The Lenhart Family

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lessons from the middle mom:

Lesson one: Gods work is not easy! He did not promise,when He called me to be a foster mom, that there would be no pain, no grief, no sacrifice.

Lesson two: along with other things, grief is part of the sacrifice I present to Him every time I embrace a baby for the first time. See 1 chronicles 21:24... "But King David said to Ornan, "No, I will buy them from you at a fair price. I won’t offer to the LORD what belongs to you nor offer an entirely burned offering that costs me nothing." (1 Chronicles 21:24 CEB) Foster care costs.

Lesson three: if I did not love each baby/ child, from the minute I touch him/her, as if they are my own, with total abandon, with my whole heart and soul, God would not have called me into this ministry. These children don't need another mother who is detached; they have already experienced loss. They need a mother who will throw open her heart, throw open her arms and embrace them with a love that changes everyone and everything it touches. 

Heavenly father let that be me! Grow my heart by giving pieces of it away!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"I want YOU!"

In nursing school, we are taught how to assess a person's pain level on a 0-10 scale. With experience we learn that anyone who is able talk rates their pain a "10" (especially while playing on their smart phone) is lying. 

After going back to work yesterday, coming home to man the troops(7 kids) solo since Jake had an elders meeting, unsuccessfully trying to potty train a rambunctious two year old, and being in so much back pain I could scream... I would could have honestly rated my frustration a "10" on a 0 to 10 scale.

Finally a coveted reprieve was within reach... BEDTIME! I wanted to get in, read the book (skipping a few pages, sing the song (skipping a few verses), say the prayer, and get out!!! My big comfy bed and DVR was calling my name and I was ready to answer. 

With baby settled, I was ready to tackle (not literally) our new two and a half year old "jewel". But she had other plans. Amidst the one more drink of water, temper tantrums, and my frugal efforts to appease this little lady, I learned a lesson that has been haunting me today. 

After thirty minutes and just when my frustration and her crying reached an all time high, completely fluttered, I yelled (I mean calmly said) "WHAT DO YOU WANT JEWEL?!" to which she finally clearly communicated "I want YOU!"

Humbled I slowed down long enough to rock that precious jewel in my arms on the floor (despite my back pain) for a few minutes. And then, with me feeling like the biggest most selfish chump, she climbed in bed and went right to sleep.

Lesson #1: sometimes foster/ adopted communicate their hurt,grief, loss, and confusion with bad behavior. But what they are really crying out for is YOU! It's a mommy or a daddy to love on them and rock them for just a few minutes.

Lesson #2: sometimes we can get really frustrated, instead of throwing an adult tantrum or retreating into isolation,  we just need to cry out to God "I want YOU!" Because no matter how old we are we need a loving daddy just as much as an orphaned child does. We need to crawl into his arms and rest! 

I love the verse in psalms that commands "be still and know that I am God." Another translation uses "cease striving" in place of "be still". Sometimes God uses little things and or little people to get me to "cease striving" and slow my anxious heart down.

Today several times, when I have felt frustration creeping in, I have whispered and even yelled out to God three little yet powerful words "I want YOU!" And because of that today has been good!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Journey to considering it pure joy...

Confession: I'm ugly today. I'm having a bad day courtesy of JIA. Since Ashlyn got diagnosed in October, we have our good days and bad. But today is ugly and I can feel myself on a slippery slope towards a pity party hence it's time to write it out (more for my sake than yours because on days like today I need to see through the lens of faith and not my own cloudy with self pity). 

As a mom, seeing your children suffer is a helpless feeling. We are "fixers" and want to kiss "boo-boo's" away from the time that they are placed in our arms in the delivery room. The last week has been rough around here. Her wrist is the size of a grapefruit and knees are so swollen she couldn't walk this morning. Last night she slept with me and literally cried in her sleep. Helpless. But this is our new normal. It's amazing that in a matter of months my active 13 year old daughter went from dancing around the house to using a walker to help her maintain mobility. Our new normal involves tough decision making as we "pick our poison" and choose which agrressive medication to try next. Our new normal consists of her asking "what was my SED rate this time" instead of "can I go to the mall with my friends". Our new normal means praying that it's the insurance company everytime the phone rings saying that they have approved the $4000 monthly treatment she needs right now. Today I hate our new normal!!

Over and over, we have tried to instill in Ashlyn that this disease will not DEFINE her (she won't be the girl with JIA or the girl with a walker) but REFINE her. And on pity party days like today I feel like a hypocrite. Even when I tempted to be ugly about this, I know that on the other side of heaven we will be amazed at all the good that came through this and the way God used this for his glory. 

As someone who spent over a decade working with teens in youth ministry, I can honestly tell you that there are some world changers in our society's current youth. But I can also tell you that there are some morally bankrupt teens who have bought into our cultures me centered propaganda. When I see the character and perservance that shines through my sweet girl, I am thankful at times that God has allowed this JIA beast into our lives. Not that I have arrived at a place where I welcome suffering into lives with open arms, I think we are on a journey to "considering it pure joy" because through these difficult days God is faithful, faith/ trust/ and complete dependence on Him is built, and we are refined more and more into the image of his Son. Jake and I have committed to raising children that don't merely survive the world but change it. Surviving JIA is not our ultimate goal... But allowing God to use it to change us and change lives is.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Monday, October 31, 2011

When He Made Her: Update On Ashlyn

The last several weeks all our time, energy, and focus has been on our precious 13 year old daughter Ashlyn. With you have a big family like ours... usually we feel the constant struggle of making sure each of our 6 children gets individualized and equal, one on one, parent to child time. But our sweet Ashlyn has been fighting an unseen battle and has been consuming our hearts and minds (if not time as well).

About 3 weeks ago, she came down with a high fever, rash, and severe generalized pain. After numerous doctor's appointments, routine tests, and medications (from antibiotics to steroids) nothing seemed to bring any relief. After weeks of feeling miserable, losing over 8 pounds, watching all the 80's movies she could stand with Momma, with a fever of 103.6 and a painful rash covering the majority of her body, we finally hit an all point low last Thursday night and took her to the ER. She was admitted and we have set up camp (literally wallpapering with my little pony coloring pages and "Teen Bop" posters) on the pediatric floor (first at Baptist, now at OU children's). After being inpatient for 7 days, we finally have some answers. She is having an auto immune crisis and has been diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA or JRA). Seeing your child in pain is the most helpless feeling in the world. Combine that with my husband's minor outpatient knee scope a few weeks ago, and the fact I am still recovery from a major back surgery that I had less than a month ago, and we have a recipe for a month straight from the gates of Hades. I have had a pity party or two as I crave my "normal" life back but I know that I know that I know that God works ALL things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. And I know that I know that I know that God is ever so faithful to my family, has proved that over and over, and will again.

Once my very favorite verses in difficult seasons is found in Psalm 56:8 "You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." The comforting thing about God is He never misses a tear that falls and never wastes our pain. We have cried tears of fear as we watched her get very sick, very quick, and had very little answers at the time. Yesterday we cried tears of relief as we finally knew what was causing her illness and knew the enemy we were fighting. About this time yesterday I went into the bathroom and cried tears into a hospital towel (and yes He collected those too) to muffle the sound from my daughter. But I'm done trying to be strong for her.... I give up, I'm not strong enough, but we are being renewed and sustained by He who is STRONG ENOUGH for the both of us!! And her strength combined with His is an unstoppable force.

Yesterday she began initial treatment of steroids, anti- inflammatory medications, and a medication called methotrexate (its a chemo drug that has intense side effects like hair loss but Ashlyn's dosage will be so small that her treatment's side effects aren't that extreme). Today we starting a new intense treatment called pulsing steroids (basically increasing her dosage from about 10 mg to about 10,000 mg). Please pray that she tolerates it well and it will be the breakthrough we need to get her feeling better!We are praying that she may be well enough to go home by this weekend and then return to school in about 2 weeks.

But as I am looking at the baby girl in bed the next to me, who I have seen cry out in pain more times than I can count the last several days, I know that she is the toughest of the tough.

As I have been on the verge of tears several times today, God is speaking truth into my soul and reminding me what I already know about this little girl who I adore more than anything I have ever adored in my life. I know that God has numbered the hairs on her beautiful little head and He knows what exactly she is up against

("And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows" ~ Luke 12:7)

God has reminded me today that despite her aching body and our questions about what is going inside of her, HE KNOWS HER INTIMATELY because he created her. Just as Psalm 139 reminds me... "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

I wasn't there when He made her (well technically I was but we won't go into that) but here are some of the things I marvel about the creation of this precious girl in the bed next to me:

1. Her Compassion: This has been evident for as long as I can remember...I daily catch glimpses of her compassion but here are some of the big examples that stand out.

*One day when she was about 3 or 4 years old, I remember walking into the family room where she had been watching TV and her little face blotchy from crying hysterically. When I questioned what was wrong, she pointed to the TV where she had been watching a St. Jude's telethon. Her heart broke for the sick children she saw. She insisted we do something to help and wanted to send some of her toys to "help them feel better". For years later whenever someone asked her what she wanted to be be when she grew up, without any hesitation, the answer was always an adamant "I am going to be a doctor at St. Jude and make all those kids better!"

* After a unexpectedly being forced to say goodbye to a foster sister she loved as her own several years ago, she was heart broken so badly I wasn't sure God would ever bring healing to heart. Jake and I decided that we could not longer foster children and put her compassionate heart through that again. But shortly after the adoption of her Haitian brothers, we insisted that we resume fostering again. She said that they (the foster babies) were worth getting our hearts broken again. As I watch her now playing with our current 8 month old foster baby, in efforts to protect her heart I try to remind her that Baby Z is not ours. She knows in her head that we may likely end up in the same ugly place of goodbye but that is the thing about compassionate people.... we think with our hearts and not heads.

*Another example was when we decided to become full time missionaries to Haiti, it was a family decision (we didn't want to be one of those parents who dragged their children to the mission field). So we presented to them the idea and a realistic picture of what sacrifices this move would bring. We wanted them to pray about and really really consider it before committing. Within minutes, Ashlyn said "I don't need to think to about it. This is what God is calling us to do and people need us there. I'm going with or without you guys!" Our first trip there, my heart swelled with pride as I watched her play with children at the medical clinics where we were working. She quickly became Haitian children's favorite "blanc" on the block. She spent time working triage with me at the clinics and at night, we would debrief about some of the patients we had saw that day. I watched her cry as she realized they spent all day waiting to be seen by a doctor (many of them for the first time in their lives), cry over a newborn baby so dehydrated and malnourished she was on the verge of death, and cry over all she was seeing with her own eyes for the first time. Again all the talk about becoming a doctor to help sick children resurfaced but St. Jude would have to share her time with the children of Haiti.

* Another example was just last month, I had a date day with her and we went to see the movie "The Help". Because we are both "ugly criers" we made it to the van before we both burst out in tears (and literally cried the whole twenty minute ride home). Through her tears she verbalized her frustration over Christians acting not very Christlike (the movie was set in the 60's at the dawn of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, during the weekly bridge club that main character attends with several "christian" friends discussion centers around their belief that all homes should have separate bathroom facilities for the "colored" help). Somehow with the stellar education, Ashlyn has received she was naive to the civil rights movement and things like the KKK. Words seemed to fail me as I tried to explain that dark time in our nations history. So we just cried together. that conversation led to another one in which Ashlyn expressed how she couldn't imagine her life without her Haitian brothers and despite some blatant and some subtle prejudice and criticism we have received, she encouraged me that no matter what anyone though of our decision to adopt and foster, we would never regret our decision. She said "Mom you know how you and daddy are say/ pray that you are raising us kids not to survive the world but change it? Well don't worry, we are!" She also informed me in that conversation that despite the chaos and sacrifice our big family requires that she plans to have 11 kids (3 biological and 8 adopted or fostered). Once again my heart melted at her compassion and desire to change the world (I also kicked up my praying for her future husband/ baby daddy of my future 11 grandchildren).

I have been told that I am a compassionate person but my compassion pales in comparison to hers. I love that when He made her he added extra doses of compassion!!

2. Her Chattiness: When Ashlyn started talking, she went straight from one or two word sentences to entire paragraphs. I have been exhausted since the day she began talking. When she was in preschool, we had a 45 minute commute everyday from Norwich to Wichita... I have a vivid mental picture of her sitting in car seat, kicking her little legs back and forth, and chatting about everything from random questions to "why did those bad guys have to kill Jesus?" Question after question and sentence after sentence all day long, followed by the same phrase "right Momma, right?" Also at that same time, my dad would frequently take her and Drew from Wichita to Denver to visit my sister. Most kids would nap (especially in the boring stretch of western Kansas) but not our Ashlyn. She could chat the entire 12 hour drive.

(Somehow in the car we always have our most in depth and memorable conversations. That is why I love the verse in Deuteronomy that talks about talking about the Lord when you are on the road... "And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.")

If you have spent anytime with her daddy, it doesn't take long to see where the chattiness comes from. His profession is one that requires him to talk (and have a captive audience one day a week). Somehow I see her in a similar profession one day... one in which she is paid to talk to people all day.

Also like her dad, she can be loud and very outspoken about things she is passionate about and the injustices she sees in our world. Even at the tender age of 13, she models Proverbs 31:8-9 better than most adults I know. ("Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.")

Although it can be exhausting for an introvert like myself, I love that when He made her He made her chatty!! Her chattiness is the overflow of a heart that just loves people. God has used her chatty self to bear witness to others around her. She loves talking but she really LOVES TALKING ABOUT JESUS!!

3. Her Love for Children: She is a magnet. Children of all ages are drawn to Ashlyn and she her face literally glows when she is around kids. She can name each and every child/ infant that walks through the doors of CHCC. She eagerly jumps at every opportunity to help out in the children's ministry at church. Every Sunday morning, she wakes up to go to church with her Daddy at an ungodly hour just to help wherever she can even if it's just to help with her foster sister or babysit other children whose parents are on the worship team. She loves to babysit and usually tries to insist on providing it for free (or to raise money to go back to Haiti). I love that when He made her He created her in His image (Mark 10:13-14 and Genesis 1:27)

Although I was not there when He made her, the evidence that she is fearfully and wonderfully made is overwhelming. Compassionate like her Momma, chattiness like her daddy, and an unexplainable magnetic attraction for children like her Jesus. Despite all chronic illness, she is flawless.

My heart melts every time I hear her sweet voice call me "Momma" but I am confident that the very heart of God melts every time she calls Him "Savior God"!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

After the airport.... That's what she said

These days I do not have time/energy to shower,let alone blog. Although I hate to post yet another "that's what she said" blog... I couldn't resist. Every single word of this resonates with my adoptive Momma's heart. This is the ugly truth that I have experienced "after the airport" of all three of our adoptions.... But now almost 2 years post adoption from the older boys and 5 years post adoption from Jimso, I can honestly tell you that what used to be daily meltdowns are now few and far between, that love really does cast out fear, and our God is healer! Just like new moms quickly forget their painful labor and delivery process as they hold their precious newborn. Adoptive parents wouldn't trade their transition pains for the precious new addition causing their beyond exhaustion moments. I hope the truth spoken by the hat lady in this post encourages you today wherever you might be... Whether in your bathroom crying smack dab in your own "after the airport" season or walking on sunshine. I pray you are surrounded by a community loving the crap out of you whereever this finds you today!!!

"I'm going to tell you something; a little confession, if you will. Some of you will pull your hair out and smear your faces with ashes and put all my books on eBay and quit believing in God, but I'm willing to take that risk:

I'm really, really glad all my kids are back in school.

There. I said it. The three children that I birthed and nursed and raised from scratch, and the two children we begged and cried and screeched for and fetched from Africa...all five of these kids are in school. And I am happy, so happy, happy, happy, happy, hip-hip-hooray Mary Poppins happy.

For my friends and readers who homeschool, I tip my hat and say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servants." And believe me, I have a couple of besties who paddle in that stream, and paddle it well. For some kids in some cities in some families in some districts, this is the very right thing. The end. Why people feel the need to make a fuss about how other parents decide to educate their children is beyond me. Let's live and let live, yall. For the love of Pete.

But I cannot educate my own children, people, unless I am OK with us all becoming homicidal.

Plus, we're in a nice little Bermuda triangle where our kids feed into fabulous schools with vested teachers that make me want to weep with gratitude. The language resources for my Amharic speakers is over the top, and I have a free pass to attend school each and every day, which I have exercised with zero restraint.

But this is not a post about homeschooling or public schooling. The reason I am happy my kids are in school is not because I lack the organization to educate five kids (which I do), it's not because I've chosen a career with a moderate workload (which I have), and it's not because I'm a little sloppy on details and my kids would likely graduate with a sixth-grade education (which they would).

It's because parenting right now is EXHAUSTING and the mental break is keeping me afloat.

On July 22nd we came down the escalator at the Austin airport with Remy. On August 21st we came down the same escalator with Ben. These were two of the happiest days of my life.

I am crying with joy. Remy is ready to sprint like FloJo from the screaming white people.

Insert audio of yelling and cheering. GAH, why was she so clingy?

One month later: Here comes my man and my boy. This pic makes me verclempt.

The 7 Hatmakers on the same continent. You've been warned, America.
After an arduous adoption journey, our kids were safe in our arms, tucked into their bunk beds their dad built with his own two hands, surrounded by the dearest, most sincere community we have ever known. God delivered them from poverty and abandonment back into a family, no longer alone in this big world; now wanted and loved and welcomed with great fervor.

The end.


Remy gave us about 12 hours of honeymooning until her terror burst onto the scene. Sometimes her fear is so palpable, it literally takes my breath away. New places: terror. New faces: total insecurity. Transitions: help us, Jesus. She has asked us every single day since July 22nd if she is going back to Ethiopia. Every. Single. Day. When I discovered cashews to be a winning legume for her impossible palate, I told her:

"Yay! Good job! Cashews are good for you and will help you grow big and strong!"
"Big? Ah-Rrrremy? Big? Cashews?"
She pushes them away and starts crying.
Once again, I am bewildered and befuddled.
"No! No Ah-Rrremy grow big! Me big, then go back to Ethiopia! No! Dis is no!"

When a child fears that cashews will once again leave her abandoned on this earth because she will grow out of the age we might still want to parent her, you are dealing with heartbreaking fragility.

Her fear comes out as 1.) defiance, 2.) terror, and 3.) catatonic disassociation, in that order. We've been spit on, kicked, disobeyed, refused, clung to, begged for, adored, ignored, and rejected. Triggers are unpredictable. Yesterday, we entered an hour-long Armageddon because she wouldn't put her bike up. This turned into defiance and disrespect, deal breakers as we establish safe boundaries. When at long last her angry, dark face relented, and she finally uttered in the smallest voice: "I'm sorry, Mommy. I'm sorry, Daddy," the damn broke and she cried for thirty minutes, telling us over and over that we don't love her and she is going back to Africa.

Meanwhile, Ben sidled up quietly next to me as Brandon held Remy's flailing legs, and asked in a whisper: "Mom? Forever?"

Is this family forever, even with this hysterical girl? Are you forever, even though she is draining the lifeblood out of you and Dad? Am I forever, once my junk starts coming out that I'm holding in? Are you forever for her? For me? Should I be worried that you'll only put up with this level of chaos for so long?

God love them.

We are parenting damaged, traumatized children; don't let the pictures fool you. We're in the weeds. Every minute is on; there is no off. We've arrived late, cancelled altogether, hunkered down in therapy mode, missed appointments, failed to answer hundreds of emails in a timely manner, left voicemails unlistened to, texts unread, we've restructured, regrouped, replanned, reorganized, we've punted and called audibles, we've left the bigs on their own, hoping they are functioning well on auto-pilot after a lifetime of healthy stability, and sometimes, we put "Tangled" on for the eleventh time and cry in the bathroom.

We are exhausted beyond measure.

I know what you're thinking: You asked for this. Yes we did. And we'd ask for it again, with full disclosure and foreknowledge. We would. We would say yes to adoption, to Ben, to Remy. We would do it all over again. We might do it all over again in the future.

That does not mean we are not exhausted.

I know what else you might be thinking: Are you trying to scare people away from adoption? Because this is pretty good propaganda for turning a blind eye to this mess. No I'm not. While adoption is clearly not the answer for the 170 million orphans on earth, it is one answer, and I'll go to the grave begging more people to open their homes and minds and hearts to abandoned children who are praying for a Mom and Dad and a God who might still see them.

But Brandon and I decided some time ago to go at this honestly, with truthful words and actual experiences that might encourage the weary heart or battle some of the fluffy, damaging semi-truths about adopting. Because let me tell you something: If you are intrigued by the idea of adoption, with the crescendoing storyine and happy airport pictures and the sigh-inducing family portrait with the different skin colors and the feely-feel good parts of the narrative, please find another way to see God's kingdom come.

You cannot just be into adoption to adopt; you have to be into parenting.

And it is hard, hard, intentional, laborious work. Children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected, given away, given up, and left alone are shaken so deeply, so intrinsically, they absolutely require parents who are willing to wholly invest in their healing; through the screaming, the fits, the anger, the shame, the entitlement, the bed-wetting, the spitting, the rejection, the bone-chilling fear. Parents who are willing to become the safe place, the Forever these children hope for but are too terrified to believe in just yet.

But "yet" is a powerful word in the context of faith, if we are indeed to believe in the unseen and hope for what has not materialized.

I followed a God into this story who heals and redeems, who restores wasted years and mends broken places. This God specializes in the Destroyed. I've seen it. I've been a part of it. I have His ancient Word that tells of it. I love a Jesus who made reconciliation his whole mission. My children will not remain broken. They are loved by too good a Savior. I will not remain exhausted and spent. I am loved by too merciful a Father.

So today, I'm writing for you who are somewhere "after the airport." The big moment is over and you are living in the aftermath when the collective grief or euphoria has passed. You lost a parent, a sibling, a friend, a child. The experience mobilized every single human being who loves you, and they rallied, gathered, carried you. And now it's three months later on a random Tuesday, and the sting has worn off for everyone else, and you are left in your sorrow.

I'm writing for those of you who had the oh-so-wanted baby after the cheers and showers and Facebook fervor, and now you're struggling with a depression so dark and deep, you are afraid to say it out loud. To you who moved across the country in obedience - you left your family, church, community, your jobs - and now the headline has passed and you are lonely and unanchored. For my friends who've brought their adopted children home and the media frenzy has died down, and you are holding a screaming toddler, a fragile kindergartener, an angry teen, trying to catch your breath and make it through the day without bawling while everyone else has gone back to their regularly scheduled programs...I'm with you today.

More importantly, God is with you today. He remains in the chaos long after it has lost its shine. When the delivered meals have stopped and the attention has waned, Jesus remains. He sticks with us long after it is convenient or interesting. If you feel alone today in your new normal, would you please receive this bit of beauty: this simple Scripture recited billions of times throughout the ages, perhaps without the poetry of David or precision of Paul, but with enough truth to sustain the weariest traveler:

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deut. 31:6).

He will never leave.

Never forsake.


For my readers who love someone living "after the airport," the big moment - be it a blessed high or a devastating low - is never the completion. The grief and struggle, the work and effort, the healing and restoring comes later. Will you call your friend who lost her mom to cancer five months ago? Will you check in on your friends who adopted this spring? Email your neighbor who took a big risk and moved or changed jobs or quit to stay home. For the love of Moses, do you have a friend who stepped out and started a church last year? Bring him a lasagna and do not be alarmed if he sobs into his french bread.

Trust me when I tell you that although we are all having hilarious moments like this:

And precious moments like this:

...we are still in the thick of hard, exhausting work, so if you ask me if these are the happiest days of my life (which a ton of you have), and my eyes kind of glaze over and I say through a tight-lipped smile like a robot, "Yes. Sure. Of course. This is my dream life"...I am lying. I am lying so you won't feel uncomfortable when I tell you, "Actually, I haven't had a shower in three days, I lost my temper with my uncontrollable daughter this morning and had to walk outside, I'm constantly cleaning up pee because uncircumcised tee-tee goes sideways onto walls, and sometimes when my two littles are asleep and we're downstairs with the original three kids who are so stable and healthy and easy, it creates a nostalgia so intense, I think I might perish. But enough about me. How are you?"

But that would be weird. So I say, "Yes. I am so happy."

If you are living "after the airport," how I wish I could transplant my community into your life; friends who have loved us so completely and exhaustively, I could weep just thinking about it. Maybe one of the most brilliant ways God "never leaves us" and "never forsakes us" is through the love of each other. Maybe He knew that receiving love from people with skin on is the most excellent way, so He gave us an entire set of Scriptures founded upon community and sacrificial love for one another. I guess He realized that if we obeyed, if we became more like His Son, then no one would ever want for mercy when their chips were down. No one. Good plan.

Oh let us be a community who loves each other well. Because someone is always struggling through the "after the airport" phase, when the chords of human kindness become a lifeline of salvation. Let us watch for the struggling members of our tribe, faking it through sarcasm or self-deprecation or a cheerfully false report. May we refuse to let someone get swallowed up in isolation, drowning in grief or difficulties that seem too heavy to let anyone else carry. Let's live this big, beautiful Life together, rescuing each other from the brink and exposing the unending compassion of our Jesus who called us to this high level of community; past the romantic beginnings, through the messy and mundane middles, and all the way to the depths.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Superwoman or Sabbath?!?!

It seems like over the last year or so I keep catch myself saying "things are finally gonna slow down when ....." only that "when" never seems to happen. Each new season seems to hold another challenge, another completely full calendar, and another worn out feeling day after day.

This week in the ladies bible study I'm leading, we looked at the worn out and weariness that most women find themselves in. Lots of things can contribute to our perpetual sense of exhaustion. Things like not say "no" so that we can say "yes" to what matters most, poor eating/ sleeping, unbalanced priorities, anxiety/ worry, grief, unconfessed sin, etc... Sometimes we are our own worst enemies with our "to do lists", multitasking, need to people please and high expectations of ourselves. I even find myself feeling guilty for taking a moment to rest with a good book or mindless TV.

"Jesus himself did nor heal every person who was sick or minister to everyone He saw. Jesus only did what His father told him to do. Jesus didn't do everything and I can't do everything even if I give it my best shot. Even our divine Jesus, when He poured Himself into the confines and restrictions of our humanity, needed rest. Human beings require rest."

This week I've examined my life and found that the current pace I'm living is unsustainable and unbiblical. Instead of adding more items to my unending "to do list" I need to add items to my "to don't list". I also need to be faithful on keeping a Sabbath day (every week, not just when I get around to it every few months.) today I accomplished absolutely nothing (other than rest and time with my family). Today I needed a break from the human RACE... Or for it to at least slow down enough for the pieces to fall into place. Today I realized that maybe the human race shouldn't be a race at all.

"On the Sabbath-
we are reminded that
we are not human doings,
but human beings."

Need some promises of strength and refreshment??? Spend some time reading Isaiah 40:28-31, Matthew 11:28, Hebrews 4:9-10, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Mark 6:31, Acts 3:19, Jeremiah 6:16. And then take a nap!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dear Drew, Ashlyn, Jedone, Jackson, Jimso, and any future Lenhart children

(adapted from

Recently we were told by people whom we love and respect why they think we should reconsider our plans to continue fostering at this time. It's something we've prayed about, discussed as a family, and sought the lord's will over for the last several months. Six kids in one household is never what we imagined or planned but God has a way of wrecking OUR plans and asking us to do what we swore we would never do. But his plans are always better. And somehow He gives us the ability and the passion to do that which we thought we could not. 

Confession time: I remember being pregnant with Ashlyn wondering how I was ever going to love another baby as much as I loved our little Drewbie.... But the human heart surrendered to Gods will can grow in unimaginable ways. Then before adopting I doubted I could love another woman's child the way I loved my own. But one look at Jimso (and Jedone and Jackson) and my heart grew bigger than the grinch's on Christmas morning. As that to say beyond physical room in our house,  I am confident there is room in our hearts for another fatherless baby.

And we come to the conclusion that the sweet girl sleeping in the room next to me right now is worth it. She and any other child God might bring into our crazy family is worth getting our hearts broken over again. She is worth being exhausted. She is worth sacrificing a lot of things we have asked you to sacrifice because God is using us to rewrite her story for His glory.

And guess what else?! We love you to the moon and back but don't give a rip about making you "happy"

That's right.... Your smiles and giggles still make our hearts melt but your happiness is not our goal.

"Maybe you'll resent us. I really hope not. But maybe I should tell y'all now why your dad and I have decided to keep doing what we are doing.

I know you're going to think I am going off topic (I do that a lot) but several years I saw a story on a TV show about how the latest trend was for parents to give their daughters boob jobs for high school graduation (I don't know what they gave their sons.) When interviewing one of the moms, she said, "I just want my daughter to be happy." And as I tossed a throw pillow at the television, this really huge thought occurred to me: I don't want my children to be happy.

My goal as your mom is not your happiness,  In fact, I spend at least half my day making you unhappy. If I had a nickle for every tear that falls in this home on a daily basis, we wouldn't need to worry about college tuition at all.

Happiness is fleeting, sweet babies. That means it doesn't last. It's a quick feeling that comes from a funny movie or a heart shaped lollipop or a really good birthday present. It's great. I love to be happy. But happiness is a reaction that is based on our surroundings. And our surroundings are so very rarely under our control. Even when - especially when - we think they are. 

So no, I absolutely don't want you to spend your life chasing something that has so little to do with your own abilities. You'll just be constantly frustrated.

There are two things I desire for you, precious loves. There are two things that I spend most of my time as a mother trying cultivate in you. Happiness ain't one of them. (This means, sorry, no boob jobs for Ashlyn)

The first is, I want you to be content. 

Being content is so much different from being happy. Being content is not based on your surroundings. Being content comes from within. Contentment is a spirit of gratitude. It's the choice you make to either be thankful for the things you do have, or to whine about the things you don't have.

Being content and grateful leads to consistent joy.

As you know, because I've told you lots of times, Paul talked about being content. Paul said that he had "learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." And Paul was in some rotten situations, kiddos, really rotten.

How could Paul be content whether he was in prison or if his life was literally a shipwreck? Because Paul was constantly seeking to be in the will of God instead of his own, was constantly sacrificing his own comfort for the sake of the gospel, and was constantly being confirmed, strengthened, and blessed by God because of his obedience. He was given a supernatural power - that means something kind of like magic, God magic - to do things that most other humans could not do. And guess what? The bible tells us (in Ephesians 1) that God will give you the exact same power! If you want it!

Which leads me to my second desire for y'all.

I don't want you to be happy. I want you to be holy. That means, I want you to seek that God-power to make you content. I want you to want the Kingdom of God more than your own kingdom. And that's hard, babies, that is so hard. And that usually means passing up a lot of what the world considers happiness. But it means that you will achieve blessings directly from God that most of the world never dreams of because they are too occupied with the achieving the perfect birthday present!

This means you may be poor, 'in want' as Paul said, and that's okay. It will never, ever be okay with the world for you to be poor. So you'll be up against the world. But not your dad and me, loves, because it was never our goal for you to be wealthy - at least not in the way that the world considers wealthy.

Darlings, we love you so much. You will never even grasp how much we love you until you have children of your own, and then you'll get it, and then you'll apologize for the ways you treated us ;) But our goal is not to please you. Our goal is to please our Heavenly Father. And nowhere in the bible does the Lord command us to make our children happy.

But the Lord does command us to care for the orphan around fifty times. He does tell us to care for the poor around 300 times. He does tell us that when we care for the neediest, we are caring for Jesus Himself. And in chapter six of the book of Matthew, He tells us to seek His kingdom first, and let Him worry about the rest, like college tuition. Because it's all His anyway.

But I know your hearts, and I have already seen you weep for the least of these. I know the prayers I offer up to God that He and not the world would shape the desires of your hearts. I am trusting Him to answer those prayers."

Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

That's what she said,,,

Came across this blog post that articulated some things on this adoptive Momma's heart so well I had to share.... Plus right now with a new career, a new foster care placement and a very fruitful but time consuming season in our church growth, blogging is the LAST thing on my to do list. Enjoy this version of THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID

"What I want you to know is that adoption is not beautiful. Not beautiful in the traditional sense anyway. There’s no innocence or purity it in.

My husband and I have two adopted children, a biological brother and sister, ages 6 and 3. They were adopted last year, and before they came into our care, they were living in a foster home.

My children are beautiful and my husband and I love them. We would never take back the decision that we made about them. But, ideally, our children would never know us. Parents would never go to jail for retail fraud, get addicted to drugs, or fail to make it through rehab. Police would never come to take children away from their parents. Babies would not be born with a drug addiction.

But, all these things do happen. And, that means that our children are no longer naive. It means that our family was conceived thanks to sadness and pain.

The process of adoption itself is not flawless, but I believe our family can become something beautiful in my own definition. We can struggle together and grow together. Because I believe that beauty can also happen after we’ve gone through the fire and come out stronger on the other side. That is what I want for family. That is what I want you to know."

Shannon blogs at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beyond adoption...

Lately I've been struggling with some things that seem to have consumed my heart. While I rejoice with some of the completed adoptions I've been a part of lately... I have wondered if all that could of have been to keep the family together was?? After reading through my own adoption paperwork, I continue to wrestle with the fact that the boys biological mom could not sign her own name.

While being an advocate for orphans has been for me adopting and providing orphan/ foster care ..... Lately I've felt there is more than just that. Real advocates are eventually led to prevention.

I came across this blog that articulates some of what has been on my heart but couldn't describe in words. Please read and open your heart to some of the ideas presented.

"There are two sides to the orphan crisis: finding families for children without, and preserving families that are intact. Prevention is the side that is not addressed by adoption. If we profess to care about orphans, then we must care about the circumstances that lead children to be orphaned. If we care about adoption, then we must care about seeing less children enter orphanages to begin with.

It is not as easy to care about the pregnant teen or the struggling mom. But it might be the starting place in this whole scenario.

(And if we care about orphans, then we must care about the children in foster care in our own country.)

I am so glad to see adoptive parents championing these issues. But this should not be a cause left to adoptive parents. As a society, we should all care. A child without a family is the most disgusting form of poverty."

For the entire article and to see ideas on how you can help at risk children... Go to

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's day thoughts... legacy of an adopted child

Today my heart is burdened for a woman I love and who has made my life so blessed. Her name is Solange, she is the biological mom of Jimso and Jedone. Her name in French means "angel of the sun" which is very fitting because she has brought so much sunshine into my life! Happy mother's day Solange!!! (Jackson's biological is deceased and has been since he was an infant, although I never met her, she has an indescrible place in my heart as well)

"Legacy of An Adopted Child"Author Unknown

Once there were two women,

Who barely knew each other.

One is in your heart forever,

The other you’ll call mother.

Two different lives,

Shaped to make yours one.

One became your guiding star,

The other became your sun.

The first gave you life,

And the second taught you how to live it.

The first gave you a need for love,

And the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality,

The other gave you a name.

One gave you the seed of talent,

The other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions,

The other calmed your fears.

One saw your first sweet smile,

The other dried your tears.

One gave you a family,

It was what God intended for her to do.

The other prayed for a child,

And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me

Through your tears,

The age old question through the years.

Heredity or environment…

Which are you a product of?

Neither, my darling… neither,

Just two different kinds of love.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

ROYAL WEDDING- my love hate relationship with Cinderella stories

As an avid KU basketball fan and more of a girly girl than I would like to admit...I have a love hate relationship with Cinderella stories.

In March, I hate the Cinderella stories that interfere with our hopes and dreams of a national title. This year I found out Cinderella comes from Virginia. Last year, she stomped the jayhawks "happily ever after" in an UNI uniform instead of the traditional ball gown. Hence the hate part of my relationship with Cinderella.

As a little girl, I couldn't get enough of Cinderella and all the fairy tales that ended in a charming prince rescuing the overlooked or forgotten fair maiden. After watching more Disney movies than I can count, I dreamed of the day when my prince would come riding in on a white horse to save me. Then and only then would I finally feel "complete" and life would just fall in a place of sheer perfection. We would wed in a wedding that would be magically perfect and 2.5 children later we would live happily ever after. Hence the love part of my relationship with Cinderella.

Needless to say, life has dashed my idea of what "happily ever after" really looks like. Unlike the fantasy world of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or Rapunzel, reality has hit me like a ton of bricks.

Marriage with my "prince" takes a lot of work, sacrifice, and compromise. Although I can honestly say that after 15 years of marriage I am still madly in love with him.... He does not "complete" me. He is not perfect (just perfect for me, imperfections and all). He is still the man I love but some days it's hard to "like" each other.

Living in the not-so-fairy tale world of 5 kids, full time jobs, carpools, full time ministry, and pure exhaustion the goal of "happily ever after" has been replaced with just trying to survive.

The media has been bombarding us with all the hype of the royal wedding glitz that will come to a head tomorrow morning. But who can blame them? That is what sells. As much as we can claim to hate it... I think deep down every woman still longs for the Cinderella story that has a fairy tale ending. (I'm the first to admit it bothers me that instead of focusing on all the unrest in the middle east, the war in Iraq/ Afghanistan, or even the weather related devastation here in the south... our media would rather report on the royal wedding happenings or the presidents birth certificate). But the pain of reality doesn't give us the warm fuzzies that a love story of a commoner (fair maiden) and her prince can.

I am bothered yes... but do I plan on waking up early to see the blessed event, yes. So why the obsession with the media? Why waste my time watching the wedding with the masses???

Because fairy tales and the hope of a happily ever after ARE REAL. This woman's heart has been transformed by the love of a prince!!! I am recognized, known and even extravagantly loved by the King. And He has promised me a kingdom that holds more "happily ever afters" than I could imagine. I trust this king with EVERY aspect of my future. And while fairy tales in this present kingdom is not reality... He has promised one hell of a "happily ever after" to come!!!

"Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life." ~ Revelation 21:1-6

"Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." ~ Psalm 45:10,11

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

She did not know... International Woman's Day

Five little words have haunted me the last several days and kept me up at night ... "she did not know how". Five words that describe a woman I love a world away from me. This woman shares a lot in common with me yet could not be more different than me at the same time. She shares a love for two precious boys in my life (Jimso and Jedone)yet life has not been as kind to her as it has to me. We have different colors of skin, different cultures, different life experiences and live in two very different worlds. Yet today on international woman's day, she is all I can think about.

On Saturday night I couldn't sleep. I started thumbing through some of our tax documents. We had to get all of our adoption paperwork translated in order to submit it to the IRS. I was sorting through a sack of documents that I have held 100 times before but those 5 little words stood out BOLD in the midst of a bunch of legal jargon. On several official court documents it read "SHE DID NOT KNOW HOW to sign her name so her thumb print was submitted in lieu of her signature."

I've filed in the blanks in my mind on many occasions trying to wrap my mind around what led to Jimso and Jedone's abandonment and their mother's choice to terminate her rights and sign over custody to the orphanage and ultimately to us when we began pursuing the adoptions. I know that no mother could have came to this decision lightly and it must have been heart wrenching to admit that she couldn't provide what they needed. I have came to terms with the fact that SHE COULD NOT be the mother they needed but until now had never considered the possibility that "SHE DID NOT KNOW HOW."

And it is just not something that happens "over there", it happens right here too. When we did foster care, I saw first hand this vicious cycle of foster kids who grew up in the system repeating the mistakes their parents had which in turn led to their children and their grandchildren growing up in the system. Unless someone was successful at intervening, they did not know how to be a healthy mother.

I have previously blogged about my experience at my first Haitian wedding and the way my stomach turned upside down when I realized that the bride could not sign the marriage certificate. The picture of illiteracy in Haiti was burned on my heart as I watched the Pastor sign the bride's name for her because she could not. My heart physically ached for the bride because of what may have been the best day of her life, she was reminded of the reality that she could not read or write. I then watched the mother of bride require assistance signing her name as well and the portrait of cultural and generational illiteracy was etched onto my heart.

As an avid reader and writer, if I woke up tomorrow morning and somehow lost my ability my read and write, that would be near torture for me. Yet 55% of Haitian (more than half) can not read or write. According to UNICEF, more than half of the nation's children fail to reach the fifth grade, and only one in five young people reach secondary school. As a bachelors degree prepared nurse (who is currently enrolled in a masters program), I am humbled when I think about how easy my education was to access (THANKS DAD!). And as I try to wrap my mind around how different my life and the boy's biological mom's life must be, I can't help but to wonder why I have been so blessed? She will never know the joy of reading God's precious words to her. She will never experience how awesome it feels to curl up with a good book on a rainy day nor the excitement of passing a difficult exam or acing a college thesis. Yet because I was born where I was born, I have somehow been given the privileged of knowing how to do so many things we take for granted. As I have served women in poverty, I have thought to myself a million times " there but for the grace of God go I"
(meaning I might have suffered a similar fate, but for God's mercy.)

Most of you know that I can get pretty fired up when it comes to certain social justice issues. To say that I am passionate would be an understatement and I have stuck my foot in my mouth more times than I can count but I'm gonna go out on a limb and make an assumption.... I think that many of the social issues we face (the orphan crisis, the AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty,human sex trafficking etc...) could be greatly reduced, remedied, or completely eliminated if we make education more readily available to girls growing up in developing nations.

"How many Rosa Parks or Marie Curies have we lost to poverty? How many Maya Angelous or Sandra Day O'Connors never had a chance to learn? How many Mother Teresas have lost hope due to neglect and abuse?"

Please spend a few moments of your time watching this powerful video....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

the thank you cards staring back at me...

The last few months the "thank you" cards on my desk have been staring back at me. In fact one might even say that they are glaring at me! The cards along with a growing list of names are a constant reminder of my failure to do something that has been on my heart for months but yet remains on my to do list week after week. Let me explain....

It had been a challenging year for our family so far. Having a 360 spinal fusion of the majority of my back in busiest month of the year, challenges of the continued transition of newly adopted children into our home, financial burdens from taking an extended medical leave of absence at my work, and daily life with a busy family of seven were just some of the stressors we experienced. Yet through it all, we have gotten by with a little help from our friends. Some friends have brought meals over and watched our children while I recovered from surgery, some have helped us make ends meet at the end of the month, wrapped Christmas gifts for us during the holiday season, and most importantly prayed for us during this season of our life. All of this reminds me of one of my favorite stories in the life of Moses...

"When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other - so that his hands remained steady till sunset."~ Exodus 17:12 (NIV)

I love how this story illustrates how Moses, just like us, needed support. While Joshua and the Israelite soldiers battled the Amalekites, God asked Moses to hold up his staff, representing God's power, throughout the battle. As long as Moses kept the staff raised, the Israelites experienced victory. It was a long battle, however, and Moses dropped his arms in fatigue. Then the Israelites began losing the battle. That's when Moses needed help and encouragement from his friends,

As I try heal from surgery, I can't tell you how many days I have felt like just having the strength to get out off bed was a battle, yet I am so blessed to have AMAZING friends. I have battled with depression and self doubt as I find myself in a slow dry season with lots of questions and not a lot of answers. Yet the encouragement of faithful friends have meant the world to us.

"The Israelites ultimately were victorious, and a key to their victory was Moses' obedience to God as he held up the staff. But he couldn't have done what God asked him to do without the help of Aaron and Hur.

In the same way over the past couple of years I've needed my friends to hold me up, so I can be the wife, mother and woman God has called me to be. Friends have listened, prayed and helped me with practical matters of everyday life. Their support has given me courage to press on, to remain hopeful, and to find strength in them and the Lord.

Just like Aaron and Hur did for Moses, my friends have held up my hands and lifted my heart so I can be obedient to God's call on my life. We all need the help of faithful friends" (Melanie Chitwood)

So this blogpost is dedicated to those friends fighting the battle alongside us and helping us to be victorious. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


On some days it feels the earthquake that changed our lives forever was years and years ago. On other days it feels like just yesterday. Regardless of how long it feels like…. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the day my families life (and everyone connected to Haiti) was shaken to its very core.

As part of the community based nursing course I teach my nursing students, there is a section in the course on disaster nursing. I know foreword and backward the different phases of grief and shock victims and in-direct victims go through during a natural disaster but when you and those you love personally experience this kind of trauma, its nothing like the textbook or any class could prepare you for.

Last January was the most difficult and the most beautiful season of my 32 years of life. Difficult because although I knew human suffering like this existed, I was forced to see it through the eyes of children and people I love. Beautiful because in the midst of all that suffering I saw God move in so many beautiful ways I can not even count them all.

Rather than bore you with our story… here is a link if you do not already how the earthquake changed life for our family and 12 orphan children.

I know that tomorrow I will spend most of the day glued to the TV watching the one year anniversary coverage and reliving the events of those days. But in the midst of all the suffering I will see and have seen, I WILL CHOOSE TO SEE beauty! Rebuilding Haiti has proven to be a marathon not a sprint. But some of our dear friends tirelessly working there day in and day out share some of the most beautiful stories of God working in their midst. Long after the media left to focus on other stories, they unfortunately missed some of the most heartfelt stories of true heroes and the epitome of perseverance.

While Jake was in Haiti after the earthquake, communication between us was nearly nonexistent. We relied on facebook and satellite phones but connection was sketchy at best. He knew that we were working on trying to visas for the children already in the adoption process but we all knew it was a long shot and would take an act of God to make it happen. So while Belinda in Haiti and those of us at home tirelessly worked on making phone calls and gathering the necessary paperwork, Jake was consumed to providing relief work and literally in the trenches with those suffering.

But I love hearing him tell the story of when he finally got the news that our boys were reunited with me and on US soil. He was in a make shift tent, talking, on a satellite phone, and literally surrounded by human suffering. And at that moment he had a choice to make…. He could allow his heart to be heavy and burdened by all that he was experiencing and seeing or he could CHOOSE TO SEE the beauty of the moment.

I believe with all my heart that in every dark moment we face, there is beauty in the midst if we choose to see it.

I just finished reading a book by Mary Beth Chapman called “Choose to See”. It is their families’ story…. from their adoption journeys to the suffering and grief that they have endured the last few years. Grief is a journey many of us take at one time or another. For the Chapman family their journey began with the accidental death of their 5 year old daughter, Maria Sue, whom they adopted from China. In Choosing to SEE, Mary Beth Chapman shares her struggles with the tragic loss of Maria Sue, her journey to heal, and the unexpected path God has placed her on. Even as difficult as life can be, Mary Beth and the Chapman’s choose to see with faith and hope. I love her openness about healing journey and the way they are proclaiming to see beauty rise from ashes! This is their story

Sometimes I feel like a Debbie Downer but the last few years have been the most difficult of our 15 years of marriage. It just seems like God has allowed one thing after another into our life (all of which have been opportunities to CHOOSE TO SEE beauty in the midst of suffering).Ecclesiates 3:1-8 talks about the different seasons in life. I used to believe those seasons were at separate distinct and different times in our lives. Now I realize that we can weep and laugh, mourn and dance, search and give up, tear and mend, kill and heal, tear down and heal ALL AT THE SAME TIME AND SEASON.

It started with the loss of our 21 day old niece Hope to a congenital heart defect (hypoplastic left heart syndrome). In the middle of walking through the grief with my brother and his amazingly strong wife, we saw so much beauty. Beauty in learning what it truly means to offer the sacrifice of praise. At baby Hope’s memorial, we sang the song “Blessed be your name” with lyrics like “you give and take away, my heart will CHOOSE to say Lord blessed be your name”. We also sang “How Great Thou Art”. The beauty was I am 100% convinced that when my family sang those lyrics we meant them even though we were saying good bye to a precious baby we barely got to know and love on.

Shortly after that our foster daughter (whom had live in our home nearly a year and we loved as our own) was unexpectedly moved to another placement. It broke our hearts in ways I can’t describe. The range of emotions associated with it ranged from shock, anger, to pure grief. But today as I look back on our time with her…. I don’t focus on the day she was removed from our home. I choose to see beauty in all the wonderful memories we have with her. I see her in the rear view, in her car seat, with eyed closed and her chubby little hands raised singing “oh how he loves us” by David Crowder (one of her favorite songs). Or I choose to see her running around with her footie pajama’s dancing around being silly like she did every night after her bath. I choose to see the way she would wait at the door for Daddy to come home or the “big kids” to get off the bus and then squeal with delight when they pulled up.

Then we faced the earthquake and the agony of watching the nation we love suffer. Not long after that we faced a crisis at our church that turned our lives upside down again. But now I choose to see beauty in God’s perfect plan and the way His ways are higher.

As the boys have transitioned into our culture and our home, we have unpacked some very deep and heavy stuff. I knew trauma and abuse like that existed but hearing about and searching for healing through the heart of their mom has been a difficult process. A mom’s natural instinct to protect her children and most days I feel ill equipped to know to bring healing to their broken childhoods. But I choose to see beauty in the painstakingly slow progress they are making in therapy. I choose to see and celebrate the glimpses of trust and attachment being established between them and us as their parents. I choose to believe that God has awesome things planned for these boys and He will use them not IN SPITE OF their past but BECAUSE of their past to do great things for the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:27-28 says “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

I am so thankful the “Spirit intercedes in our life according to the will of God” and in the midst of everything (even suffering) God is working in the midst and if we choose to see that, it’s a beautiful thing!

I’d like to share some photos from that demonstrate beauty rising from the ashes. Prints are available to order from that site (I’m asking for my birthday wink wink) The above picture captions read...