On Being a Remarried Widow

When I write, I usually have landed on a definitive point.  There are zero landing points in my life right now.  I’m in a lot of unchartered territory with no bull’s eye to even aim towards.  Step parenting . . .don’t even get me started.  I have NO CLUE what I am doing.  Do I parent them?  Do I have conversations with their mom?  Do I act like their camp counselor?  Do I just pray for them and then step back, while Tony does the parenting?  Holy Hannah?  I have no clue what to do?????????  (That’s all for another post, though)  Even being a widow who is remarried comes with it’s real lack of bullseyes.  I don’t even know which general direction to point my arrow.  

Here are some of my opposing thoughts. You ready?

Sometimes, I want everyone to know that just because I’m married, doesn’t mean that all the bad has been undone. When I would run into people after getting married and they would say, “Congratulations,” I often times wanted to reply with a big dissertation on how it’s great to be married again, but it doesn’t mean that everything is all better now.  Being married doesn’t solve Dave being gone.  Being married doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Dave anymore. Sometimes my stomach still drops if I picture his face or what he might do in a certain situation for more than two seconds.  I want people to know that getting married doesn’t make my life right back to normal. In fact, in many ways, getting married again makes life a lot more complicated.  I want people to know that waves of grief don’t just stop all of the sudden, as soon as you say, “I do.”  And finally, just like before getting married, I am OK, because of Jesus.  He is THE ONE.  He is the healer, the winner in death, the redeemer and everything to me. 

So, some days that is how I feel. 

THEN . . . , some days, I want people to know quite the opposite.  That I love the new.  I love my new husband, A LOT. We had a rough start, but I LOVE being married to Tony. I know he is not Dave and I know that he never will be and I never want him to be and I don’t want anyone else to want him to be, either.  I want everyone to embrace Tony as the man that God sent after Dave.  Not a second best, but God’s BEST BEST BEST for me and our family.  I want Tony to know that deep in his heart.  I don’t want to have to prove that I still love Dave to anyone.  Everyone says, that you will always love your first spouse. What does that mean?  Does it mean that to make sure that is true, I always have to cry when I think about him?  Does it mean that I will always be filled with sorrow?  In Ecclesiastes (and a song by The Byrds) it talks about there being a time to mourn and a time to laugh.  What if widowness and Dave is a weight that I am carrying, that will prevent me from running the race that God has set before me? 

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us.”  Dave, of course, is not a weight, but I think it is safe to assume that he could become one, if I made my identity entangled with him, instead of Christ.  

Obviously, I want to always talk about Dave and make sure Spencer, Leah and Macie know who he was and how much he loved all of them and where they came from.   Dave was also a part of my life, and in many of my stories, and since I’m a storyteller, I won’t stop telling them.  But I have to be aware of hanging on too tightly to Dave and to my widowness.  I do feel like I’m missing something on this front.  I feel God challenging me, but towards what direction, I don’t know?????? 

I, seriously, can’t even imagine trying to be friends with me?  I’m all over the place.  Bless those who dare to be my friend and enter into all my deep emotions that conflict and can’t find a way.  Bless you for always being willing to wander through these thoughts and share yours back.  Bless!  Bless!  Bless Tony . . . good gracious!  Who could ever live with someone whose arrow is pointed a new direction every morning.  He’s probably just trying not to get hit with some aimless arrow all the time.  Surely, it won’t be this way forever.  I mean, Dave has been gone, almost three years now and I have only been married for a couple months, so I guess I can’t expect that I could have this all figured out right now. God is so patient with me, as well as Tony and my friends and my sweet listening mom.  

So, for now, I guess I’ll just wave my arrows around and continue to ask God to point me in the right direction.  Thank you, Tony, friends and family, for continuing with me in all of my aimlessness.  It’s gotta be hard to keep up.   

Megan’s Take: May I just say, for the record, that being friends with you is never dull! That’s for sure. 🙂 You are an emotional person. You feel a lot and you think a lot. Your intensity for life is part of what makes you — you!  And we love you for it. I think the thing that hits me the most in this post is the idea that “just because you’re married now doesn’t mean that all the bad has been undone.” Dave’s death was a tragedy. Your marriage to Tony is a gift of new love. I can imagine it is beyond confusing at time to hold those two things in tension. I recently heard our dear friend Kirkie say, “If God allows something to touch you then he already has plans to redeem it.” Your story is testimony of this indomitable truth. Good thing Christina and I (along with so many others!!) are pretty good at catching arrows. You can’t get rid of us that easily. 

Christina’s Take: The thought that keeps cycling through my heart is that grief doesn’t have a linear path. And relationships cannot be managed into a predictable continuity. Even today, imagining that Dave just IS.NOT.HERE is unfathomable to me. So, I can’t imagine your hearts’ topsy turvy state running on some sort of schedule or rhythm. That would be ridiculous. And if you were a robot saying all the right things at the right times, I’m just gonna say it: I’d be bored with you!! So take that, my friend. I see beauty in your journey BECAUSE of it’s non-linear, chaotic-at-times twisting and turning. But I’m grateful for this blog that helps us express what this RACE of life is like from day to day. That’s the real place and that’s where I wanna be. 

Ricky Bobby and the Trouble with Praying

I find myself uttering this phrase to myself and in conversations often: “All I can do is pray.” It’s like I’m shrugging my shoulders that I am so limited in my ability to ACTUALLY help.

As a fairly standard sample of a human being in middle class America, I am someone who

  • generally obeys the rules
  • pays my taxes on occasion
  • and I would even say I am a God-fearing, Jesus-loving type of person.

Maybe I’d even toot my own horn and tell you that I’ve had what one would call a “prayer life” –  a desire to react to any scenario by acknowledging back to God that He is in charge and that I am okay with that.

I have emerged from prayer with ideas, creativity, care, imagination that I promise, for reals I would never have been able to devise on my own

 

“Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I want to thank you for this wonderful meal, my two beautiful son’s, Walker and Texas Ranger, and my Red-Hot Smokin’ Wife, Carley” Oh Ricky Bobby…

But lately…

In my real life day-to-day, when I have forgotten the permission slip on the last day it’s due, I do not think of dropping to my knees in prayer or turning off the radio in the car to beseech the heavens on behalf of my forgetfulness.

And I’m not bowing my head and closing my eyes to pray at work when I am clicking open a spreadsheet that already contains the answer I am seeking. I am being serious. Not sarcastic, I mean.  It just does not occur to me.

Ultimately, when “all I can do is pray,” I am saying that I’d rather run the show.  And then when my hands are tied, I might throw a prayer at the situation. No submission there. No giving up of control.

But then I came upon this lovely little gem:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire…

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,

The falling of a tear,

The upward glancing of an eye,

When none but God is near.

~James Montgomery~

This poem cuts through so much of the complicated mess and brings me deep, deep relief. Like an unexpected gift on a random weekday.

  • Prayer is the burden of a sigh….my heart rate just went down.
  • Prayer is the falling of a tear…well that sounds do-able.
  • Prayer is the upward glancing of an eye…I’ve got time for that.

So it is with gratitude, a heavy sigh, and a faltering heart that I raise my eyes to the heavens and surrender.

I’m thankful for second chances, (for 80th chances!) to communicate with Jesus. Rick Bobby is ridiculous but his simplicity in prayer could teach us all a thing or two.

Maybe it’s your turn, too, to say “Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I get it..prayer is all I’ve got and it’s everything I’ve got.” What does this look like for you? Could shifting your perspective on prayer change your present circumstance?

Megan’s Take:

The concept of prayer is so fascinating and mysterious to me. I have the propensity to be completely flippant about it. If someone says their great Aunt Sally is in the hospital, my immediate response is, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll be praying for her.” Will I REALLY pray for her? Often I walk away and review my grocery list rather than pray for that person. However, more and more these days I really am TRYING to pray right then and there. My newsfeed is jam packed with things big and little from around the world that I can literally do NOTHING about. My kid comes home from school distraught and anxious. I can’t make it better. I try to lean into that moment with an atmosphere of prayer. I’ve learned over the years that a prayer can take so many forms, but whatever it is, I want my faith to be at the place where I truly believe that this act is actually “doing something.” I can’t see it. I don’t often see the fruit, but I have to believe it’s a holy form of communication to a sovereign, omnipotent and loving God.

I’ve recently read the BEST book on prayer, called “Prayer, the Mightiest Force in the World” by Frank Laubach. He submits that if human beings can create radio waves (this was written in the 1930s) — a form of communication that we CANNOT see, why wouldn’t we believe in prayer as an unseen form of communication with a Holy God. And that was before the world-wide-interweb!! I mean, come on. Favorite quote, “People seldom pray as if they believe that prayer changes the world.” Often I am like you suggest, Christina — believing that I or at least someone much more talented than I can change the world. Let’s debunk that and pray like it’s the only thing we’ve got. Because, quite frankly, it is.

Holly’s Take:

The worst book on prayer I ever read was by Philip Yancey.  I don’t remember the name, but I remember that it created so much confusion around prayer for me.  It has taken so many unanswered prayers coming from the deepest trust in Jesus to realize that I have made a little progress in my doubt of prayer.  That probably sounds backwards  Through everything over the past few years, I somehow believe more and more in the power of prayer, and it’s not because I see results and prayers answered right and left.  I have seen miracles and I have heard crickets.  However,  I see prayer as a much broader category than petitions for life’s circumstances to become easier.  I still have a gazillion questions about prayer, but I do believe it is powerful beyond what I could dream.  I wish each morning, I acted like I believe that.     

Transracial Families: More Than Skin Deep?

 I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr (Aug 28, 1963)

Granted, I don’t live in Alabama, but this quote brings me to tears every single time I hear it. Is it really possible for all of us to “hold hands” and become like family — either literal or otherwise? 

Oh, I do pray so! But I know the path to get there is a complicated one filled with conviction and repentance and respect and love.

One question, spoken in complete and utter honesty and love, has left my mind reeling since it was asked.

A couple of months ago, a friend looked straight across the table at me through her gorgeous African American eyes and said, “How do you, a white woman, expect to raise a black man in America?”

I swear to you, in that moment, my heart galloped. I honestly had NO IDEA what to say. My mind went dark and I began to blubber and stutter and, honestly, question the entire call. Who am I?

Let’s face it. I’m not really put in a position where I feel highly uncomfortable all that often. Everywhere I go, I am usually surrounded by people who look like me, talk like me and see the world a lot like I do.

I grew up in a small town in Northern Colorado (which some refer to as the “Great White North”) and most of the kids I went to school with had white skin. The major variation appeared via hair and eye color and whether or not you could boast a summer tan. I could not.

Yes, there were a number of Hispanic kids (some of whom were my very BEST friends), but not a huge population. There may have been a few families of Asian decent, but I’m pretty sure there were no African Americans. At least, not as far as I remember.

I cruised along, for the better part of my life, fairly oblivious to any sort of racial struggle. I definitely had my fair share of teenage angst about not fitting in and all that, but none of it had to do with the color of my skin. Oh, I got teased by the other lifeguards for wearing a t-shirt during my shifts around the pool while they all flaunted golden midriffs and compared tan lines, but no cop was gonna pull me over for that. 

To be honest, I kind of took the whole thing for granted for quite a long time…

Until we adopted two kids from Africa. 

In that moment, the comfortable world in which I lived felt awfully bright against their beautiful, chocolate skin.

The closest thing I’ve felt to being a complete “outsider” was when I spent a year in Spain as an exchange student. I can muster a bit of what it feels like to “not belong” but again, I never once feared for my life.

And now here I am, mother to four adorable, amazing, funny, moody, complicated kids; often quite similar on the inside, but very different on the outside. Two are white and two are black. 

When my older two entered the school-age years, I never looked around the classroom to see if anyone else looked like them. It rarely crossed my mind. However, now my insides do cartwheels when I see kids sitting in desks that have brown or black skin and hair. It means my kids won’t be the ONLY ones. 

To date, they have not experienced blatant racism.  But they have confessed from time to time that they wished their “skin wasn’t so dark” or that their “hair was straight.” And each time it breaks my heart. I lavish them with compliments and truth about how they are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  

And while this is absolutely, 100% true, I often wonder if it brings little solace coming from someone who’s skin is light and has straight hair. I pray my words sink more than skin deep, but I don’t know…

So, how will I (a white mom) raise two beautiful black children in America?  Honestly, that is a really profound question with not a lot of clear answers. I definitely can’t tie a bow around this one, but these are some things that come to mind:

1.    Let my kids know they have a voice.  I want to foster a safe space for them to express themselves however they need to. I have very little control over what happens outside our home, but I will fight like hell to make the space inside one of dignity, love and mutual respect.

2.    Be aware of my privilege and my place. It’s not a secret that white-middle/upperclass folks have a lot of influence in this society of ours. Just look at the presidential placeholders over the years. Of course we are not the ONLY ones with influence, but we are by far the majority.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that we can’t be responsible for what we don’t know. The last thing I want to do is hurt someone else, intentionally or unintentionally — BUT! Once we know better, we need to do better.  So, how can we use that influence FOR GOOD? How can we use our God-given influence to seek understanding and respect and justice for all.  (If I’m not mistaken, that one should be ingrained pretty deep in our American DNA.)

3.    Seek out diversity. This can be a tough one when you live in a pretty homogenous place. But it can be found. I’m constantly praying for opportunities to build authentic relationships with people from other cultures and races. It’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to give up. 

4.    Seek out same. In tandem with seeking diversity (for all of us), it’s also important to find spaces and places where my kids feel more comfortable. We don’t always do the best job because life gets busy and the hours slip away, but we really do try to be intentional about finding places where we can connect with Ethiopian culture — festivals, restaurants, other adoptive families, etc.  We also recently hired an investigator to pound the pavement in Ethiopia to see if we could find out any current time information about their birth family. The guy we worked with was fantastic!! If any of you out there are wondering about this for your own children, please email me, I’d be happy to share a bit of our experience and how it has blessed our family. 

5.    Seek opportunities to put myself in the minority. This one is probably the hardest by far. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable to journey outside my comfort zone, it’s hard to find opportunities to do so. Our routines often keep us grounded in comfort. We don’t always have time or money to travel to other countries to find it, but we can step foot in another place of worship or a neighborhood that looks different than our own.  As I type this, I’m convicted because I don’t remember the last time I actually DID this… 

It’s not often I intentionally put myself in the minority and yet, my kids have no choice. Stepping out of my comfort zone even for a fraction of a minute helps reconnect my heart to theirs.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, it is at least a start. I know that as an imperfect individual I will never be able to give ANY of my kids ALL of what they need. Only God can do that.

I once got a FB message from a friend who said that she was always completely opposed to transracial families, but, after seeing ours, she may be softening to the idea. SO — naive or not, I guess I really do have a dream. And I’m hoping our family, along with many others, is part of the manifestation of it. 

Christina’s Take

Your friend’s question is so powerful and I’ve asked it (in my head) more than once of both you and Holly’s decision to adopt. Her question almost had a tone of: “who do you think you are…white parents adopting black kids?” The challenge in her question is not altogether unhealthy, though. It’s a push-back that says: can the Holy Spirit really be that audacious? I say, you’re damn right He can. 

Holly’s Take:

The other day, I was walking hiking around Garden of the Gods with my kids.  We were coming down a trail rather quickly, when we passed a large black family who I just immediately wanted to be a part of.  They were laughing and hollering and the whole black family nine yards.  Right as we were going by them, Macie, my little Ethiopian, slipped and fell.  They all stopped and the matriarch of that family goes, “You OK Little Mama?”  It was darling and a little touching and a little bitter.  In that moment, with that stranger giving my daughter the nickname, “Little Mama,” I wondered if she belonged in a black family.  She is loud and crazy and nuts and singy and dancy and sometimes I wonder if she ever wants to bust out of this buttoned up white bread family.  It’s in her DNA to be loud and crazy and nuts and singy and dancy.  I only have the dancy and sometimes the nutsy part in my DNA and my DNA is actually strongly opposed to loud. 

I honestly can’t name why on earth I would be qualified to raise Macie.  I’m not.  I know that.  One look at her ethnic hair and there is confirmation.  But after three years, my heart for her is grown.  (and shrunk and grown over and over again). But I watched her sit next to her teacher last night at Back to School Night  (she felt so cool sitting ON THE TABLE in front of everyone) and my heart was overflowing with pride and humility that she is mine.  Maybe it is the humility that will qualify us white people to raise these, full of life, black and brown kids.  God help us all to never feel like we are the end all, be all in our kids’ lives.  Give us what we need, Jesus and help us to give them YOU.  

A “Ruff” Decision

Dogs.  A Man’s best friend.  Charlie.  Dave’s best friend.  And I’m not kidding.  I was the one who scoured nextdaypets.com for days and days until I came upon our little dog Charlie, back in 2006.  Dave’s little annoying Jack Russell terrier was gone and my sweet golden retriever was dying of cancer.  I was only a few months away from having Spencer, so I desperately wanted to train a little puppy before the baby came.  (If anyone knew that I even put “trained” and “Charlie” in the same sentence, they might choke).  For as much as I begged Dave to agree to bringing home this little chocolate labradoodle (he was supposed to be 30 pounds and he is 90), Charlie ended up giving his loyalties to Dave and vise versa.  

The week before Dave died, the babysitter who watched the kids while I taught piano, mentioned that Charlie would start staring at the door from 4:45, until Dave walked through the door.  And the night before Dave died, while watching a movie, I remember Dave saying, “we are going to have to figure out a way to clone this dog.”  After Dave died, Charlie just hung out by the door, waiting and waiting and waiting, with the saddest face a dog could ever wear.  This was one sad puppy.  

A few months after Dave died, my sweet niece, Rachel moved in for a few weeks, (turned 18 months).  It wasn’t long after Rachel moved in, that Charlie’s loyalties turned towards her.  I remember the night that he followed her downstairs for the night, instead of following me to my room.  And that was that.  Charlie had a new BFF and it wasn’t me.  Charlie was now receiving neck ties, birthday cakes, baths, walks, pig ears and countless cuddles.  If I were Charlie, I wouldn’t leave Rachel’s side either!

But then, Rachel decided that she didn’t want to live with newlyweds?????  She was going to be moving out.  Where did this leave Charlie????  This was a “ruff” choice.  Should he stay or should he go?  I couldn’t figure out if Dave would want him to stay with me and the kids or to go with his niece.  Maybe this sounds like a ridiculous thing to pray about, but God went ahead and humored me.  Within two critical decision making days, I had a couple of conversations that ultimately led me to believe that Charlie belonged with Rachel.  Dave and Rachel always had a sort of Aldridge family connection.  And Charlie bonded with Dave and then bonded with Rachel.  All of the sudden the choice seemed pretty obvious.

I really do miss Charlie, but every time I get a picture of him from Rachel,  (I know this sounds CA-RAZY), but he seriously looks so happy.  I also think pets are good bonders for people and I keep thinking that while Tony wants a baby, (at this point, I only barely can manage the thought of another baby), maybe a puppy can fulfill some of that longing?????  Of course, Tony and I have desperately different opinions of the kind of dog to get, but I still think that it will be so fun to have OUR dog. I’m kind of holding out for a dog we can agree on.  I want a small, non-shedding, fuzzy, cute, sweet, puppy, while Tony wants a Siberian Husky, a Dachshund or a Doberman Pincher (that will never happen, BTW).  

So, any thoughts, anyone? Baby or Puppy?  (just kidding)  What kind of puppy should Tony and I get????????   

Megan’s Take: Oh My Gersh!! I am obsessed with these photos. The puppy. Dave and the puppy. Rachel and Charlie. Can’t. Handle. It. How can so many layers of emotions be packed into one human/canine relationship? It doesn’t totally make sense, but somehow these four-legged friends become like children. And many times, we might even like them more than our kids. Not me, of course. But some people. Even though Charlie is not my dog, it really does bring peace to my spirit to know he’s found a sweet home with Rachel. He is still connected to Dave in this way. Super sweet. Now, about the baby/puppy thing!! If I know you AT ALL, I’m thinking you’re only half kidding about the decision. But let me just be the voice of reason here. They BOTH need constant attention. Puppies just grow out of the tear-your-house-to-pieces stage quicker than babies, right? So, puppy it is. OR…DOG 🙂  We lucked out big time with our Yorkie/stuffed animal from Craig’s List. But if you must have a puppy, just do it now before you move into that gorgeous new home you plan to renovate. For reals.

Christina’s Take: 

24. That’s how many question marks were in your post, Holls! 24! This signifies something. 24 question marks means this is bold new territory for you. I, for one, think getting a dog is the perfect answer to the question: Should Tony and I have another baby? Lol. The decisions, the training, the feeding, the burden – all of it is so fun to think of the two of you (what am I saying, the SEVEN of you) mastering.

I have two very hairy black labs; one has asperger’s on the tennis ball spectrum and the other one likes to bite my red-headed blogger partners so clearly I’m an expert from whom you should take advice. 

The #1 Rule for Kids in Church: Screw the Rules

The rules are probably what I remember most in church.

Any given Sunday, my mother would peer down the pew at her 4 children, searching for an imperfection.

Perhaps one of us would pretend to be praying while actually being in a deep, deep slumber.

Maybe one of her kids was coloring too loudly on the paper.

Heaven apparently forbids a spontaneous and OFF-LIMITS giggle fest.

She would do a quality control check every few moments particularly during the quietest portion of the service, the dreaded sermon. And she was always willing to reach down the pew (no matter how far down one of us was sitting) with her long arm and lay down a magnificent but ever-so-subtle…thump.

She was doing the right thing.

She was making sure that all appeared shiny and clean. This was her best performance of the week and most public. This was her favorite but often most stressful part of the week. She was making sure she provided this important experience for her children as well – attending church with all of its liturgy, hymnal legacy and glory.

And I liked church, too. Not the liturgy so much as the McDonald’s run that preceded the service. But I also liked church because it was the part of the week where she showed her pride in us. After all, we were often raved over before and after the 8 am service. “They’re getting so big!” or “They were all so calm during the service!” These well-meaning fellow congregants would marvel at all her lined-up ducklings and marvel at her as well.

And when I became a mom, I had since developed a faith of my own and wanted similar things for my children. I wanted them to be a part of a church and understand the order and reverence that are so rare in this world.

As I became a more transformed believer, however, I began to realize that I had placed these rules from my mother onto my view of God. The “shoulds” and the “oughts” of church service behavior came swinging into my consciousness every week in church. I began to feel anger and embarrassment when my children did not abide by my preconceived rules checklist of:

·         don’t fidget

·         be silent

·         always shake hands and make eye contact with adults

This was just before a typical sibling spat broke out because “he shouldn’t have put his arm so heavily on her shoulder.” <sigh>

So I have a new rule: Rules should be optional in church.

And so I developed a new, grace-approved checklist of my own. It is one that has come about only through trials and much error.

RULE #1 Laugh often in church

RULE #2 Smile often in church

By-Laws:

  1. Does this mean that sometimes I have to bust out my exaggerated vibrato during a worship song just to make my daughter chuckle? YES!
  2. Could this mean that I will search for something funny in the lighting or something off about the pastor’s tie just so I can bring it to my son’s attention and get a giggle? Absolutely.
  3. Might I pass my child a note in church filled with emoticons and a funny comment about the sermon? By all means.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matthew 11:30 says this about stern church service rules:

“…. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 #rascals
#rascals

I am coming around to the idea that allowing more varieties of behavior in church just might lead to my children having a view of a loving, serving gracious God in his son Jesus. 

Church is important to the life of faith and church is important to me. I know I cannot create a perfect sense of the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit for my kids. But I do plan to keep doing unorthodox things in church so they know the place for freedom and joy is in the house of God. Especially there.

Megan’s Take: Rule number one is that there are no rules! You just went all “Animal House” on us, Christina. Nice one. 🙂 I’m not entirely sure what our “house rules” are regarding sitting in church. We definitely fall into the “whatever you do, just don’t make it TOO obvious category.” Sleeping, just don’t snore. Reading a book, hide it behind the bible… My kids know when they’ve gone too far when they get the “big eyes.”

I think the thing that really hits me in this post is the idea that our perceived “rules” about church might taint our view of God. Rules, regulations, “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” all stem from the law. Jesus came to fulfill the law and be done with it once and for all. Once we know better, I believe we should “do better,” but I am super convicted by the fact that my expectations about proper church behavior and attendance might have a direct impact (for better or for worse) on my children’s view of God. Will they “obey the rules” for the sake of obedience, so they won’t get in trouble? Or will they respect the environment out of sheer love of a gracious God because they have seen that modeled in a gracious church? I will definitely be pondering that one.

Holly’s Take

This all sounds great and liberating, until my kids are the ones that have dropped the 13th item on the floor and had to crawl underneath every surrounding pew to retrieve the fallen items.  Or when my kids have tapped my shoulder for the 42nd time, while my eyes are closed and my hands are raised in the middle of my favorite worship song, to which I want to worshipfully yell, “What the mutha could you possibly need right now?!?”  I think I’ve given up on the idea of my kids looking shiny (as evidenced by how many days between baths they go).  I think I worry less about what we appear to look like, and more about distracting others from their Sunday morning experience.  I’m sure there is some something in there that is a little off, too.  

I certainly do not want my kids thinking that a Christian is tidy and quiet and obedient.  Quite the opposite.  I want them to know that Christians are a big fat mess . . . and that the reason we need Jesus . . . and his grace . . . and his unfathomable love . . . is because we are so messy.   Oh, it makes me cry. 

Much More Than Just Wedding Pictures

When I signed up for Megan’s sister, Katie Brase, from Katie Brase Photography,  to take our wedding pictures, I had no idea that I was getting a professional professional!  I knew she is a good sister to Megan, and a mommy photographer, but I guess I didn’t realize that she is like, the mega real deal!  She did an amazing job of capturing every important moment on one of the most important and treasured days of my entire life!  

My wedding day was no less than perfect. I loved it from start to finish. It was flanked by weeks of storms on both side, but as you can see, there was just a decent spackling of clouds and a lot of sun peeking through on that day.  What a gift.  I’m not going to lie . . . I was going to be a touch on the saddish side, if this wedding was a drizzly, rainy mess.  But it wasn’t!  It was nothing less than the perfect setting with the perfect weather. 

While the sun outside was providing a peaceful backdrop, in the indoors where the getting ready was taking place, it was not quite as peaceful and restful.  I must say, none of my bridesmaids (or myself) are on the cutting edge of make-up application.  I am quite sure I detected a little apprehension from two thirds of my bridesmaids when one of them   announced she would do everyone’s make up, because she took a class on stage make-up once. Fortunately, Emily, the super sweet gal who did my hair (who I wish I could be friends with), was probably quite alarmed by the make-up inexperience in the room and stepped in to save the day.  Thank you, Emily!!!!!  Phew!

One of my very very favorite moments of the day, was the “first look.”  We wanted to get some pictures in the daylight and be able to PAR-TAY after the words “you may kiss the bride,” so we opted to get pictures done before the ceremony.  When we turned and looked at each other on that damp dirt road, with a huge canopy of trees on both sides, neither one of us could hold back the tears.  What a moment to remember.

Then there were pictures with every combination, while guest began to arrive.  I never knew that people arrive early, early to weddings???.  Now I know why I’m always seated in the back row when I arrive 2 minutes before the start of a wedding. Being early has never been my strong suit.  Lesson learned, I guess. After the photo shoot with all the relatives and bridesmaids and kids, etc. . .  I was ready to get this party started.  

I was more nervous than I thought I would be for the wedding portion of the night.  I’m not sure what I was nervous about . . . It wasn’t getting married.  It wasn’t being in front of a crowd.  Maybe it was just low blood sugar, from not eating much that day.  That dress was tight, people.  I couldn’t afford to balloon out at the last second, or else that zipper might have given way at some very inopportune moment.

To kick off the ceremony, Leah, Spencer and Macie sang this little tune that I have always loved, called, “Always Be True.” Then I walked down the aisle to my friend, Jessica, and the crowd, singing “How Great Thou Art.”

I don’t remember much of what Matt said, but I’m sure it was awesome.  My other very very favorite part and the most sacred part was exchanging vows.  In true Holly fashion, I crafted mine that very morning.  I meant to do it earlier, but  . . . I guess I was going with my MO that I do my best work under pressure.   When I wrote them that morning, I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted to say.  It was like God wrote them for me, while I was sleeping that night. Weird, but true.

 I said in room full of witnesses, “I know there will be times, where Egypt looks more attractive than whatever current situation is in front of us.  It may be sickness, it may be finances, it may be my finicky heart, it may be a million different things, but I promise to you that I will keep from turning back towards Egypt. I promise on this day that I will wander through the wilderness with you by my side and with my eyes on Jesus.”  I am not impressed with myself when I say I have already looked at Egypt with some serious longing eyes.  I can’t express how grateful I am that those who stood with us that day and said that they are for us, have taken that role seriously. So when the SOS went out, they acted quickly to sit around Tony and me and help us identify the weeds that are choking out the seeds of newness that were planted with excitement and love on our wedding day.  Tony and I love each other deeply and passionately, but we hurt each other to the same depth. We are now starting on what feels like quite a journey, with help from others to learn to live with far more grace, gentleness and freedom in the midst of our complicated storyline and past hurts.

After the vows was the kiss, of course, and then we walked out to, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence.”  

Then it was time to dance!  We did a little eating, a little drinking, a little cheesecake tasting and then more dancing.  It was the most most most perfect wedding for Tony and me. These pictures are so important to me.  Not because they are beautiful, Pinterest worthy and fun to look at, but because they evoke the remembrance of how certain I was that night that God had given me the most amazing man.  I can see and feel in these pictures that this day was, in fact, sacred.  

Megan’s Take: AWWW! I absolutely LOVE reliving this day with you through pictures and words. It was, without a doubt, a gorgeous moment with redemption and holy hope and promise written all over it!! The palpable love and energy you and Tony have for each other emanated throughout the whole experience. And, oh my lands, OF COURSE Katie Bradley Brase was the most awesomest photographer ever!!  I was not one single bit surprised. She is the best (in all senses of the word). 🙂  And I have to give a shout out to your amaze-balls team of wedding planners/decorators/food prep extraordinaire — Brooke, Linette & Christy. They did a bang up job. Pinterest worthy for sure. Honestly, in this case, pictures are worth more than ten thousand words.

Even though things are hard, it is clear that God is doing a NEW thing — let us now perceive it. I am thankful for your honesty in it all. Sometimes we can look at pictures like these (on a blog or Facebook or wherever!!) and think that everything must just be perfect for those people. I mean look at those precious kids and that beautiful couple… We always knew from day one that your union was a complicated one. Beautiful and full of love, yes. But also full of pain and loss. Of course, God is over it all, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard. Sometimes it takes the hard for Him to really show His glory. Praying glory over you guys today.

Christina’s Take: First off, I have to say that the bride stole the show. She was radiant. Of course she was well put together – hair, nails, dress, make-up…all that jazz. She was indeed glorious. But the main attraction, the big draw, the most magnetizing part of her whole get-up was her joy (and Katie Brase captured it impeccably!). She was so excited to marry Tony. And she and Tony planned a beautiful ceremony complete with deep, soulful, meaningful music and rich scripture Matt Holtzman spoke out of. Then there was the PRECIOUS solo from Leah, Macie and Spencer about always being true. The whole ceremony was packed with truth, beauty and well…GLORY!

Even the incessant, history making amounts of rain ceased that evening as if shooshing itself for this epic moment. A covenant made and a celebration long overdue after so much heartache, trial and after such a long road the two took to be with one another.

So much GLORY to God in such a small amount of time. Somehow the Walls family managed to cram it all into that little evening and what an evening it was.  It was indeed a Pinterest-worthy, Spirit-filled wedding I won’t forget. 

The Start of the School Year is No Joke! A Prayer for All Who Enter Here…

Elementary school moms, I am here to tell you something that sounds so cliche and you might even roll your eyes at me, but here it is: ENJOY every moment of these years!!  (I seriously can’t even believe I just wrote that. I sound like such a grandma. What is happening to me?!) 

For all of you out there with kids still navigating the rules of tetherball and vying for the cool classroom jobs like “line-leader” and “office runner” PLEASE promise me you will soak up every last minute.

If you are not only allowed in your children’s classroom, but invited, do not take those touch points for granted. Enjoy the moments you have to loiter on the playground at the end of the day talking to your besties while your kids chase each other through the jungle gym.

 this seems like yesterday!! he certainly no longer lets me take his picture at school. no way.
this seems like yesterday!! he certainly no longer lets me take his picture at school. no way.

I still have two nestled into this accessible oasis, but I also have two entering the parentless abyss of junior high and high school. With my older two entering 7th and 9th grade this year, I am only now realizing all the things I can never get back — which is to say ANY access to them between about 7:30 – 3:00 (5:30 if you factor in school sports and other activities), no more birthday treats for the class, no more mystery reader or class parties.

And, oh my word! This start of the school year thing is NO JOKE. Elementary supply lists post in JUNE! Junior high and high school lists trickle out at molasses pace the entire first week of school. I have been to the Wal-Mart or some other such Depot or Max or that fancy french store, “Tar-jay” no less than 10 times in the past week. Okay, maybe 9 times. But still — the tyranny of the urgent prevails.

Papers requiring my signature multiply like rabbits on my kitchen counter. I no sooner sign one and turn my back to finish rinsing the dishes (which, now that I think about it, have the same propensity to multiply because, apparently every item of food needs its own plate) than another appears in its place. 

Emails from teachers, syllabuses to “review” (yeah, right), water bottles to rinse, infinite reminders to my kids to PLEASE clear the kitchen table of all their crap — all rabbit like.

The “cash” in our checking account seems to be dropping like the Dow Jones because — news flash — public school is no longer free. Property taxes just turn the lights on. Everything has extra cost associated with it — including an outfit for gym.  

What the what?!! 

If I recall, when I went to school, I pretty much wore the same clothes straight through the whole day — and if I didn’t, I’m sure I didn’t have to dress out in the same jail-issue clothes like everyone else. I could rock the black and pink “Suddenly Susan” t-shirt with the collar cut off the neck and flaunt my milky white shoulders like a boss. (Okay, that last part is made up. I could never pull off the flaunting of anything, but I digress.)

My 7th grader sat like a deer in headlights the first day of school as the rest of her last period classmates dutifully marched to the front of the room to hand in their “paperwork”. Meanwhile, she sweat bullets as she realized she did not possess nor had she ever seen said paperwork. (Turns out it was right where I had “filed” it three weeks prior — underneath the ever mounting stack of multi-colored papers and envelopes on my kitchen counter.) Rabbits.

But enough about me.  Over the course of 40-some-odd years of life, I have learned to manage. Maybe not well, but manage nevertheless. 

While my elementary schoolers plod through math pages and whine about the required 20-minutes of reading each night, my older two are enduring the stress of sports try-outs, finding (and opening) their lockers, balancing multiple homework demands and getting up at the crack-ass of dawn. 

I am convinced there is probably no other time in life (outside of becoming a parent for the first time) that is as stressful or tiring as the high school years. And we are only a few days in. 

Reese sets his alarm for 6:10, asks us to PLEASE make sure he hasn’t hit the snooze too many times by 6:20, takes a quick shower, shoves a bagel in his mouth and heads out the door at 7:10 with no less than two backpacks (one for school and one for sport) and two ginormous water bottles. We drop him off on the outskirts of the school grounds and make him walk through the soccer fields to get to class because the drop off lane extends through two stoplights and then some. 

He navigates his very full schedule, packs up his homework and heads to soccer try-outs. I’ve never been to boot camp, but I’m guessing these try-outs are the high school sports version of such a thing. Coach tells the kids that a certain school “stole” the championship from them last year and gosh darn it, they will not be out played again. This year it’s for all the marbles. 

Every last kid wants to make a team, maybe even THE team. 

 I mean, can you even?? Swoon. 
I mean, can you even?? Swoon. 

Reese tells himself he’s doing his best. Trying not to compare himself too much to the others. Commanding his mind not to read too much into the fact that the coaches keep shifting guys around. Asking some underclassmen to scrimmage with upperclassmen. Perhaps it’s nothing he reasons. Or maybe it is. 

Any way you slice it, the stress of this transition is definitely taking its toll. On him and on me. He even requested we buy him a stress ball to squeeze so he can stop picking at his face. 

This week, my youngest brought home a little, yellow paper star, on which I am supposed to write my “hopes & dreams” for her this year. They don’t send those kinds of things home in high school. But if they did, I’m guessing my words to my 9th grader wouldn’t be too different than they are to my 3rd grader. 

Here are my hopes and dreams (and let’s just call it what it is — PRAYER!) for this boy who is growing, ever too quickly, into a man:

* I pray you always do your best work, but never let the work get the best of you.

* I pray you foster a love of life-long learning, but never at the expense of a life spent learning to love.

* I pray you find rest in the present moment, having learned from the past and looking forward to the future, but never holding on too tightly to any of it.

* I pray you try and fail or try and succeed, but never let the potential outcome keep you from the brave act of simply trying.  You will encounter the most profound grace, for yourself and others, in that place.

* I pray you always keep God close to your heart, but never keep your heart so close you’re afraid to share it with others. 

* I pray you let your teachers and coaches teach and bless you, but never forget you can bless them too. You have it in you.

* I pray you gratefully pursue each opportunity as it comes, but never let the opportunity determine your ultimate pursuit — which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. 

* I pray you find your worth and your purpose — Every. Single. Day. Everything else is gravy.

Question for all you parents of “bigs”How do you do it?  What advice do you have for us as we attempt to take the 30-year view of parenting rather than get wrapped around the axle in the stresses of the present moment?

 Holly’s Take:

I’m just glad to hear that you didn’t get some papers turned in on time, although I can picture your sweet 7th grader with her face turning red and hear heart beat rapidly rising.  I figured only unorganized people like me did that sort of thing.  I actually thought that having a 7th grader and 9th grader would be a little easier than just having kids in elementary school, because they can do stuff like read their own homework and make their own lunches.  I think I would just like to keep believeing that it gets easier as they get older?  I know it’s not true, but I kinda want to continue thinking that it is. 

Christina’s Take: 

Serious AMEN to this one. Megan, the picture you paint of this new routine gives me a rash.  The stress, the multiple back-packs, the early mornings and late practices are enough to put even the best parents into a “summer-feels-like-three-years-ago” stupor. Team Harrell is in the same treadmill routine that you describe…and I adore what you said about taking a 30 year view instead of falling into the pit of emotions contained in one week of junior high/high school. That’s a coping mechanism that is so important when the news is either good or bad. So thankful for your perspective. Now back to finding that stinky shin guard under the seat of my car before practice…

Things I Am Telling My 80 Year Old Self

Dear 80 year old self,

Nice work makin’ it to 80! I would not have predicted that based on your GMO food intake.

At any rate, as a woman in her 40’s, having watched people your age live their lives – some with great vigor and success and others…I guess…less so. I want to offer some suggestions for your life now at age 80. I’m selfish, really. I’d love to have lots of quality of life since I’ve racked up so much quantity of life…apparently.

Here’s my do’s and don’ts list for you – I think you’re smart enough to listen to my advice, you old coot:

1.       BUCKET LISTS ARE STUPID (don’t have one.)

For one thing, who is keeping track of the items on your bucket list? And for heaven’s sake, what happens when you finish checking all of those items off? And why would you opt for YET ANOTHER checklist when there are so many in life, anyway?

Instead, live each day and don’t turn down opportunities for adventure, for real, for true life. I hope you never stop pursuing true life.

2.       SPEND YOUR TIME WISELY (by making sure to do fun and goofy things.)

Did you ever just roll around on the floor with a grandkid and giggle? Did you ever pretend you didn’t notice your gigantic milk mustache just so someone else would laugh? Did you ever squeeze mashed potatoes through your teeth? Did you ever have a great sacrilegious laugh in the middle of a quiet church service?  Did you do any of these things after the age of 65? I hope so.

3.       CARE LESS ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK. (Be willing to be misunderstood.)

Why’d you care so much about what other people thought? Why’d you spend so much time shaving your legs, sister? And why did your email inbox stress you out all those years? When you’re 80, you are going to have more wisdom in your little pinky finger than most people. Don’t waste that wisdom but don’t force it on people either.

In my 40’s (you may remember) I started craving time with the wise women in my midst. They were lovely, confident, and soft – and you can be too. It will be a gift to another woman. Craft that. Living one day at a time steeped in the realization that you’re not the author of your own story will help.

So you can still be caring and not care what other people think of you – unless you’re Donald Trump….he should care more what other people think of him.

4.       JUDGE LESS

Don’t judge the younger people around you. Navigating life is so difficult. The challenges folks younger than you will face are going to be unique and you won’t be altogether familiar with them. For heaven’s sake – don’t latch onto the notion that you have every answer and can show someone the way. This is not your job. Your job is to love, live and serve as Jesus guides you every day. You’re not the morality police or the values cop. You just aren’t. And if at 80 you think you are, you’ll find yourself more and more – um – how do I put this?….angry and alone.

Oh – and this kind of goes along with not judging the young people. I hope Fox News and anything resembling its fear mongering “news” dies a slow and painful, embarrassing death. I hope you find better things to do with your time.

5.       ASK FOR HELP

When you fall or when you can’t read the newspaper or when you can’t drive – ask someone to help you. And don’t hint about it. Don’t passively aggressively say you sure would love to go to the concert but no one will take you… just ask. People you’re in relationship with will really love helping you with things like this if it’s not a guessing game full of tension and bad vibes.

And even though you’ll think it’s all too expensive, have an updated eyeglasses prescription, get hearing aids. Just spring for those things – they’ll help keep you present with others.

Don’t do the “when I am old I will wear purple and put on a red hat” thing. Those items and those colors are best left out of your wardrobe regimen. K?

6.        GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER

I hope by now you have told someone that you don’t want any major heroic life-saving measures carried out for you in a health crisis. If not, write that down somewhere right now…on the back of a receipt if you have to. And maybe write down a few of your favorite hymns and passages of scripture for your funeral. I bet you still love “It Is Well” and “Give Me Jesus.”

BOTTOM LINE? Lose the world, invite heaven in. As much as possible.

I’m convinced my favorite moments in life have been and will be when I have lost the world’s sense of myself and gotten carried away in a moment of true-ness whether sad, happy, work or worship.

Just the other day, I was taking a walk with my father-in-law (a precious gift in my life who comes to visit with my mother-in-law a few weeks a year) and we were just talking…about his dog growing up, about the indentation a leaf made in the sidewalk so many years ago when the concrete was being poured, about the patch of blue sky off in the distance that was peeking out of a storm cloud. Before I knew it, I had forgotten about my day at work, about whatever kid issue I had decided to worry about. I was just….walking….and talking, decompressing and really living.

Figure out how to do that more often. Do that often with the people you love and the people who love you.

Holly’s Take:

It’s funny that you wrote this today, because just 30 minutes ago, as I was taking a walk around my neighborhood, I was thinking about how I’m pretty sure I don’t want to make it to 80.  If I’m only 40 now, and I have some lingering chronic pain from my disc surgery and I have already lost a husband, what will be in store for me in the next 40 years.  More dying people and more back surgeries?  I have a hard time not having this fatalistic view, sometimes. I generally really love life, but I don’t feel resilient enough at this point to endure any more biggies any time soon.  But if I do make it that far, I will refer to this list.  I like it.  Especially the one about, if you want to go to a concert, then just ask someone to take you.  Hopefully, Amy Grant will bring back her “Ageless Medley” in a Twilight Years Tour.  Just kidding . . . kinda.  

Megan’s Take: 

Well, if either of you old coots lives to age 80, I will definitely drive you to whatever darn concert you want! I’m sure I’ll be the one with the most whits about me. Smirk. Holly, if you’re headed to an Amy Grant twilight tour, I’m guessing it may be to see her in a nursing home! Maybe you’ll be roomies.

I love the thoughts on this list — live more, worry less. That’s one I’m trying to wrap my head around every day! It’s a game changer. And the bucket list? For the love. I only add experiences to my “bucket list” AFTER I’ve done them. That way I’ll never be disappointed. Not to mention, I don’t even know something is a bucket list item until I do it and look back and said, “Wow! I seriously just did that.” Like say…”write a book,” “sail through the Panama Canal,” “adopt two children from Ethiopia,” or “survive the Terror-Dactyl with my niece at the Cave of the Winds.” Had no idea I wanted to do any of those things until the opportunity presented itself!  And, I’m sorry to say, I will continue to shave my legs. I just can’t agree on that one. The feeling of fuzzy hairs rubbing the inside of my pant legs just bugs. Listen, I’ll make you girls a deal — I’ll drive you to the concert and you shave my legs. Oh, and will you please pluck my chin hairs while you’re at it? Ain’t nobody got time for those!  

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: The Adoption Dance

If there were a list of difficult emotions written on the wall of the human heart, I’m guessing unrequited love would be towards the top.

For sure, feelings of fear, shame, loss, and disappointment hover at the surface as well, but when you love someone with all your heart and soul and they don’t love you back (at least not in the same way), there is a guttural, unfulfilled longing that is hard to describe. 

I have found the world of adoption to be just such a journey. Emotions ebb and flow between pure, unadulterated affection and absolute rejection — like a beautiful, complicated, sometimes quite painful dance. 

At the heart of the journey (at least thus far), I often wonder just what goes on inside the minds’ of my adopted children. While adoption is a beautiful picture of how God can weave together even the most disparate of souls, it also bears the signature scars of abandonment and loss.  Love and loss are forever intertwined. And sometimes, that just plain bites. 

Parenting, in general, is not for the faint of heart. There aren’t many human connections that run as deep and wide as a parent’s love for their child. Those of you who are parents know there probably isn’t anything in the whole, wide world you wouldn’t do for your child. Most our lives are spent setting our kids up for success. We work our butts off to pay for things that will delight our children — whether that’s an outrageously expensive American Girl Doll or over-the-top club sports fees. It is second nature for a parent to want to lavish kids with all kinds of love.

There is something so fun about understanding the heart of your child and being able to help develop it. And I’m not just talking about material gifts — I mean satisfying ALL the love languages including one/one lunch dates, a well placed “Atta-boy!”, an embarrassing bear hug in front of their friends, not to mention the countless hours washing and sorting mismatched socks. As a Mom, I’m constantly trying to be a great student of my kids’ hopes and dreams. Connecting with their hearts in special ways is one of the most exhilarating feelings I could imagine. 

But when there is a piece of their heart — a giant, formative core piece at that — that is locked away in a place so deep they don’t ever want to let you see it, let alone touch it, the parental feeling of helplessness is nearly unbearable. I sometimes wonder if they’ll ever allow me access to that deep, deep place.

Our relationship with our two youngest really has come “a long way.” The preliminary days as a family of six brought about the chaos of other-worldly grief whereas, now (3.5 years later), we can function and even thrive in many of the routines of every day life and even have a lot of fun together, but there are also very real moments when the threat of breaching the carefully crafted barrier around the core of their hearts signals the alarm and all defenses rise again. When even the slightest word of correction triggers an emotional lockdown. Eyes go dark. Bodies stiffen.

In those moments it’s so hard not to back peddle like a crazy person and yell, “Wait!!! Don’t go! Just because you made a bad choice and I lost my cool it doesn’t mean I don’t love you!! We can work through this. Please, come back….”

I recently attended a lecture by a well-renowned local neuroscientist at a fellowship/support group for foster/adoptive Mamas. She reminded the lot of us that when our children’s cortisol levels rise to such a degree that it triggers the “fight or flight” mechanism, they can’t possibly entertain the idea of sticking around to see how “the talk” turns out. They want to run — either inside the safety of their own minds or literally to another place. Insisting on having a rational, coherent conversation in those moments would be like me pulling out the latest issue of the New York Times in an effort to discuss Obamacare when we’re both buckled into row 13 of a jumbo jet that is headed for a crash landing. Probably not the most appropriate choice. 

And yet — this is often the route I choose. I want to talk rules, regulations, and respect when the ship is going down.

While I stutter and back track, my husband, Scott is an amazing example of what I like to call, “Spirit control” during these times. Even though he may be steaming on the inside, he holds his cards close to the vest. He doesn’t get drawn into the drama. 

Instead of losing it like a screaming tea-kettle (like, um, his better half) we often hear him saying, “You know what I’ve asked. You know what I expect.”  And with that, all parties know the conversation (at least for now) is over. With that response, he effectively disarms the bomb. He remains in control of his own emotions which is, quite frankly, the only thing any of us actually have control over and patiently waits for the turbulence to subside before attempting re-entry to discuss a previous circumstance. 

I’m telling you — it’s genius. And, it’s survival. 

Even though I know I love my kids more than they could ever imagine and they can trust me with ALL of their hearts, THEY don’t know that — at least not entirely. And if they don’t know that then the dance continues. We open our hands and hold our arms wide inviting them back into the dance — to discover old and new and creative and tried and true ways to connect in love. A mutual, flowing back and forth kind of love. Every day we wake up and pray for renewed energy and wisdom to go back into the ring and battle for their hearts.

Just like our Heavenly Father battles for ours.

There is unconditional love and acceptance waiting for us on the other side of the cross.  The question is, will we lower our human defenses in order to receive it?

Christina’s Take: 

As a momma who has not adopted a child, I am struck in a new way by the heart strings that you and Scott (and Holly & Tony) are working to stretch toward connection every. single. day. This beautiful expression, Megan, of the place you long to reach is very eye-opening to me.

Of course, when I think of unrequited love my initial memory bank stirs toward the movie theater parking lot in 1987 when, after seeing the cinematic marvel that was Mannequin, the boy I longed to have notice me was of course making out with someone else.

So, to have this phrase placed on such important people’s relationships in my life is a game-changer. The ultimate work of course being done at the foot of the cross where all the parts of us in the earthly walk that are missing can become complete. I’m grateful for this insight into Team Nilsen – so grateful. 

Holly’s Take:

I can’t help, but laugh at the picture of trying to discuss Obamacare while your jumbo jet is taking a dive.  Here, at this casa, I know the jet is taking a dive, when I get a little too talkie talkie after an offense, and Macie gets eyes that half close and half try to look right through me.  Her eyes let me know she is in “flight” position and that anything I say will be wasted effort.  With those, “I’m outta here,” eyes, my “fight” response is triggered and then we are done for.  The hardest thing in the world is to resist my natural response to fight and to try and be lovey and connecty.  However, it does work, when I can do it right.  I wonder, also, if I will ever get to the core of Macie.  I wonder if I get to the core of any of my kids?  I wish there was an invention where you could send your child through a tunnel and on a screen outside the tunnel, it would write out all that they feel in their inner core.  Then again, maybe I wouldn’t want that?  

Moving Slowly to New Pastures

Sooooooo. . . apparently . . . I’m not so good at change. Here’s a little chart to explain me, lately.  

Before I got married:

-I dreamily looked forward to having someone help put my kids to bed.

-I looked forward to handing over some financial decisions and responsibility.

-I looked forward to starting a new life with a new last name.

-I looked forward to someone helping to guide, discipline and teach my kids.

After I got married:

-I refused to give up story time and “giving the chills” time with my three kids at bedtime.

-I had no desire to mix one hot cent.

-I felt entitled to keep Aldridge, so that it matched my kids’ last name.

-I feel completely offended if Tony disciplines or eludes to my kids needing some behavioral improvement.

Let’s just focus on the name change situation.  On a number of Sundays, before May 28th, at church, I would grab a blank card from the pew in front of us, (while listening to the sermon, of course) and write “Holly Sue Walls,” all over it, just like I did in 7th grade with my weekly crush.  I thought the sound of “Holly Walls,” had a bit of humor in it and I was so excited to be sharing Tony’s last name!!!!!  Tony still has these cards in his wallet, as he was just as excited for me to become, Holly Walls.  Fast forward a few weeks to arriving home from the honeymoon.  

I was having a hard time telling people that I was now Holly Walls.  I was not just jumping at the chance to go to the Social Security office, the bank, the DMV, etc. . .  and officially change it (who would be?).  However, as I mentioned in the last post, I have found it easy to be in much prayer through these overwhelming weeks, so I started praying about whether I should change my name or not.  It took about six seconds for God to say, “change it.”  So, I changed it.  However, that night, I was telling Tony that it was a lot harder to leave the name Aldridge, than I thought it would be.  I do NOT like having a different last name than my kids.  In true male, try to fix the problem, fashion, Tony replied with, “Well, change it back.”  To which my response over the next few days was, “Well, maybe I just will.”  (You don’t have to tell me how healthy this all sounds).  

These few days were tough ones.  I was resisting change.  Holding back.  And Tony was becoming fearful that I wasn’t really fully in the game.  We had late night talks, tears, and a lot of trying to communicate our own points of view.  It wasn’t until about 2:00am one night, when I felt desperate for Tony to understand how I felt, even though I didn’t really know, myself.  I was praying and praying during this dark night, when I truly felt like God gave me a picture.  It was of me as a horse who could see a pasture that I wanted to go to, but Tony was the rider who was standing in front of me, trying to pull me there.  Every time he pulled, I reared back.  When pulling wouldn’t work, he would try to push and poke and do anything to get me there, but as long as he was not gently walking with me, I was not moving.  That picture, struck a chord with him.  We had uncovered the root of what was going on here.  

In the morning, he became the horse.  He felt like a horse with no pasture.  He has moved, the schedule with his kids is different, he gave up his cat (that’s true love), he lost his job and found a new one, and to top it all off, he is living in the same house where Dave and I lived.  With that word picture (as ridiculous as it is), I began to understand why he was in such a hurry to establish our new pasture together.   It’s amazing how things changed, when we just understood each other.  

In light of our new revelation, he gave me the space to decide on my last name.  I made an appointment to change it back in a week.  In that week, I had numerous conversations with people who kept their last names.  All had good reason and it all made sense to me.  I was starting to feel great about becoming Aldridge-Walls.  I could get the best of both worlds.  

But something was still not sitting well with me whenever I would think about re-adding Aldridge.  First, I knew that God was clear with me to change it, in the first place.  Knew it!   Second, my reasoning for changing it back felt iffy.  Part of the reason I didn’t want to change it, was because I feel like people assume I got a divorce, if my last name is different from my kids and I don’t like that feeling at all.  I understand that there is all kinds of wrong in that last statement.  Third, sentences that ran through my head were like, “It’s my name.  It should be whatever I want it to be.”  Those sentences didn’t sound very gracious or loving.  And finally, I started to feel like it was something that I was holding onto, WAY too tightly.   I have learned (not quickly) that when you aren’t willing to let go of something, that it becomes a burden, instead of it bringing life.  My identity and the name that connected me with my kids on paper was becoming an idol of sorts.  I didn’t want to give it up, because I just didn’t want to and I had plenty of rational reasons to support my cause.  But I really believe, grace is in what IS, not in what WAS.  I know I say that, but I’m still not running for new pastures.  I’m getting there, though . . . slowly and by His grace.       

All, that to say, I am Holly Sue Walls. 

Christina’s Take:

As hard as it is to picture you as a horse, I totally love your analogy – makes me think of the “Horse Whisperer” movie where the horse has been through trauma and needs the help of someone else to help it fear less and live a normal life. Word pictures have been so helpful in my marriage (remind me to tell you the one about me telling my husband that being a stay-at-home mom is just like being a plumber). They keep the language off of your own plight and puts the situation in a more philosophical realm which helps the emotions neutralize. Not always. But sometimes. Possibly the most important part of this blog post is that you said you sensed God telling you to change your name. You said “He was clear with you.” To see that you had some hesitations and some confusion and THEN came back around to wanting your last name to be Walls is confirmation of how you initially heard the Lord. That’s a big, stinkin’ deal. Glad you’re listening.

Have I mentioned that I love the way you process real-time with us, your readers? It gives me permission to talk more honestly about things I know I am inconsistent about. Thanks, friend.

Megan’s Take:

There is so much to a name, isn’t there?! Our name is something that hits the very core and essence of who we are. When we adopted Kelel and Senait we thought long and hard about whether or not we were going to change their names. In the end, we decided to keep their Ethiopian first names and gave them Ethiopian/American middle names. We wanted them to be able to still have a piece of their Ethiopian heritage with them even though they were now “Nilsens.” And believe me, just because they took on the “Nilsen” name did not automatically mean life was rainbows and roses and we were all one big happy family. We are 3.5 years into this journey as a family of six and there are still times when they hurl hurtful words and declare they wish they could “choose a different family” or “go back to Africa to be with their first family.” Moments when they are mad and hurt and want to ditch the Nilsen name entirely. And there are other days they wear it proudly. 

When we take our husband’s name it means we are “one.” And, in that one not so small act of changing your name, you have showed Tony that you are one — in spirit and in name. Listen, I’m not making any judgements on women who don’t change their names or have hyphenated names. That works for lots of people. But in this case, in your case, you very clearly heard God tell you to take Tony’s name. This was His direction for YOU. It probably means more than you can even imagine. You are shedding social perception (which is sometimes SO hard to do) and demonstrating that you will not bow to man’s perception, you are submitting to God’s amazing new plan for your life. Bless you, Holly Sue Walls!!  (I really do like the way that sounds..)

Oh, girls!! I found one last thing!! This is just too good. Revelation 22:4 tells us at the end of our days, “we will see His face (Jesus’ face) and His name will be on their foreheads.” Jesus’ name is the most important one that we want written on our hearts. “…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20) May it be so!!