Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I've moved around my entire life, across states and continents, and this kind of nomadic lifestyle has gotten in my blood, my bones. I suppose it has impacted every part of me--including blogging! Silly, i know, but that's the only reason I can attribute to the number of blogs I've had over the years and this consistent need to pack up and start over as the seasons change.

The seasons have changed in our lives. Our nomadic lifestyle has come to a halt, as it seems probable that we'll be in Virginia for the long haul. Ren has been home for nearly a year now, and we find ourselves settling in to a new rhythm and a new journey.

I started this blog as a way to document our adoption journey, and now that Ren is home, I find that new dreams and thoughts and ventures lie before us. I need a new place for all of this. A clean slate. And, so, here it is. I'm hoping, like our move to Virginia, that this one will be the last...

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

weeknight musings.

It's funny how music can take you back, isn't it?

I'm listening to the soundtrack of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It became my soundtrack during the cold and quiet winter of 2009. We lived in Salt Lake City that year. Chris was busy, working like a dog every day during his fellowship. He came home exhausted. Many of his nights were spent writing ophthalmology research articles. Tess was on the cusp of turning two years old and it was just her--she was my one and only. I had just started working on my MFA and this music was the constant backdrop to quiet afternoons spent at my computer while Tess napped. I still remember the scene, looking out my desk window at the snow falling and slowly accumulating on the ground.

It's funny how things change, isn't it?

Now I'm here in Virginia. My three children are upstairs sleeping. Chris is finished with his training and is in a steady job in private practice. His hours are better, and in so many ways, all those countless hours and years of hard work have finally started to pay off. There were many times when he doubted they ever would. Tonight I sit on our screened in porch. It's a cool night and spring is quickly yielding to summer. The trees have exploded and we are surrounded by green, by life, light, and fullness. There are still some afternoons when Ren naps that I sit at my computer, but the scene outside my window is not snow and my soundtrack has changed. I still haven't finished my MFA, almost five years and counting. But here I am right now, enjoying the memories and how music makes them so tangible.

It's funny how much we remember, isn't it?

I started seeing a therapist here in VA several months ago and it's largely been a journey of remembrance. It's astonished me how much our minds and hearts can hold without realizing it. When given the opportunity though, the memories come flooding back, little pockets of them start to come out of hiding and I have begun to realize how mysteriously tied together they all are. Seemingly random associations between past and present suddenly become an intricately woven web of memories, stories, and sensations. And somehow, this intricate web forms the woman I am today. It is intertwined with my blood and bones, with each cell of my body.

It's funny how mysterious we are, isn't it?

Sometimes I think of how little we really know about one another. I mean, how little we really know about ourselves! It's a constant journey to find out who we really are in life, let alone other people. We never reach the end of the source. As much as we know of one another--even the closest people in our lives--we know so little! How do other people experience life? How do they see things? What little thoughts run through their mind on an idle Thursday morning as they drive to work? We all have so much to learn from one another. I have often struggled with the belief that the way I experience life is somehow different or flawed from other people. Maybe it's different, but I'm learning that it's different for everyone, not just me. We are all so different and flawed, and yet, at the end of the day, we are all so common. The really important things that link us together are the same. Our need for hope and community. Our desire to be known and understood. Our desire to love and be loved, our unquenchable need for God.

Friday, May 31, 2013


There's this feeling that I experience just about everyday of motherhood. It's a scattered feeling, a sense that I have one foot in and one foot out of life, a kind of yo-yo sensation in which I am constantly swinging back and forth and up and down.

As I sit here and type this, I'm sharing the couch with piles of laundry I've not yet folded. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded and it's almost 3:30pm and I should really get the littles up so they can go to bed before 10pm tonight. I need to start cooking dinner because Ren will start asking for it as soon as he's up from his nap, not to mention the slew of other things on my to-do list that I haven't tackled. There's always something.

But that's not even it. I've become accustomed to the reality that there's always something to be done around the house and that nothing is ever truly finished. The thing that I have a hard time with is stepping out of my domestic bubble and extending myself to others, into the rest of the world, and getting involved in people and places and ideas that I'm excited about. It's hard for me to strike that balance in this stage of life. I feel like I can peep my head out of my little world for a while, but soon enough, I must retreat again and give myself 100% to my family. 

The thing is, there are so many things I love in life. I love to read and write and paint. I want to finish my MFA, I would like to go back to work as a nurse, I want to be a part of the big and exciting things that God is doing through other people all around the world. I want to contribute to that and make an impact beyond the domain of family life. And, so, when I feel as though things are going smoothly at home, I sense the freedom to start stepping out into the world more. When my intuition tells me that the coast is clear, I feel as though I can start to spread my wings again. However, it's inevitable that I can only stay there so long before I have to tap out and hunker down here again.

And, so, I often feel as though I'm just spinning my wheels. Choosing to do something creative means that the domestic duties go undone, or get postponed until they pile so high that I get buried beneath them. I can't keep up with all of it. Choosing to do something creative with my time means that a price must be payed, whether it means that I'm more tired or the house is more of a mess or the kids are grumpier because I can't accommodate all of their preferences. I'm learning that it's usually worth the price, because the state of my soul is more at rest and happier when I'm doing something creative, whether it be writing a little blog post, writing a poem in my journal, refinishing a piece of furniture, playing with my acrylics, or doing Google job searches for part-time nursing positions in our area. However, sometimes I get so tired of the red-light-green-light, the stop and go, the in and out. I can fall prey to giving up and saying "why bother?" But, I've learned that this resignation is the precursor for depression, and so I'm determined to keep trying, despite the frustration and the frequent sense of mental whiplash.

I read a Donald Miller blog post a while ago that mentioned how humans are healthier when we are working towards something--aiming toward some goal or passion. We need forward movement and growth in order to stay psychologically healthy. Stagnation is a bad thing.

This is a rub for me. Some days I feel as though one hundred percent of my energies go toward maintaining the status quo around here--just meeting our basic daily needs of food and clothing and sleep and potty. I suppose that the rearing of children IS forward movement--but it's a very, very long term endeavor that never seems to end and often gets swallowed up in the dailiness of life. It usually doesn't feel like movement at all, since so many domestic tasks get undone so quickly. Trying to do anything "extra," as in, working towards some goal outside of this, sometimes feels ridiculous and impossible.

And sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I have pockets of time and energy at my disposal to give to things I love and enjoy outside of my family. I suppose the struggle here is being okay with the zig zagging unpredictability of trying to keep a hand in all of it. Most days, my life feels like an intricate web of loose ends; a pile of half-finished projects and endeavors. I try to keep my eyes on the process, not the end result, and accept the fact that this is reality: a constant and ongoing mix of progress and set-backs, of moving out and stepping back, of always being in that scattered and blurry space between. "There is no easy answer."

Do you ever feel like this?
How do you navigate the "yo-yo" effect of life or parenthood?
What goals or ambitions do you have outside of your primary duties?

excerpt from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Friday, May 24, 2013

sign here, please.

I woke up early this morning, around 5am. I had to go to the bathroom and saw that it was already getting light out. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to come downstairs and get coffee, steal away a few extra moments before the day begins.

I was randomly looking back through old things I've written and came across this post below. I think I was meant to find know, one of those coincidences that's not really a coincidence. I wrote it exactly one year ago today, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. I forgot that I'd written this, so to stumble back upon it today was special. I wanted to share...


2:30pm, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. I sit at my desk in silence, drinking coffee, of course. The girls are napping. The house is empty. The sun is shining. Chris is at the bank as I type this, signing our closing documents on our house in VA.

When he's done he's going to call me and I will wake up the girls and drive to the bank. Chris and I will trade off and I'll go in and sign my portion. Then we will whisk our fat stack of signed and notarized closing papers off the the UPS store and overnight them to VA.

Gosh...what a familiar scenario...the document signing, the notaries, the taking shifts with the girls in the car while they watch a DVD and the other spouse is inside signing their life away. This has all played out with the adoption thus far...the background checks, the immigration documents, homestudy documents, etc.

2011-2012: the years of signing our lives away.

I've never seen so much paperwork in my life.

Tonight, I suspect, if everything goes as planned, we will come home and grill some chicken and open a fantastic bottle of wine to celebrate our new home and the next chapter of life that's becoming more tangible every day.

The Lord has been GOOD to us. We know His Voice better now that we did two years ago. We know how He protects and provides for us in deep and intricate ways better than we did two years ago. We understand that the more we open our hands and give everything to Him, the more He carries us and blesses us.

Please God, let it all be for you, everything we do, let our lives be a constant proclamation of Your goodness, love, and glory.


It's crazy how much difference a year makes. Now I'm sitting on the screen porch of our Virginia home. We are finished with the paperwork; the paper pregnancy has ended and Ren is sleeping upstairs in his room. It's crazy how good God is. 

Friday, May 17, 2013


Everything feels lighter in the pool. My body, my muscles, my mind, my anxieties, my irrational worries...the heaviness seems to dissolve as soon as I immerse myself in the water. I am certain that water has healing properties. It relieves the pull of gravity and makes me buoyant even when I feel like a ton of bricks. There's a sense of tranquility I feel after a swim that I don't experience with other forms of exercise.

I started swimming as a last alternative. I guess that sometimes the only way we can come upon new blessings is in the face of loss. Over the past month I've been coming to grips with the fact that I just can't run anymore. Perhaps it's just the season of life I'm in and one day my body will embrace the road again, but for now, it's too much pounding. My body was rebelling in new ways every time I attempted even a light jog, so I finally had to throw in the towel. This was hard for me. Running has always been my thing.

Last December I got mononucleosis. The acute stage consisted of several weeks of fevers, the worst headaches of my life, body sweats, chills, a whacked out GI track, and an extremely inflamed liver. Once the acute stage subsided, I was told to except a long and slow recovery that could take up to a year. I believe I contracted it because my immune system was so knocked down after the stress of 2012 and I was more susceptible to getting sick. It has indeed been a long and slow recovery process, one that has required a lot of patience, support, and prayer. I reached a very low point back in February when I felt like I just wasn't getting better--a lot of fear and depression and anxiety plagued me. I ended up in the ER with severe GERD and gastritis--who knew that could cause so much pain? One week later I ended up on an antidepressant and was surrounded by the support of healthcare workers, a therapist, and a faithful group of soul sisters who diligently prayed for me. (The irony here is that China will not approve you to adopt a child from their country if you take antidepressants...but you are likely to need them once the whole process is over.)

I was at the end of my rope. I'd been running on adrenaline every since we'd left California (almost a year ago, now). Adrenaline helped to sustain me through the move, the trip to China and back, and most vitally, the long and strenuous process of adjusting in the aftermath of those big events. It's kind of ridiculous how far and long adrenaline will carry you. The human body is a remarkable thing. It's also incredibly humbling when your adrenals have had enough and they are no longer a sufficient source of fuel to carry you. There are no more endorphins left. Caffeine makes you sick. All you can do is REST. All you can do is wave your white flag and surrender to your terrifying weakness and limitations. This year has taught me that REST can be very hard.

This is how I ended up in the pool. The pool is a great place for rehab and rest. There's a water-arthritis class that is taught each morning when I show up to do laps. The older ladies who participate jive to jazz music as they move their bodies slowly and gracefully through the water. They can't take the pounding of gravity either, and they faithfully commune in the pool several times a week. I've started becoming a regular at the indoor pool at the YMCA and I'm starting to meet people and learn a few things about swimming. Some of the women I've met also started swimming because they couldn't do anything else. There's a lady I share a lap lane with who recently had back surgery and needs hip surgery, so swimming is really the only exercise option for her. She used to be a runner. Another lady named Laura is in incredible shape--she teaches some swim classes during the week--she also walks with a limp.

I used to swim every summer on the swim team between ages 5-10. I wasn't a huge fan of it. I competed in swim meets but I never felt that swimming was my strong suit. Still, that experience taught me the basic strokes and technique, however I've been learning a lot just in the past few weeks.

For one, God didn't design our bodies to move through water. We don't have fins and super sleek scales like fish. We need to come up for air. Our extremities are made for walking--for moving through air--not primarily through water. So, I'm learning that swimming is all about form and efficiency. You can waste a lot of energy and wear yourself out if you don't have good technique down. Most of it is just learning how to move in the water, getting a feel for it. It's all about smooth movements, precision, long strokes, and taking it easy.

This past year has taught me to slow down, mainly because I've had to. Your body will let you know what it needs, and mine started screaming out for help last November. I have started listening to it, and for now, it is happiest when it's fully submerged in water. What once started out as a dreaded and temporary alternative to running has now become my most cherished part of the week. When I swim laps, I don't listen to music. I am alone with my thoughts and it is quiet. The water doesn't conduct sound very well. Being alone too much with my thoughts has historically been a bad thing for me, but somehow my mind is soothed by the rhythm of the water and prayer comes more naturally.

Swimming is teaching me that exercise, and life, does not have to be an intense or radical event that leaves you sore and exhausted in order for it to be meaningful and beneficial. There are seasons that require intensity and action and edge--but just as much, we need seasons when we learn about grace and rest--when we learn to refine our movements into smooth and fluid patterns and repetitions, one stroke at a time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Late Spring

I'm just coming here today with a poem I'd love to share--one of my favorites. It's called "Late Spring" by Robert Hass, and I always think of it during this time of year. I think it's about how our lives become marked by routine and tradition. It's about celebrating the change of seasons, living in the present, and how quickly yet mysteriously time passes when we are engaged in the dailiness of life.

I hope you enjoy it. May the light enlarge your days this spring; may your evenings be full of wine and story-telling until long after the sun has descended. ~Lib.


And then in mid-May the first morning of steady heat,

the morning, Leif says, when you wake up, put on shorts, and that's 
it for the day,

when you pour coffee and walk outside, blinking in the sun.

Strawberries have appeared in the markets, and peaches will soon;

squid is so cheap in the fishstores you begin to consult Japanese and 
Italian cookbooks for the various ingenious ways of preparing ika
and calamari;

and because the light will enlarge your days, your dreams at night 
will be as strange as the jars of octopus you saw once in a 
fisherman's boat under the summer moon;

and after swimming, white wine; and the sharing of stories before 
dinner is prolonged because the relations of the children in the 
neighborhood have acquired village intensity and the stories take 
longer telling;

and there are the nights when the fog rolls in that nobody likes — 
hey, fog, the Miwok sang, who lived here first, you better go home, 
pelican is beating your wife —

and after dark in the first cool hour, your children sleep so heavily in 
their beds exhausted from play, it is a pleasure to watch them,

Leif does not move a muscle as he lies there; no, wait; it is Luke who 
lies there in his eight-year-old body,

Leif is taller than you are and he isn't home; when he is, his feet will 
extend past the end of the mattress, and Kristin is at the corner in 
the dark, talking to the neighborhood boys;

things change; there is no need for this dream-compelled narration; 
the rhythm will keep me awake, changing.       

--Robert Hass

Sunday, May 12, 2013

where we are, right now.

Mother's Day is one of those occasions that prompts a lot of reflection. I find myself pondering the many seasons of life and how much life can change throughout the years, how many different seasons we walk through as women, and how our lives are weaved with both life and loss simultaneously.

There are many moments when I feel uncomfortably in-touch with the fragility of life. So many things we cling to dearly seem to dangle by a fine thread that can be broken so easily. I feel it each night when I check on my kids before I go to bed, their small bodies breathing heavily in sleep. The chaos of the day has subsided and in the silence I am somehow able to grasp the brevity and delicacy of life, how fleeting each moment is. It's a bittersweet realization, that the moments we hold onto are so precious and yet precarious.

Today, however, I was struck by the opposite feeling, a feeling of permanence and certainty. Not certainty in circumstances, but in what life is all about, in how I have been shaped by it, and how my heart has been permanently marked by the people in it, the experiences I've been through.  It stormed last night and when I woke this morning the air was still heavy with moisture. It was almost as if time passed more slowly, as if each moment lingered in space a bit longer, with more time to absorb the weight of it all.

Chris brought a tray up this morning with coffee and cards from the kids. They crawled into bed with us, anxious to open their own cards for me. Tessa's had a beautiful picture inside. She'd drawn an elaborate picture of herself with me, both of us surrounded by a brilliant rainbow, of course. Her drawings are intricate and exact, with bold lines and colors. Lucy's card was covered in different colors, all scribbled across and over each other. She's an artist like Tess, but perhaps more like Jackson Pollock, she doesn't mind if her strokes are outside of the box. In fact, she prefers it. And Ren's card, sweet boy, had a couple little markings on it. He would rather be pushing and pulling things--discovering the limits of the physical world--than playing with crayons or markers.

As the kids squirmed around on the bed with us, I found myself thinking about where we are now, versus years past...

Last year we were in California and Ren was still in China. I was still an expectant mom, anxious to bring her son home. This year is my first Mother's Day with him. It is a sweet feeling that I can't truly express in words. I've thought about how two hearts can be woven together by love, regardless of biology or blood. I have thought a lot about his birth mother, where she might be, what her life is like now. I don't know that they celebrate Mother's Day in China, but I imagine that not a day goes by when she doesn't think of him.

Two years ago I was alone with the girls in California. Chris was actually here in Virginia Beach, interviewing for a job.

Three years ago on Mother's Day, Chris left for Afghanistan. He left the house around 4am that morning. I'll never forget that day, the anxiety, the mind-numbing fatigue, and also the relief that the anticipation of the inevitable was finally over.

Four years ago on Mother's Day we were living in Utah, preparing to move to California. I was pregnant with Lucy and sick as a dog. I don't remember what we did.

Five years ago on Mother's Day was hard. I was pregnant, but the week prior at a routine ultrasound appointment, we discovered our child didn't have a heartbeat. I was scheduled to have a D&C the next day, the Monday after Mother's Day. I will never forget that Mother's Day and how torturous it was to live through it, knowing the child inside of me was no longer alive. I know that Mother's Day can be a very painful day for many women, and that year, it was for me. Two weeks later we left our home and community in Texas and moved to Utah.

Six years ago was my first Mother's Day and little Tess was about three months old. I remember coming home from a 12 hour shift in the OR that Sunday. Chris had made me dinner. It was a sweet day and I felt special for having received the gift of motherhood. People told me "Happy Mother's Day" for the first time. It felt odd but wonderful, kind of like when you first get married and get to refer to your man as "my husband" and refer to yourself under your new, married name.

A couple of weeks ago one of the pastors at church talked about how important it is to remember the stories of our lives--to remember what God has done and His faithfulness. It's important to document where we are right now, so we can look back after many seasons have passed and remember our story. It's easy to forget. That is part of why I like writing and reflecting. It keeps me more aware of the big picture, which brings these present moments into finer focus. I am soaking up His faithfulness today. I am remembering the stories. I am so grateful for what He has given us and who I am becoming because of Him. For the most part, life has been too chaotic and challenging this past year to document in writing, but all of those difficult, daily moments are now a part of me, and they make the sweet moments that much sweeter.

Last week my dear friend, Kelly, came to visit us. It was our first visit from a non-relative since we've been in Virginia Beach. This month marks ten years since we graduated from UNCC with our nursing degrees. We met in nursing school and we've remained friends throughout all these changing seasons. Her presence was a reminder, too, of God's faithfulness, and how friendships can endure strongly through distance and time and change. The people in our lives...we can connect with their souls...and those connections aren't easily broken. As fragile as life often feels, there are many things that are lasting. Memories. History. Soul Connection. Love.

One day when she was visiting, we went out the beach with Ren. Tess and Lu were at school and we had the beach to ourselves. Kelly snapped some photos of Ren and I. These images reflect where we are at right now...


In awe.

Discovering and frolicking in the vastness of God, 
His beauty, and His faithfulness.

At church today we sang one of my favorite songs, "Come and Listen." I'll post it here because the lyrics speak so beautifully to the thoughts and emotions inside of me. 

Come and listen
Come to the water's edge 
all you who know and fear the Lord
Come and listen
Come to the water's edge
all you who are thirsty, come.

Let me tell you what He has done for me,
Let me tell you what He has done for me,
He has done for you,
He has done for us.

Where are you in life right now?
What has God done in your life?
How have you experienced His faithfulness?