our 2014 ornament: an arrow


buy a new ornament each year to represent the past year


The only Christmas tradition we’ve stuck with so far is our ornament tradition. We buy one ornament each year to represent the past year. 

Shortly after deciding to get approved for a domestic adoption and long after we’d worked hard to make progress getting our internationally adopted sons home, we took a trip to Chicago to see Damien Rice. We stopped at the Crate & Barrel and Land of Nod Outlets there, two favorite spots of ours. We walked through Land of Nod but just couldn’t justify buying anything more for these three children not yet in our home.

We went to Crate & Barrel next, and I wandered the aisles separate from Dan. We weren’t yet considering our ornament for the year, but I found a small container of ornaments in the Christmas aisle. All the ornaments were light blue wooden feathers, except for one… a bright orange tipped arrow. 

The metaphor from Psalms of arrows in a warrior’s quiver as children from God has been significant to us. The Scripture heading for Psalm 127 is commonly “Unless the Lord Builds.” And we have believed all along that He will build our family when and how He sees fit despite all of our striving and planning and aching and longing.

2014 has been a year of much work on God’s part. We passed a huge milestone in our international adoption process in February, and we spent significant time advocating for our sons through contacts with various government entities. We prayed throughout the year about starting the domestic adoption process, and we took the steps to be approved in October.

Despite all this, we’re looking at another Christmas without these sweet children — two we know and one we don’t — in our home. But we have so much hope! We trust He will bring them into our home not one day before or one day after He has planned. We can relax in this truth, and we can remain excited to see how He will fill our quiver with arrows.

So, I found Dan in the aisles of the Crate & Barrel Outlet to say, “Dan, I think this is our ornament for this year.” He nodded and smiled. This Christmas our 2014 ornament hangs bright toward the top of our tree.

Read about the previous years’ ornaments here.

anchored hope devotions for adoption


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Anchored Hope is an online daily devotional community for adoptive and waiting adoptive parents. I was asked to consider contributing to it once a week. And I was really uncertain at first.

I do not feel directly teaching God’s truths is a strength of mine. I enjoy sharing what I’m learning through telling daily experiences as a wife, friend, daughter, and waiting adoptive mother. Like telling a story and intertwining a bit of the Gospel. But this direct teaching on a theme with Scripture included is not easy for me.

I worry that I will somehow become a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I worry that I will misunderstand Scripture or minimize the glory of God’s Word. 

Despite this knowledge, I’ve felt challenged to teach more. To directly teach and not rely on my own interpretation of my experiences with a little bit of Jesus added in. So I agreed. And I’m honored to get to encourage others in this way. It’s been an excellent challenge for me to consider a topic of Scripture and write something life-giving for others to read.

Here’s a bit from today’s devotional, inspired by Isaiah 43:18-19

The path to the adoption of our sons was clear at the start. We took easy steps forward, and we delighted to see certain milestones reached more quickly than we expected. We believed they would be in our home soon after their first birthday. Then we reached the edge of the wilderness. We took difficult, staggering steps forward to only find the next step blocked.


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Follow along with the Anchored Hope community on Facebook and Instagram

3-year anniversary

Three years. It feels like forever in some regards and yesterday in others.

I just reread our vows. Woof. This year was certainly a year of looking to Christ to bind us together despite bad circumstances (adoption struggles!) and sickness (brain tumor!). And while it may seem the focus has been on those specific experiences, there’s been a lot of really, really good, too. The getting-to-know-you-even-better and the understanding-what-makes-you-tick and the learning-to-increase-the-trust-we-already-have and the let’s-just-have-fun and the making-big-decisions-that-teach-us-how-big-God-is.

We still talk about our honeymoon weekly. And how glad my don’t-look-at-me self was to not walk down the stairs of our ceremony venue. Beyond that, our focus after that day has been on the adventure of the days, months, and years after.



art gallery wedding ceremony, photo by We Are the Parsons



art gallery wedding ceremony, photo by We Are the Parsons



Our anniversary comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas when we’re naturally in a mindset of reflection.
These November and December months are two of my favorites, as we celebrate love and family and commitment and Christ. We continue to strive to put Him at the very center of all we do.



art gallery wedding ceremony, photo by We Are the Parsons



We decided to skip gifts this year to buy an anniversary journal.
It’s really beautiful, and I’m looking forward to sitting down with Dan to talk through our yearly check-in questions and record this year’s memories — good and bad — in the journal.


art gallery wedding ceremony with thrown craft pom pons, photo by We Are the Parsons



It will be simple. And that’s just fine. It’s been quite the year with this husby I love.

in-between motherhood and a hope in Christ



Spring Fern and Flowers by Hadley Hutton



Spring Fern and Flower by Hadley Hutton

We feel a little sorry for our complicated feelings and family status. But should we be? We wish you had first-hand experience with these feelings. We wish we had first-hand experience with what it feels like to have a child who is legally, permanently in your family.

We long for that. We long for an easy answer to the are-you-a-mother question. [more]

Our days and years will likely be spent longing and desiring and waiting and wishing. For me, it seems embedded in the core of who I am. It seems to be part of this bit of me that charges forward and refuses to be emotionally, spiritually, and physically stuck year after year.

But we have hope. A Hope. A Lord who has come and will come again.

As in-between moms and daughters of Christ, He takes us out of the in-between. We may be in-between not-mother and mother status, but we are fully and completely a child of God. And our needs are met in Him. Every single need He meets.

So, while we may feel turmoil in our hearts over the children we just can’t seem to get into our families, our hearts are bare for Him to work. And while I really believe we may not understand the purpose to a lot of hurtful experiences on this side of heaven, a new day will dawn and He will make all things new.

Be here now. Trust and believe. We share in your doubting and longing and waiting. 

in-between moms



Dandelions limited edition print by Jorey Hurley




Dandelions by Jorey Hurley

We are the in-between moms. Our hearts feel like moms, but our homes don’t have much to show for it. We’re actively attempting to grow our families. We’re starting the adoption process or fostering another mama’s babe or trying to conceive naturally or starting fertility treatments.

We sometimes feel like outsiders in groups of other women. We aren’t trying to get that big promotion. Or sometimes we are, but we’re considering what stay-at-home motherhood would be like, too. We aren’t exhausted from being up at night with our baby or chasing our toddler through Target. But we wish we were. We chime in with the potty training and breastfeeding and kindergarten stories of our friends and sisters, but we wish we had our own.

We pay attention to the latest products and trends. We know about babywearing, but we’ve never had one to wear. We know all about the benefits of that yucky nose sucker thing, but it’s sitting on our registry, not in our home.

We have a room for our future children in different states of preparedness. A toddler bed bought during a can’t-be-passed-up sale, a stack of perfectly-new never-read books, a diaper pail bought at our neighbor’s garage sale, or a piece of art thoughtfully gifted to us by a mom who has been here, done this.

Or maybe our in-betweeness is less obvious. We’ve had quiet conversations with our husbands about what route we should take if we aren’t pregnant by our anniversary. We have a box in the basement with that little purple dress we just couldn’t stand to pass up at the mall. We bring our box of Christmas decorations up and find those extra two stockings we bought last year, but we quietly tuck them back in the box to go back into storage.

We make plans, but we always keep in mind the potential for changes to our plans. Let’s just go to Chicago for vacation this year, but if their adoption is finalized, it wouldn’t be too hard to travel across country borders to Toronto instead. Let’s buy tickets for that upcoming concert, but let’s sell them on Craigslist if we get the call that we’ve been matched. Let’s start looking for a new job, but let’s stay open to staying at this job so we can keep the health benefits and time off.

We have emotions and outlooks that might resemble roller coasters from day-to-day. We have days of bitterness and despair. And we have days of total contentment and understanding. He has a plan for our lives. He has a plan for growing our families. He will meet our every need. (But what about our wants?)

We feel a little sorry for our complicated feelings and family status. But should we be? We wish you had first-hand experience with these feelings. We wish we had first-hand experience with what it feels like to have a child who is legally, permanently in your family.

We long for that. We long for an easy answer to the are-you-a-mother question.

As Christians, we have hope as we long to get out of the in-between. No matter what the outcome. More on that soon. 

how to not overshare and Daring Greatly


how to not overshare from Daring Greatly


When I did 31 posts on young marriage last year, I shared about social media, my marriage, and what I won’t post. I’ve revisited this multiple times as a reminder. I believe it is damaging to our relationships to overshare online (and in person), and it’s just plain awkward for the rest of us to watch.

I’m now starting to consider social media, my children, and what I won’t post. I’ve observed different ends of the spectrum. I’m hoping to find a balance between encouraging others with my personal experiences and protecting the integrity of my children’s stories. It’s going to be hard. And I’m certain it will be always evolving. (Recommendations for how to do this, moms?)

Brené Brown shares her own more general take on how not to overshare in Daring Greatly. I made it a note on my cell phone to revisit when questioning myself.

How to not overshare:

+ Only share what you’ve worked through and feel you can share from “solid ground.”

+ Share parts of yourself to “teach or move a process forward” but disclosing information to work through your personal stuff is inappropriate.

+ Only share when you have no unmet needs you’re trying to fill by sharing.

[source: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown]

What is your rule of thumb for what to say — on social media or in person — and what not to say?

Disclosure: Affiliate links used. 

foreboding joy and Daring Greatly

The second concept from Daring Greatly that I can’t get off my mind? Foreboding joy. Brené Brown says joy is the most vulnerable emotion we can feel. I really didn’t believe this at first, but think about it…


foreboding joy : Daring Greatly


You know when you’re feeling so much joy about something, yet you can’t shake the feeling that it won’t work out… or it won’t be as good as you imagine…  or that someone or something will be taken away from you. That’s when we start “dress rehearsing tragedy.” 

Sadly, I recognize now how frequently I do this. I’m feeling really good and healthy since having brain surgery in March. I have a whole new appreciation for my health and the medical system. Yet I have that follow-up MRI scheduled for the day before Christmas Eve, and I’ve truly considered what it would be like to be told the brain tumor is back.

Or, I’m feeling really excited about the possibility of children finally being in our home via adoption. I’ll finally get to be a mom — this title I’ve looked forward to for so long! Yet I tell myself over and over again I’m going to be miserable from not getting enough sleep and not having as much time to myself. 

Most recently: I was really happy for Dan to have several days off work. This past week might be the longest we’ve had without him working while still being in town and at home. But then all of a sudden I got panicky about not spending the time wisely and just sitting around and not connecting with each other. 

My middle name might as well be Foreboding Joy.

What Brené Brown has found in her research is that people who most deeply experience joy use the vulnerability it brings to practice gratitude instead of rehearse tragedy. She suggest we say to ourselves, “I’m feeling vulnerable, and I’m so grateful for _____.”

I’ve practiced this multiple times already. (After texting Dan in all caps: I FEEL VULNERABLE.) In the past day, we’ve had to make some big decisions related to adoption. It’s made me feel really vulnerable as I consider the possible outcomes and the effects of those outcomes. So, while I may be feeling vulnerable, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to adopt at all

I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.

[source]

Have you heard this concept before? Do you see its application in your life?

Read about determining and increasing trust in your marriage from Daring Greatly, too.

Disclosure: Affiliate links used. 

Thanksgiving + giveaway winner

Thanksgiving feels different this year. We really thought last Thanksgiving would be the last without children in our home. The news out of Ferguson has me upset. I’m oscillating between joy and anticipation and a fair amount of sadness and stress.

But there are so many reasons to say “thank you” this year. So many. I won’t list them here, but I plan to recognize and consider and discuss them in the next few days. I hope you’re able to recognize some in your own life, and I hope you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving, too!



King of the Forest by Glenn Carroll



King of the Forest by Glenn Carroll

And, yes, the winner of the Minted giveaway! It’s Ilea! Congratulations!

determining and increasing trust in marriage and Daring Greatly

I thought I totally trusted Dan. And I thought he totally trusted me. Then we went to a marriage workshop and were handed a list of “check in” questions.

We got home. I already felt a little defensive. The workshop had brought up a few areas where I knew I was really not doing a stellar job.

We sat on the couch to go through the list. And what do you know, we couldn’t say “yes” to all of them. I thought we had trust figured out. Communication? Not so much. But trust? Yes, yes, yes.


increasing trust in marriage


While I’m not going to reveal the questions we each said “no” to, I do want to share some from the list.

+ Is there more unity, understanding, and love in your marriage than there has ever been?
+ Do you do the things you promise to do in the time you’ve promised?
+ Are you attentive to what your spouse sees as important?
+ Do you carry wrongs around with you, or do you trust one another to confront and confess?
+ Are you conscious of editing your words and withholding your feelings because you can’t trust your spouse to deal with them properly?
+ Do you say things to other people about your spouse that you haven’t communicated to him or her?
+ Are you comfortable with the vulnerability a good marriage involves?

We had a good discussion and figured out a few things that had been long-running issues. Not big issues, but issues that came up too frequently.

This past week, I read Daring Greatly. It was so timely and encouraging in terms of vulnerability and well, daring greatly. I didn’t expect trust to come up there, too, but it did in “sliding door” moments. 

The concept was explained by John Gottman, and it just makes so much sense.

What I’ve found through research is that trust is built in very small moments, which I call “sliding door” moments, after the movie Sliding Doors. In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.

Let me give you an example of that from my own relationship. One night, I really wanted to finish a mystery novel. I thought I knew who the killer was, but I was anxious to find out. At one point in the night, I put the novel on my bedside and walked into the bathroom.

As I passed the mirror, I saw my wife’s face in the reflection, and she looked sad, brushing her hair. There was a sliding door moment.

I had a choice. I could sneak out of the bathroom and think, “I don’t want to deal with her sadness tonight, I want to read my novel.” But instead, because I’m a sensitive researcher of relationships, I decided to go into the bathroom. I took the brush from her hair and asked, “What’s the matter, baby?” And she told me why she was sad.

Now, at that moment, I was building trust; I was there for her. I was connecting with her rather than choosing to think only about what I wanted. These are the moments, we’ve discovered, that build trust.

[source]

Those questions + this passage have been on my mind frequently. And I never expect to master trust in my relationship with Dan, but I’m thankful for the ways my young little mind is being opened to the concept.

Have you considered the ways you can increase trust in your relationship? Do you think it’s important? 

there is beauty in risk t-shirts



There Is Beauty In Risk t-shirt



I’ve had a navy blue t-shirt for several years. I wear to bed and to the gym. It’s stretched and worn. The front of it reads “There Is Beauty In Risk.” 

For a long time I wore it without giving much thought to the quote on the front. But in the past year, I’ve really started to think about. I put it on and ask myself, Do I believe this? Do I feel this? Do I live this? Does what I know about the Gospel back this up? 

As we began to consider a concurrent adoption, I kept thinking about it. It feels risky. Emotionally risky and financially risky, mostly. I feel vulnerable.

And I realized those around me are feeling it, too. Friends committing to jobs in places they’ve never been or exploring fertility treatments for the first time or agreeing to serve in uncomfortable parts of the world.



There Is Beauty In Risk t-shirt



I contacted Light Gives Heat, the organization from which I bought my t-shirt, to see if they minded us using the quote on our own t-shirt design. I shared our story, and they very kindly sent us their original design to use.

We printed 50 shirts if various sizes. You can buy one for yourself or friends or family here.



There Is Beauty In Risk t-shirt



Do you believe there’s beauty in risk?