wrong.

… continue reading ‘How to Get Out of a Rut {a Holy Week approach that reaches beyond holy week}’…

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Latest Morning Chai Devotion

You Made a Daughter of Me {an adoration meditation}

Girl

 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18**

I think of them — those little ones under my roof and their friends on the other side of the ocean — but You, also, think of me.

They came to us with parched lips and cracked skin and hearts clamoring for the delight of another in them. They were famished, inside and out. Hungry for a Father’s touch.

And I came to You, fully robed and well-fed, with parents at every game and recital, yet You still saw the orphan parts of my heart that needed Your promise. You knew the wholeness I craved was one that only Your Spirit could fulfill.

You made me ..read more

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How to Get Out of a Rut {a Holy Week approach that reaches beyond holy week}

IMG_6379

Our friends waited downstairs in the kitchen, picking at brie and crackers and entertaining the other three of my children who weren’t unfamiliar with delays like this. The pizza got cold while Nate wrapped her resistant-self in his arms like she was a rag doll, easily folded yet lifeless at the moment. I heard bits and pieces of their conversation as I periodically tip-toed to the top of the stairs to decide if we should just eat without them. He was reaching, in — and she had shut down.

Finally, after the brie was gone and the appropriate hour for dinner was long past, I heard heavy steps on the stairs as he carried her down. ..read more

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A Life That Doesn’t Have To Be Liked

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The public world can’t grow the private me.

It never could.

I was fifteen and full of dreams with a brand new Bible I’d highlight in the late hours after friends went home, before the days when those friends were always accessible to broadcast my every thought to them. I was introduced to God before hashtags and tweets and the ability to make your most profound moments public. I scoured His Word those nights, alone — it was fresh to me.

He fed me … for just me, then.

But not too long after that summer, when I stayed up late nights on the swing in my backyard rapt in His Word like a love story, I learned I ..read more

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Loving The Unlikely (And How I Missed It)

Balloons

He wasn’t different in the sort of mysterious-let-me-find-him-out sort of way. To me, his different wasn’t other, it was just wrong.

I was twenty-something and ambitious and full of all sorts of ideas about how life should be lived and, from the way he folded his clothes to how he spent his time, well, we might as well have been opponents. I used to wonder if my blindest moment was the day I thought I might marry that boy.

That was the day it all started, the day the twenty-something version of me began to end.

Tears leaked out of his eyes at the end of that aisle that felt like one long mile in the old Virginia church. I ..read more

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The Power of Delight to Raise a Human Heart

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“I’m not a baby person,” I used to say. The years between birth and when a child could talk and walk and respond were one big vacuum, to me. What did they do during that time of life from which they’d have no memories?

My, isn’t it different around here now. That infant’s waking cry and his siblings are throwing elbows to reach him first. We’ve studied him, this mascot who’s successful at drooling and just now figured out how to hold his rubber toy.

In the early morning hours and late at night when I have him all to myself, I want time to stop. In my twenties when I first wanted him, sleepless nights and ..read more

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This Weak Me

House MJ

So she says to me, “I want what you have in Him … ” and immediately my mind flashes back to that one afternoon.

The sun was overhead and I was still in my sweatpants, thankful to be working from home on the day the tears kept coming. I blubbered, uncorked, to a friend on the phone while I sat at the kitchen table — unusual in a season where I’d locked the doors and pulled the shades and asked most everyone in my life to kindly give me some space. When your life feels like it exploded in front of you, you want a few minutes, even if only to sort through the pieces. 

She had ..read more

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“Stories about people who go through hard things … and find God.”

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She reads just like me, finding time where there isn’t any to rip through pages and chapters … until she reaches the near-end. Then she slows to almost a halt, wanting to linger in a story that is now a part of her.

We didn’t see her for hours as she devoured the life of Corrie Ten Boom.

“What do you like in a book, Lily?” I asked.

“I want to read stories about people who went through hard things and found God,” she says.

She wants to read stories of people just like her.

In honor of Lily, I’d love to share with you some of my recent favorites — stories in words and pictures of people ..read more

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About That Grocery Store Bagger

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Sometimes you have to see it starkly in another before you can fully realize it in yourself.

I asked her, “can I tell them your story, sweet Lil’, because it’s really my story?”

“Sure,” she said, without the shame that years of fumbling in this same place can often produce in the flesh.

So there’s this bagger at our grocery store who has my kids all lit up. He switches lines and duties and scurries to drop off carts, all so that he can chat with my little Africans, while treating our groceries like they’re a game of Tetris. He likes soccer and came from a big family and smiles with his eyes when they call this twenty-something ..read more

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Living the Unseen {the *real* miracle of adoption}

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Stella and Lily met each other again, two years after their stilted goodbye in Uganda.

Instead of matching threadbare uniforms, they wore jeans and boots and color. They filled the air of our suburban with stories and talked in between bites at Panera, as if this form of a girls’ weekend was no different than those of sharing bunk beds in a room with many more kids than mattresses. “Do you remember when you used to do …” we heard from the table next to them. Each was the other’s baby book.

They were casual and Beth and I were teary-eyed. To our ten and thirteen year-olds this kind of reunion and this kind of radical-life shift was ..read more

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When Her Bitter Isn’t Just Bitter Anymore

Hand Shells MJ

I see you, Mama …

You were on lunch duty, volunteering. You watched her from across the room, sitting alone at that long rectangular table that could fit twenty, while girls dressed just like her filed in and jammed their small bodies into tables all around her. Those 3 minutes she waited alone, craning her neck — too young to have learned to look nonchalant about her solitary state –  felt like 30 minutes to her. It felt like three hours to you. Is anyone going to sit with me? – the question masking the real question: am I worth wanting?

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The auditorium was silent. Could everyone hear your heart drumming inside of you? She’d been practicing this one dance for months and still ..read more

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Messy Prayers

Everything in Its Place

He had such a great idea with that little grey and black marker — monogramming his own plastic box, a perfect space to claim sole ownership — until it slid out of his hands and onto the kitchen table. Permanently marred. Not like the curtains or towel bar or toilet paper rod. None of which have fared well under the weight of four sets of hands that all have their own level of clumsy.

We’ll fix those soon.

Maybe.

I crawl up the stairs at night, each step tempting me to linger over another item that’s been left undone (and another stain on the stairway carpet to clean). Emails I haven’t sent and books I need to reserve ..read more

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The Words That Changed Her Life

Pencil & Journal

I didn’t know one year could cradle so many impossibles.

As my body stretched itself to fit and hold this babe — this longtime hope that had become a now reality — Lily’s best friend from Uganda was finding all thirteen years of herself enfolded in the arms of a mommy and daddy.

Lily and Stella wrote letters across the ocean and Lily prayed prayers that most knowing adults would dismiss as girlhood fantasy. What was the likelihood of a thirteen year-old girl in a remote village, not previously connected to an orphanage, finding ones who would not only visit and bring gifts of clothing and candy, but welcome home and hold?

Lily wasn’t concerned with probability. He ..read more

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For the One Who Needs to Hear A Real “Happy Birthday” Belted Out in Their Direction {and the One Who’s Gonna Sing It}

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We wait under those fluorescent lights again, the ceiling stretching high enough to make the room feel big and barren and just as hollow as the hearts of the little girls who dash in, minutes later.

They’re true ruffians — not like most eight and nine and eleven year-olds who’ve thrown together outfits in an attempt to communicate their sovereignty. These girls — in their flannel pajama pants and mis-matched tops and shoes that fit too big — wear what they’re given.

They wear other’s discards.

And they live what they were given.

Fractured homes and absent fathers and I just want to see my mommy again fill the history of girls who shouldn’t be old enough to even ..read more

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When Life Has Taught You to Run Past Its Best Conversations

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“I miss her, Mommy,” she says of her biological mother, finally releasing the tears that had been locked within her gait for a day.

A whole heck of a lot of “missing” was wedged into that one innocent phrase. She used the only words she had.

My little girl was physically missing all that this one woman was while her everyday life had the imprint of all that this one woman wasn’t. Her life held a lot of “missing.” More than a cuddle and a kiss goodnight and fantasized memories was the ache of a child whose life went unwitnessed for all the mile-markers you and I put on facebook and in those baby books. I don’t ..read more

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Hey You, Still in your Sweatpants …this love note’s for you.

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Hey you,

Yes, you, still in your sweatpants and un-showered, hours into your day. It’s February, friend. This love note is for you.

Between seven a.m. when they wake, alert and ready to tackle the world and you and any sibling that accidentally touches the edge of that notebook that one-time a long time ago used to be theirs, and lunch you will field dozens of questions. The shade snapped, up, when seven arrived and you’re right in the thick of a motherhood that looks a lot different than when you prayed for their hearts in the dark, just a few minutes earlier.

In your mind, they were quiet and jammy-clad with the night weighing down their eyelids ..read more

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“What Is It In Me?” {a note that stretches beyond the mom}

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“Pray for this one,” I tell my friends that I know well.

It was a subtle drip, the negativity coming from this child. If I made hashmarks in that moleskin of mine for every time the commentary that slid out of their mouth and into the space of ours that was otherwise peaceful, I might just be sick. I read, a while back, that orphans develop a vigilance for all that is around them. It’s a means of attempting to control the world they see, for the child whose life has been uncontrollable.

My child developed an eye for the nuances in another that most don’t notice and this vigilance, combined with a life that hit this ..read more

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When He Takes Away Our Anchors

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We used to have a set of those couches that probably should have had plastic on them — the kind that are better to look at than to sit on. They were in the living room, where no one really lived in my childhood home.

Except for those times when my dad and I talked.

We sat in that front room and dented those couches that went right back to their original shape when we left and filled the air with the kind of words that are safe. My daddy was safe for me, mostly because I was not all that different than he was. He saw himself in my eyes and in the turbulent emotions which ..read more

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That Little Girl’s Dance

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“NOOOO!” her body crumbles at the suggestion that her immune-suppressed frame should go to bed even just minutes earlier than the rest of my crew. “But that would mean I’d be alone upstairs.”

It’s starting to become clear to me. Who I once labeled as my little extrovert is really just one skirting fear. She rushes through morning tasks, all so that she isn’t the last one left — alone. Lights in odd places when the sun goes down signal safety to her. She didn’t have a nightlight in the early years when the night sky was bright. A dark room has corners she can’t see.

So she’s gotten smart — just like her mama — she’s hedged fear in that ..read more

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This Mama’s Weak Yes

Caleb Puzzle

As I sighed under my breath towards her, I caught her eye. She’d heard the exasperation that was intended only for me. Her sister was on edge, too. She needed my cheek against hers and my hand on her back, but in my tiredness she got the one-sentence pep-talk that rarely moves a heart. I was coach, today, barking instructions and correcting their errors. I couldn’t see them past the seven things on my list that needed to be done (yesterday) and the fact that I was hours away from dinner and I’d forgotten the main ingredient at the grocery store meat counter. Again.

They were players on a field, not hearts, to me on this ..read more

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2014: My Year of Ten Thousand Yeses

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For years, Nate encouraged me to write a book. “There’s nothing new under the sun,” I said in response. “There’s only one Book that matters. I have nothing to add.”

What felt pious to say was actually words that cloaked fear. Writing a book meant a whole new set of unknowns — and this chick isn’t so comfortable with the unknown. (My private inertia always tugs me towards a small world with little variables, because fewer variables means fewer opportunities to be out of control, right?) It felt like enough of a stretch for me to write this blog. I’d run into people at the grocery store or church who said things like “you put more online ..read more

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The Year We Laughed {and a little Hagerty announcement}

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I used to think I could have many heartbeats in my home without seeing their fingerprints on the walls. But sometime between our jump from two to four and four to five I have awakened to this reality: the order I once knew can’t coexist with the sheer number under our roof.

As I nurse this new babe, sharing these midnight hours with scores of twenty-five year-olds who already have what I so dearly wanted back then  – remnants of youth and motherhood all tangled together — I can’t help but laugh.

This year was the year I wore my namesake: Sara Elizabeth.

(This year was the year we all wore my namesake.)

She was ninety and unlikely, married to ..read more

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She Held That Love {a prayer to the One who was a firstborn son}

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{What better time to adore Him than now?}

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 

To one woman, You were a firstborn son.

To us, You were King, laid low, but to her — then — You were her first born. First cry, first suckle, first swaddling of one that was her very own flesh.

She was still mother, even though You were Savior.

You made Yourself flesh, even to she who was invited in to the holy huddle that night. You didn’t compromise Yourself and You didn’t compromise flesh. You were of her flesh and blood.

I adore You, God who ..read more

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A Note to Those Who Fall and The Ones Who Love Them

Colored Pencils MJ

Before I bite my nails and dive into a part of my story so very near to my understanding of who God is (but so very personal), let me tell you that not one of these posts goes up without Nate’s eyes first reading them.

And this post below, especially, I might as well call *our* post, not just mine. I wrote the words, but we both are living them. I chose to be discreet about any specifics here because what may seem like “big” sin to me, in my world, could be very small in yours or vice versa. Comparison doesn’t help anyone to understand what God has for them. This story isn’t about what ..read more

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Light A Fire This Winter?

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December is loaded for me.

This one month of the year has been infused with diagnoses and death and waiting with expectation, only to have those expectations dashed. It was Christmas Eve, years ago, that I was planning to unveil the secret to Nate. I thought for sure I was pregnant. All signs were a “go.” That day revealed the truth. Another silly-little plastic test in the trash. This was only one of many cold Decembers.

So late November found me bracing myself. Did I really have to live this month all over again?

Enter advent. Advent means both He has arrived and He is coming. Advent is my life and it’s yours, too. It is both a celebration of ..read more

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When Life Leaves You Flinching

Bright Light

When we first brought her home a few of our normal-to-us family ways made her skittish. Her body stiffened when I hugged her. She sat at the end of the couch when we all piled on for a cuddle. And she retreated behind her eyes at the mention of a “special treat.” A suggested trip to the pool surely meant: it would rain. A surprise right-turn into the ice cream shop and she was already anticipating when the sweetness would be melted and her mouth was empty again.

She braced herself against all that was good, almost as if her insides said, don’t trust this moment. It will turn on you. Every good thing was too good ..read more

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“Boast here, too.”

Tea Cup MJ

Her shoulders slump and her eyes search the floor. She mumbles and turns her back towards me. This little sprite went from fire-in-her-eyes to a stone-cold-countenance in a matter of seconds, all because things didn’t work out as she’d planned.

I could write the script for this downward spiral. This mama is quite familiar with how her little girl handles disappointment. It adds up to hours, maybe days, now that we’ve talked — her in my lap — about how a heart is made to grow, not shrivel, when life gives us twists we don’t expect.

But hours in conversation and dozens of conversations over time don’t necessarily equate to change. We’ve seen itty-bitty baby steps with ..read more

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When the Night is Long {And let me introduce you to Bo}

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He’s here.

Boaz, whom we mostly call “Bo”, made himself a Hagerty with an entrance that was nearly a week late according to the calendar — but just on time for our standards. Apparently we Hagertys like it late.

I have cried every day since his birth.

Hormone surges and declines, combined with this tiny miracle that has a heartbeat and turns his head when he hears the voice he’s been listening to for the months my eyes didn’t see him would have been enough to keep me teary-eyed, but his indoctrination into the world has left me using those middle-of-the-night feedings to cry before God.

“Hagerty Birth Plan” read the two-page typed document in our file. We took ..read more

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No Better Time

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Those of you who follow us on facebook, instagram or twitter know that this space has been a little quiet for good reason.

While I can’t wait to introduce you to the little man and tell you a little more of how his indoctrination to the world that breathes has imprinted me (and I will soon), I don’t want to miss this chance for the turning of a new page.

November.

It’s a new month and this sleep-deprived mama is remembering, again, how even winning just minutes back to Him matters.

If you haven’t yet, consider November as your month to start practicing adoration? There is no better time than now.

You can download the November adoration prayer sheet below or over ..read more

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Holy Lonely

Boots MJ

Big tears drop from underneath her lashes and she looks away from me, just as our eyes meet. She wants me to ask and probe — I can tell — but she doesn’t make her answers readily available.

She wants me to prove myself trustworthy. Are you someone who is safe to hold my heart? Or, even more, will you fight to know this heart of mine?

Because real trust isn’t about availability — it’s not just about someone physically being there — its about the fight they will make on your behalf. My little girl knows this, somewhere, tucked away underneath all of those layers.

“I want a friend who is just like me, Mommy,” she confesses. “I feel alone.” ..read more

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When Your Heart Needs a Spring Rain in October

Cherish Oregon

My first impression of Stacey has stuck — she’s one of those who is fully comfortable in her skin. It’s a rare woman, these days, who isn’t afraid to be just who He made her to be. Stacey is that rare woman. And she’s stepping into this space, after having a month-old baby, to write about something so near to my heartbeat. Before you read her words, she’s running a one-month anniversary special — for one day only — on that baby of hers. Oh, yes, she’s selling that baby. Go check it out. 

“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He ..read more

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“Write Love Letters to Me.”

Pencil & Journal

“Write love letters to me,” she heard in her heart, as she sat before Him. This was her nudge towards the awkwardly beautiful habit of adoration and when I got the email from her detailing it, I couldn’t help but steal this phrase for myself.

This is what we’re doing, writing love letters to One that many of us have seen for years as stern leader and firm coach and hard-nosed father. (It’s hard to continue to see Him as these things when you start to write “love letters” in your own words, using the Word He gave you.)

Aren’t we all living the life-recovery from false notions about who God is?

So, we start a new month, ..read more

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What if I Made Him Marvel?

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“You will miss that old season one day,” said one of the friends who’d prayed with me for years for Him to come and open my womb, when I told her the news that He had.

She was right.

He is folded up inside of me, this answer of God. He stirs against my frame (which feels like it couldn’t possibly stretch any more to hold him) and he, now, keeps me up at night as my organs make space for him. Though I don’t hear his cries, he is as real to me as my own pulse.

This promise still warms inside of me, giving me time to consider the season I just left.

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The fourth floor at ..read more

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Restitution

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She was that crazy friend who pushed the envelope of love and dragged me along with her. Then she said “yes”, again.

So here is the story in her own words — a guest post from my dear friend Beth about Lily’s dear friend Stella.

I have one itty-bitty piece to add at the end of this post — and what’s itty bitty to this friend may just leave the rest of us with our jaws on the floor. She’s crazy, remember… [Sara]

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“I am sorry” she said as she looked at me, eyes filled with sorrow. She removed the ultrasound wand from my belly and returned it to the waiting ultrasound machine and handed me ..read more

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What Happens When Little Girls Pray

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[Many of you have sown into this ever-unfolding story. And it is truly unfolding. But before I get to the wild update at the bottom of this post, I need to give the background, again. Yes, it's *that* good. Read and share. I'm still pinching myself over how He's put this together.]

While I sipped Starbucks and slept deep, wrapped in down, these girls formed a sisterhood not around bloodlines, but from blood spilled.

They made rocks and sand their playground and promised with their lives, not their words, that they would see one another as unsoiled. They built a fort around their friendship and learned to love like family, though they’d never known the safety of ..read more

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When Love Doesn’t Let Go

Park Benches MJ

There’s something about writing that forges the writing into the living.

Sometimes I write retrospectively, easily seeing more clearly that way. But sometimes — like this time — I have to write what I live so that I can live what I write. It’s as if putting it on paper (my form of saying it out loud) brands me.

We’ve had a lot of required reading for all these home-studies and adoptions that just hasn’t quite applied. Six different people, with different stories and different personalities and different reflections of God they are seeing, don’t quite lend themselves to generalized solutions. I’ve mostly remembered soundbites from that stack of books.

One lesson I can’t even cite accurately, ..read more

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Two Habits That Are Moving My Girls’ Hearts (and, ahem, mine)

Two Candles MJ

In her five-year-old, unfettered, and un-theologized speak she said: “God told me I needed to tell you why I don’t like my birth country.”

Something which peppered our lives back home became medication during our six-week stint in Uganda, while adopting our second two.

The days when we weren’t out there chasing paper and when the power was on in our guest home, I turned on 5 or 10 or 15 minutes of worship music and asked the children to just draw what God brought to their minds.

“Something about this is necessary for right now,” I told Nate, one morning. I knew that this short stint was inviting healing, I just couldn’t yet put my finger on how. ..read more

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My Birthday Gift

Balloons

Today is my birthday. For many years, birthdays have brought with them a weight. I’d feel them approaching with a subtle, hardly identifiable dread. They were like an hourglass, reminding me — the one who was desperately clinging to hope — of what still hung in suspension, all while time progressed. No surprise, this birthday feels a little different. And in honor of both the shift of outward life and all those years where the outward hung, stationary, but the inner flame grew I have a gift to give YOU on my birthday. Read through to the end for details …

That lump in my throat — sometimes it might as well be permanent, it’s so ..read more

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The header and logo for this blog were designed by the wonderful and talented Dara Schwartz. The rest of the design is my husband's fault :)


Many of the photographs on this website have come courtesy of extremely talented sources. Specifically ...

Cherish Andrea Photography
(Kansas City, MO)
Mandie Joy Photography
(Charleston, SC)
Lucy O Photography
(Charlottesville, VA)
Synergy Photography
(Waynesboro, VA)
Katie LePage Photography
(Denver, CO)