On Grief: Our Failed Adoption

It’s been a little over four months since Ethiopia decided to end intercountry adoption indefinitely and I still have a hard time talking about it.  Even as I sit down now to write about it I’m stifling tears, but I’m desperate for some closure to this chapter in our family’s story, and I hope that writing will give me that.

Back in 2014, Frank and I both felt the strong conviction to be a part of ending the world’s orphan crisis.  147 million orphans around the globe.  Did you know that if only 7% of people who claim to follow Jesus would adopt, the orphan epidemic would be eradicated?  7%!!!!!  We knew we had to step up and do something.  After much prayer and research, we made the decision to start the process of adopting a girl from Ethiopia.  Deciding to adopt is full of decisions you’re forced to make.  Where from?  How old?  What gender?  How many kids?  We were met with a lot of criticism about our choice, but we had five other considerations at home and we did the best we could with the choices we had to make.  Maybe they were the right ones, maybe not – but most prospective adopting parents do not make any of these decisions on a whim or for selfish reasons.  We checked off the boxes and hoped for the best.

For the next three years, we fundraised, hired attorneys, endured home studies and background checks, got our passports, and a host of other boring but necessary things that you have to do when you want to adopt.  And then we waited.  God, the waiting was hard.  We filled the tough days and weeks and months of waiting by praying for our girl every night with the kids. We prayed for safety, rest, and that someone was meeting her practical and emotional needs until we could get to her.

We began to speak the name that we chose to add to her African one:  Francesca – after her soon-to-be father (which is actually an Ethiopian naming tradition).  We would soon discover that her name meant “free”.  So now when we talked about her, prayed for her, or prepared for her – we did so by name and with the explicit intention that we would one day help her be free of her title of orphan.

While we waited, we prepared.  We studied Ethiopian culture, bought and hung African art in our home, rearranged our kids’ rooms, researched how to handle attachment issues common among adopted kids, read about curl patterns and different ways to style African hair, and SO MUCH MORE.  There was not a day that went by that our impending adoption didn’t affect every decision that we made as a family.  I also allowed myself to grieve, which I maintain to this day is a very important part of adopting.  Adoption is born from trauma, and to not recognize the pain that creates the need is negligent, in my opinion.  I cried tears for the mama who would not or could not raise her baby, and I cried tears for my future daughter who would never again know the love and touch of the woman that brought her into the world.

A little over a year into our adoption process, I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda with a group of women and spent several days working in an orphanage.  I cannot adequately articulate the heartache I felt every time I had to put one child down so that I could pick up another, and the subsequent grief I felt when we left.

Me holding baby Jocelyn.

The ratio of 20 kids to one “mama” in that orphanage made my stomach hurt.  It was as if I had the opportunity to hold the child I was waiting for and to physically experience the conditions she was living in while she waited for us.  Leaving Uganda and all of those orphans behind was agonizing.  I cried for weeks.

This guy…can you even with that smile?!?!?!

Despite my heavy heart at having to leave those babies behind, I returned home with a renewed sense of hope and purpose for our own adoption journey.  There was something very transformative for me in being able to put a name and a face with our story…even if it wasn’t OUR child I was holding.  David Platt’s words about orphans became more real to me than ever:

We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes. -David Platt , “Radical”

And that was that.  Everything changed for me.  I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I had a clear vision in my mind’s eye about what our baby would look like and feel like.  I could hear her laughter and envision her sweet little presence in our home.  It made the waiting both easier and more difficult simultaneously.  It was a tough conundrum that I was now wrestling with by myself because my husband stayed behind to watch our kids while I trekked to the other side of the world to hold and love these babies.  He didn’t get the newfound perspective that my time in Africa gave me.  Three years later, he would say that while he also felt grief at our loss, this is what saved him from being on my level of heartache when our adoption fell apart.  He never got to hold “her”.

We Regret to Inform You

We always knew Ethiopia was an unstable program.  But kids were still being adopted at a somewhat steady rate, even though the number of successful adoptions out of Africa were far fewer than other places.  Our objective was always to advocate for the children that were in the greatest need.  This included signing up to parent a special needs child, as well as one from a country that did not exactly make the process easy.  We were in it to fight for a child to have a chance at growing up with two parents in a loving home, instead of an orphanage, so we chose to dig our heels in and stand in the greater gap.  Again – these choices are never easy, but it’s the only one that gave us any peace.

Even knowing how precarious international adoption could be, not gaining a family member at the end of this journey was never a consideration for me.  Frank and I both felt so incredibly sure of our role in this, so I never allowed my mind to prepare me for heartbreak by thinking about the “what ifs”, although my husband did.  I’m not really sure what the difference is, but it wasn’t until I sent the email officially closing our case that I truly allowed the grief to begin it’s relentless process.

I skipped over denial, anger, and bargaining and dove headfirst into depression.  This loss is not something that is talked about very often, because to outsiders, there was never any physical thing for me to grieve in the first place.  Compared with death or miscarriage, for all intents and purposes, I should be grateful, right?  After all, I knew of many prospective adoptive parents that had already been matched with their children that would quite possibly never see their faces again.  The United States was doing everything they could to complete those cases but nothing was guaranteed.

We never made it that far.  We didn’t receive that email with our child’s name, photo, and medical history.  We didn’t have court dates scheduled or plane tickets purchased or a crib waiting in an empty room.

What we DID have was a picture of our family that will never come to fruition.  We have a swingset in the back yard that our children still swing on, but that swingset looks different now because it was built with the intention to also hold Baby Francesca.  Everything in our house looks different because for SO LONG, there was another family member in our minds that would be a part of it.  Is the grief from mourning the loss of an idea any less painful than the loss of the real thing?  I’d like to argue that it is not.

We still have hard days.  I still see a child on TV that looks like what I’d envisioned would be ours and I have to stifle tears.  We are slowly but surely returning to what our lives were before we stepped out on that limb.  We are taking down most of our African art because it’s just a little too painful to look at right now.  Maybe we will put it back; maybe not.  I don’t know much about why this happened, but I do know that God does not waste our tears.  I trust that His love for me and my family is enough to keep us stepping out in faith and attempting to do hard things that don’t necessarily return dividends.  This experience will NOT stop me from saying yes to something that may cost me everything, especially if it’s THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

In the meantime, we are still mourning, and still healing.  And God willing, we will continue to be sensitive to His ever-so-soft voice when He tells us to go and do something big and risky out of love for His people.




On Integrity: An Open Letter to My Kids

Dearest children of mine,

It is a tough time in our country right now. Every day, thanks to the connectedness of social media, we are bombarded with everyone’s opinion about the root of the problems, the extent to which those problems exist, and the best way to solve them.

For a while now (thanks to cell phone videos), we have been witness to an overwhelming amount of incidents involving the excessive use of force on African Americans by police officers. These officers have gone unchecked and unpunished, and people that care are rallying to speak out against the injustice of it all. One such form of protest came from Colin Kaepernick, an NFL football player that chose to take a knee during the national anthem. What appeared to me as a peaceful form of protest has a huge portion of the country divided on whether this form of protest was “appropriate”.

This issue has sparked healthy, necessary conversations in the country and in our home about civil and human rights and the importance of knowing and doing better.

In an effort to continue this conversation, I want you to know some truths I’ve discovered about how to be a better human:

I hope you fight. Every day that the good Lord has given you breath in your lungs, I hope you make that one more day to fight for what you believe in. I especially want you to fight for justice and freedom for ALL HUMANS. If that means you kneel during the anthem and you offend the sensibilities of everyone you know, so be it. As long as you’re doing it for the right for all people to be treated equally, then I will kneel right next to you.

Do not let others define you by what you do. Be defined by WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU STAND FOR. Don’t let someone tell you “you’re too young” or “you’re just a student – stick to learning” or “you’re just an athlete, stick to athletics”.  You use whatever platform you have to speak out against injustice. That platform was given to you by God…not for the sole entertainment of everyone around you. You have a voice – use it.

Value loving others over being loved; listening over being heard; justice over your comfort; humanity over symbolism; what is RIGHT over what is orderly.

Don’t share internet memes without sourcing their accuracy, especially when it comes to important issues. Your credibility is everything. Do your research. Know what you’re talking about.

Sit with the lonely kid at the lunch table. Make popularity your enemy. There will come a time when you have to stand up for what is right and it will cause you considerable grief from people who don’t agree. Stand up anyway.

Be intentional about knowing people who look differently, live differently, and spend their money differently than you.

Respectfully, but assertively question authority. Even mine. I’m not always right and neither is anyone else. Be humble when you’re right about someone and own it when you’re wrong.

Avoid clichés, especially those with a religious tone. It’s not an effective way to witness. Don’t just say “What would Jesus do?” or wear it on a bracelet. ACTUALLY DO WHAT JESUS DID.

Do not become complacent. Your silence on a matter as important as racial equality is just as toxic to the problem as if you were instigating it. Declaring your beliefs is not enough. You need to back it up with action. As James 2:17 says, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Trust your gut.

Above all, know that I love you. And there is no other thing you can do in this life that will make me more proud than standing up for those that have been rendered powerless or speaking up for those who have been mistreated.

Because news flash – THAT’S WHAT JESUS DID.

On Parenting Teenagers: Someone Throw Me a Life Jacket

*Disclaimer: Today’s post contains no advice, no ten steps to a better whatever, and no eloquent commentary on how to be a parent. It is merely an attempt to reach out to parents of teenagers and remind them that they’re not alone.

Parenting teenagers. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It is the smelliest, most frustrating, most “holy shit am I going to survive this”-iest of times.

We are in the thick of parenting two teenage boys and can I just say this one thing before I go a little deeper into the subject?

I’m tired, y’all.  This season is wearing me the heck out.

I thought for sure that my exodus from their toddler years would provide me with some emotional and physical relief, but I’m discovering that every season of parenthood only presents me with a new kind of exhausting.

Me and Jackson, when we were both just babies.

There’s a caveat to that exhaustion, though, and it’s one that gives way to a glimmer of “maybe I’m actually doing something right here”.  In the midst of hormone surges, silent treatments, girl drama, and a whole lotta sass, the burgeoning adult within them makes an occasional appearance.  Some logic forms; a good decision is made; a hard thing is conquered; a rite of passage scaled.  A sigh of relief washes over me in those moments and it’s only then that I realize I’ve been holding my breath since their last “right move” – anxiously waiting for some indication that they will actually survive (and dare I say thrive?) when they leave my nest.

They’re always thrilled when we request selfies.

When they’re little, the fear is that they are so vulnerable and delicate that everything has the potential to harm.  Just because their outer shells grow bigger, however, doesn’t mean they’re any more protected.  It just means that the sources of potential pain have evolved. Instead of hot stoves, bikes without training wheels, kidnappers, or faulty playground equipment, the perpetrators of harm look more like crazy drivers on the road, AP classes, college applications, and unprotected sex. As parents attempting to teach our children how to navigate an unforgiving world alone, we have to do the hard work of letting go.

And this is when I start holding my breath.

Letting go of these budding adults is close to the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a parent. They crave independence as if it’s nature’s way of forcing what’s destined to happen eventually.  They no longer want to tell us EVERY SINGLE THING that happened in their day (although there are exceptions to this rule, even my overly communicative child withdraws to some degree). They want to experience new and sometimes dangerous adventures. They develop relationships that are void of our influence or opinion. And possibly the most painful step they take towards adulthood – they operate large vehicles on their own. God help us all.

Brothers. Best friends.

This necessary surrender is tough, especially on a mama. Our instinct is to protect, to rescue, to hover. We want to know and be known by our children and our teenagers want the opposite. I was the same way when I was that age. I didn’t want to be seen with my parents as a teenager. I went from asking to be dropped off down the block to just walking to school by myself. In my mind, getting up earlier and walking the mile to school was better than being in my mother’s car where someone might see me. I didn’t even want people to know I had parents at all. Separation is a good thing in the long run, but a hard transition for a parent.

So my challenge to myself – and I suppose the point of this post – is to stop taking it personally. When Jackson walks in and wants to retreat to his room for the rest of the day, I won’t take it as an insult. When Jake wants to stay mum about the status of his relationship, I won’t force it. I will deposit my wisdom and experience (i.e. lessons I learned the hard way) when the opportunities present themselves, but I will release them to feel the weight of the consequences of bad choices.


Me and my boys.

And in the meantime, I will wait for it all to come full circle. I remember the tether between myself and my parents becoming shorter as I stepped into adulthood, and even more so when I had my own children. The space between me knowing it all and them providing guidance grew smaller and smaller as I matured. And the exciting (yet also sad and scary) truth is that I’m only the blink of an eye away from that being my new season of parenting. Can I get an amen for the day when that phone call comes from my bleary-eyed child sobbing with regret about how they mistreated us because they JUST DIDN’T KNOW how hard it would be to have kids? Yep, I made that phone call myself in the early weeks of my first foray into motherhood. And it’s true. I had no clue of the magnitude of what I would be responsible for when I birthed that perfect tiny human. I certainly had no idea that that sweet, soft mound of flesh would one day get bigger and look at me with disdain while trying to convince me that he knows more than I do about life. Even as I type this, I can hear my parents gloating with satisfaction at the law of what goes around comes around.

The next time I want to slap the sarcasm right off of my kid’s face, I will instead look forward to the day when the white water rapids of the teen years will flow into relaxing Lake Adulthood. Until then: Jesus, wine, and date night are doing a fine job at keeping me afloat.

School Days

To my sweet girl on her first day of school:

I can’t believe today is already here. Seems like just yesterday that Daddy and I were having a conversation about possibly having another baby, and now here we are – launching that beautiful baby into a brand new season; one of learning, growing, and blossoming…but for me, it’s also one of letting go.

Daddy was thoughtful enough to capture my sobs as we left school today. All aboard the hot mess express!!!

See here’s the thing – you are my mulligan.

My do-over.

When I started this parenting gig, I was a terrified single mom and had to quickly get myself into survival mode. I handed over my six-week-old infant to a stranger and set off to make enough money to feed him. Fast forward to child number two and I was in the same situation. Six weeks of “postpartum bliss” (allowing only six weeks of maternity leave is criminal but that’s a post for another day) and I once again handed my infant child over so that I could go back to work. It was agonizing, not just because I had to leave my babies, but because I knew I would be missing out on the milestones. I likely wouldn’t be the one to see the first smile, hear the first laugh, or witness the first step. But I did what I had to do and by the grace of God, I raised two beautiful boys by myself with the help of my incredible village.

And then came you. My chance to be fully aware, fully engaged, fully present for every season of my baby’s life. You were the first child I gave birth to with no medication (something I really wanted to conquer) and the first baby I was able to nurse (we lasted TWO WHOLE YEARS!!!). I was there for your first smile, your first laugh, and Daddy and I were both there the first time you rolled over. It was my hand that you let go of when you took your first step.

You are my shadow. Where I go, you go. We are the very best of friends and I have relished every moment of every day with you these last four and a half years. I am so incredibly thankful to have savored this season of motherhood with you, my girl.

But now it’s time to give you some wings. We’ve allowed you to settle into milestones in your own timing (there was a time when we thought you’d never let anyone but Daddy and I even grace your presence, let alone hold you!) and because we let you take your time being you, we know you’re ready to dazzle the world with all that feisty pizazz. Your teacher and your classmates don’t even know how lucky they are to have you around, but they will. You will make good friends and that loyalty of yours will see to it that those friends will last a lifetime.

Baby girl, it takes a whole lot of courage to get out of Mama’s van on that first day with a world of unknown waiting to be discovered. But you did it boldly and Daddy and I are so proud.

Your face as you got out of the car was priceless. Full of joy and excitement. We won’t talk about what Mom looked like.

I love you Baby Girl.

xoxo, Mama

The Offering of Empathy

I’ve been sitting on this post for over a month now, and I keep starting and then immediately quitting it. The central theme of a society that is sorely lacking in empathy just gets my blood pressure skyrocketing so much that I find it difficult for my brain to form sentences. Add to that the frustration that those who really need to hear this message will ignore or dismiss it. I know this because, in the days since white supremacists congregated on a college campus to spew their racist rhetoric, hatred, and vitriol, white folks have been all over social media defending themselves with phrases like “I’m not privileged…I didn’t grow up rich” (can’t even with that one), or “I work hard for everything I’ve got”.  So much defending, so little listening.  But I realized that this is something that I just need to say, even if I’m only saying it to myself. I process so much of what I’m feeling internally, that if I don’t get it out, I might seriously lose my shit. So here you have it. Writing is my self care and is ultimately what will keep me from engaging in pointless Facebook debates that go nowhere. We’ve all been there, amiright? It is a dark, black hole that I do not wish to get sucked into.

Where have all the lovers gone?

The events in Charlottesville this week were the catalyst that forced me to sit down and write this, but it’s a subject that has come up in at least five different conversations these last few weeks among people that I love, and here it is:


And the real shocker? The church is one of the biggest offenders.

Yep, I said it. And I stand by it. Because while white supremacist jackholes are the subjects of today’s news, what you don’t see as much (because no one wants to talk about that elephant) is people professing to love Jesus but unwilling to look through the lens of someone suffering through everyday life difficulties. It is the common denominator in conversations that are happening in my own living room with friends that I love dearly. They’re in a tough season and navigating some really hard things and this is the time for their friends and spiritual family to step up and love them but…..crickets.

Sounds strange, right? Isn’t that what the Christian community should be known for? Our empathy towards the downtrodden? The maligned? Those in crisis? The answer is yes. But for some reason, many Christians have lost sight of the fact that empathy is the core of ministry. Without empathy, it is impossible to effectively minister to a broken world. If you claim to love Jesus, you don’t get to just wipe your hands of someone’s struggle just because it makes you uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or because you don’t agree with how they handled it.

Now let me preface the admonishment I’m about to hand out. First, this doesn’t apply to events regarding racism. NO, NO, NO. That is a systemic issue created by the perpetrators alone. I will hear no talk of anyone needing to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. says, you can’t do that if you don’t have boots. Systemic racism has robbed generations of minorities of the resources for success and yet society expects minds, hearts, bodies, and bank accounts to heal without the benefit of help.

Secondly, some folks love to just wallow in their garbage and if that’s the case, leave ’em alone and let ’em wallow. Toxic people that are addicted to drama do not get to demand your time and emotional energy.  Ain’t nobody got time fuh ‘dat.

If that’s not the case, however, then there is no “sin” so great that should ever cause a believer to give up on someone when they are in need of compassion. That divorcee?  He’s hurting. He’s grieving. You don’t get to say “this is too messy for me to be involved in it” or “I can’t handle your drama”.  That addict? She’s hurting. She’s struggling. You don’t get to say, “Well you should have known better”, or “You made the wrong choices”.  This is especially true if that person’s choices have not affected you personally. That person of color? They’re struggling with the events that have unfolded on the news this week.  You don’t get to say, “Let’s just stop talking about it” or “But I didn’t own slaves!”.  Stop defending. Stop judging. STOP MAKING IT ABOUT YOU!

What I am addressing here is real life people that are in hard seasons and are in desperate need of compassion and care, even if their pain is a direct result of poor choices. Time and again I have witnessed friends and family members (including myself) that have been “ghosted” by church members, neighbors, and friends when they are in the trenches of life. Suddenly, excuses abound and they are left to navigate their trials alone.

What is Empathy?

Because she is the ultimate communicator, I will let Brené Brown explain this.  Please take two and a half minutes to have your mind opened by this concept:

For those of you that didn’t click and watch the video, I will bottom line it for you.  Having empathy requires four things:

  1. Perspective taking.  This requires you actually attempting to see the world through someone else’s lens.
  2. Staying out of judgment.  This also requires listening.  That means that unless they ask you “what do you think I can do differently?”, you shut your pie hole.
  3. Recognizing emotion in other people.  Are they sad? Angry? Scared? Make an effort to interpret how they’re feeling.
  4. Communicating all of that. This is when you get to act out the new perspective, free of judgment, and affirm their emotions with your words and body language.

In short, empathy merely requires you to stop thinking and talking about yourself or your opinions and just step into the world of a hurting person. Bonus: IT’S FREE!  You may not ever fully be able to relate (just as I cannot understand the plight and struggle of my African American friends in regards to the prejudice they endure), but you can try.  I know what it feels like to be misunderstood, and as a woman, I definitely know what it feels like to be judged unfairly because of my physical attributes. Obviously, it pales in comparison, but I have the ability (and dare I say the RESPONSIBILITY) to look within myself and locate a modicum of similarities and use it to help my black brothers and sisters feel heard, seen, understood.

Empathy is our offering to humanity. It is an opportunity to step outside of ourselves to feel the pain and suffering of our fellow man, but empathy demands action.  It is not a feel good movie and hearty cry.  It empowers us to be a catalyst for true advocacy.  So that we (and I’m talking to myself here too) do not run the risk of merely hearing this truth without making that knowledge a part of us, I encourage you today to think of a loved one in your life that is hurting.  Get their perspective on what is causing their hurt and do so without judgment.  Understand their feelings, and then communicate that.

A lovely woman that I’ve never met recently reached out to me on Facebook to thank me for something I shared the other day concerning the events in Charlottesville.  I didn’t fix her problem, and I didn’t excuse my lack of involvement in the events (even though it was clear to her that I wasn’t).  I merely said, “I understand and I will not make excuses. I will do my part to enact change.”  She simply appreciated that I even took the time to address it.

You will be surprised at the difference the simple gesture of “I am sorry this is happening” will make.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash


Beauty for Ashes: In Memory of John

The morning after John passed, I was thumbing through my latest issue of Writer’s Digest when I stumbled upon an article written by an author who had been struggling to get her memoir published.  The reason?  Her story ended in death.  Publishers explained that while her journey of adopting and loving a child with a potentially terminal illness was a noble one, they “wanted a book that ended with a healthy, thriving child”.  She feared that an adoption story about a child who dies would never find an audience.

Nevertheless, she persisted.  She wrote about her love for her daughter Ruth; about the struggles she faced and the hurdles she overcame.  She wrote about the neurologist who said Ruth was so damaged from cerebral palsy that adopting her wouldn’t make a difference, and of how she blossomed into a smart, thriving, beautiful girl.  She wrote of the night Ruth died and of bringing her wheelchair back to Uganda to give to another little girl with cerebral palsy.

Immediately, my mind flashed back to the day we all learned that John had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer – just ten days after returning from his honeymoon with Peggy. Their love story was an unconventional one, formed nearly 50 years after meeting as acquaintances, and a year after he’d lost his wife Madge to ALS.  Of course, it was no surprise to me how effortless it was for Peggy and John to connect.  When you share both the common bond of painful loss, as well as the love for a Savior who redeems, love is free to blossom.  It’s how my husband and I connected and fell in love, after all.  Shared pain and shared healing.  Unfortunately, you cannot have redemption without loss.

When he received his diagnosis, we were all perplexed.  How horribly unfair to receive such a grim declaration after they finally found love after heartache.  But neither of them shook their fists toward heaven in rage (like I, admittedly, have done many times since that day).  They simply embraced that this was part of their story, and they set out to bring glory to God in and through their unfortunate circumstance.  Like the author of the article I mentioned who conquered the most difficult loss any human can bear when she buried a child; they, in turn, conquered the news of his diagnosis and made something beautiful out of something tragic. Beauty for ashes. They “chose to love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss – without considering what such love would cost.  Because no matter how and when life ends, only love is guaranteed to last.”  

Peggy and John, your love story has inspired me to be a better human.  To love people even when it’s hard.  To invest in relationships even when there may not be a return.  To praise God even in the midst of a storm.  The love you had for each other and the love you have for Jesus is the legacy that will last for eternity.  

To my beloved mother-in-law, your strength and perseverance to do what is right and good, in spite of criticism, and to love unconditionally will be the foundation of the crown that awaits you in heaven; and it will be stunning.  I am honored to call you both friend and family.

Lastly, I’d like to read an excerpt from a letter I wrote to John a few weeks ago:

Dearest John,

Before I say anything else, I want to apologize for not saying any of this to you sooner.  If it’s one thing I’ve learned since learning of your illness, it’s that one should never wait to tell someone how fantastic they are and how much they are loved.  And, father-in-law, you most certainly are both.

First and foremost (and most importantly), I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving my precious Peg.  She means the world to me and from the day I met her, I’ve longed for her to find someone like you to love…and to love her back.  And then came you.  I remember watching you gush over her that night after Grace’s graduation and how much she blushed at every compliment you gave and each profession of your affection.  And I remember coming home that night and looking Frankie in the eye and saying, “Finally!!!  She finally found someone that loves her the way she deserves to be loved.”

So thank you.  Thank you for loving her so big.  You have left a mark on her heart that will bear fruit for eternity and you’ve left a mark on mine for doing it.

Secondly, I want to thank you for being such a shining example of what it means to truly exemplify the love of Christ, particularly for blended families.  As you know, Frank and I are a blended family and you have painted such an incredible picture of what it means to love someone who does not bear your DNA.  Anyone who has walked this road can tell you that’s it’s not an easy one.  But even before I met you, I knew of you to be an excellent step-father.  As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until Frank got to know you that I even realized that they weren’t your biological kids.  You’ve never called them your step-daughters, and I love that about you.  Getting to know you personally has only cemented what I’d already heard – that you loved and fathered JT and the girls as if you were biologically related.  But I know that anything less has never even crossed your mind.  

Furthermore, since marrying Peg you’ve always called Frankie “son”, an endearment that did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  My children have all felt as if you’ve been their grandfather all their lives because that is how you’ve loved them.  I am so, so thankful.  And I promise you this – until I take my last breath, I will do you proud in loving my kids – ALL OF MY KIDS – with the same unconditional love that you have shown to yours.  Whether you feel it or not, you have left a legacy as a step-parent that will have an eternal impact. Your influence and example will be felt for generations to come.  Ephesians 1:5 says, “In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”  The Bible is pretty clear about how we, as humans, have been adopted into the kingdom of God.  Thank you for being such a perfect picture of how God wants us to love His people.  

I’m so grateful that you came into our lives, John…and I want you to know this:

You will be leaving us better than how you found us and it is a direct result of us having you as a part of our family.  

Finding My Lane

I once had someone tell me that the best thing I had to offer this world was a pretty face. And for most of my days since, I’ve believed that lie.

You said I’d never be a leader
You said I’d never wear a crown
If I wanted to be someone
I should learn to settle down

-“Doubt”  -Mary J. Blige

In the years following that confrontation with a person whose validation I was so desperate to have, I buckled under the pressure of expectations and just gave up. I accepted what was spoken over me and settled into “good enough” instead of challenging myself to overcome. Toxic relationships and many careless decisions later, I was 22 years old and an unmarried single mother. I missed my window to be or do something great….or so I thought.

A favorite author of mine, Jen Hatmaker, joins a group of other authors and speakers for the BELONG Tour, a yearly conference for women where they share their wisdom and experience in how to live a more “vibrant, open-hearted, meaningful life.” She recently recorded a Facebook Live video to promote the tour, in which she speaks about “staying in your lane”. Five minutes into it, I knew it was going to be exactly what I needed to hear. As she spoke about what it means to “find your lane”, or purpose, I finally began to understand that I’ve not only been looking for the wrong indicators for living out my purpose, but I was not, in fact, too late. As if she had a front row seat to the movie reel of my insecurities, she spoke truth over the lie that had made itself home in my mind for so long. She relayed her own story of how she forged a new path for what she really wanted to do with her life, which looked a lot like starting over as a young wife and mom at the age of 29.

If it’s your calling – if it’s what you’re meant to do, then there’s no window to miss.

For the first time, I began to feel as if being a wife and mom of five kids wasn’t the only accomplishment I had time enough to achieve in this life. There was more to what I had to offer, and that burning deep within my soul was not to be ignored. I thought the key to my purpose was found at the intersection of money and success, but I was wrong.

The research is carefully laid out with graphs and timelines about how to achieve the ultimate dream. Experts and life coaches spewing their theories about the proper path to success: four-year degrees, fast track to partner, marriage with 2.5 kids, a paleo diet and regular yoga.  Why are we so hung up on letting someone else define how we are meant to live our lives? Well one thing is for sure – I’m done making decisions about my life based on some arbitrary definition of success. Discovering what you’re meant to do is actually pretty simple – I just had to start asking myself the right questions.

What are you drawn to?

Seems simple right? That’s because it is. I was so focused on whether my purpose would be profitable or would fit into some mold that “made sense”, that I was ignoring some very basic qualifications, one of which is simply a matter of what I’m drawn to.  Another pretty simple question I needed to ask myself was, what am I good at? The marriage of the answers to those two questions helped direct me towards how God can use my gifts and talents to fulfill my purpose on this earth. So here is where I am:

  1. What are you drawn to?  Transparency. I just want real, genuine, authentic influence in my life. Be it in music, art, leadership, or friendship, I want to surround myself with people who are willing to be their true selves and share it all – the good, the bad, the ugly.
  2. What are you good at?  Communicating. Specifically, the written word. I don’t assume that any of what I write is earth shattering, but when it comes to being transparent, it’s much easier for me to do it in writing.
  3. What do you love?  People. I love people. The end. I want to use my life to express not just my love for humankind, but God’s love for them as well.


I may not be a scholar or Fortune 500 entrepreneur. My writing may not be featured in the New Yorker. I’m no trophy wife and I’m definitely not the president of the PTA.  But what I do have to offer is my story.  I can sidle up next to you in your dark moments and be the thing that I’m drawn to – vulnerable, authentic, and real.  I can hear you speak your pain and I can empathize, because I’ve been there.  I can open up and reveal all the dark spots that are there inside of me too, because we all have them and sometimes all we need to be able to process our own pain is to hear that we aren’t alone.

Four years ago I wrote a blog post about marriage that went viral. As can be expected, it received it’s fair share of criticism. Sensing it had the potential to deflate me, a dear friend of mine wrote to encourage me to stay in my lane and it has stuck with me since.

The world is yearning for MORE of what you shared. I know that you won’t let any amount of hatred or ridicule you’ve received regarding what you wrote stop you from continuing to spread your knowledge, experience, love, and joy with people. You never know who you’re gonna reach, right? Your experience is valuable. Your perspective is valuable.

Keep it up. Most of us need you to. You owe it to us. 🙂

I don’t know what platform God will choose to use my perspective but whether it’s here on this blog or breaking bread at your table, I will share every bit of my pain and every bit of my victory.

And this will be my success. That I was transparent about the struggles I’ve faced and used it to give hope to someone else. I will run my race and stay in my lane and it will not only be good enough – it will be great. The song that I referenced in the beginning of this post? It starts off with struggle but ends in triumph. This is the hope that lies within me, and the hope that I promise to share with the world:

Now you’re looking at a leader
Now you’re staring at a queen
You said I’ll never be someone
But now I’m pulling all the strings…

I’m gonna be the best me.