Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yes, No, Youbetcha

affirmative, all right, amen , aye, beyond adoubt, by all means, certainly, definitely, evenso, exactly, fine, gladly, good, good enough, granted, indubitably, just so, most assuredly, naturally, of course, okay, positively, precisely, sure thing, surely, true, undoubtedly, unquestionably, very well, willingly, without fail, yea, yep, youbetcha, yes.

question:  have you found the thing that you feel this way about?

that really is the first step in a suc'yes'full (bennifers, i can't stop) yes experience.  before you can say it, before you can keep it, before you can look back and see how long were were being prepared to be in a place where you'd know what do to with it... you have to find it.

i think it helps to look at other's people's.  mine is adoption.  yours most likely won't be.  or it could.  whatever.  that's not the point.  the point is that it's yours.  not everyone understands my yes.  read more about that here and try not to fall in love with my friend, meesa. i dare you.  i digress.  not everyone understands it because it's mine.  my dream.  my north.  and while we're looking around taking in other's people's yeses, let's try to remember to support one another.  unless they are jeffrey dahmer.  then don't support them.  pretty sure that's the law.

put your search out in to the universe and see what happens.  ask people.

you: "have you seen my yes?"
the rest of the universe: "what a whack job..." (nervously grabbing a hold of their kid's hands and pulling them away from you)

or maybe don't.  people will think you've lost your marbles.  my point is, just put it out there.  try different things.  go for a hike without your ipod.  volunteer with big brothers big sisters.  run a 5k that raises money for cancer research.  cook a meal for someone that could use a little extra help lately.  go in search of your yes.  

what's the worst that can happen?  you find a bunch of no's instead?

well, guess what no's are?  affirmation that they aren't your yes.  how many jobs have you worked until you found the right one?  how many houses did you look at before you finally made an offer?  how many people did you date until you found the one you should be with?  i bet the answer is a lot.  mine sure was.  but as far as the dating world goes not like in a 'man, that girl gets around' way (fingers crossed), but enough to learn what i didn't want.  enough to know what didn't feel right.  enough to say no. and saying no can be a powerful thing too.  so for the sake of our yes generation, let's just call the plethora of no's preparatory moments.  not wrong turns.  not mistakes.  not failures.  every no just sharpens the end of the arrow so when you hit that yes, you stick.

maybe you said yes to the wrong thing at 22.  maybe you're 37 and still haven't said it.  either way, we're all just looking.

keep looking.

it's out there.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday's Best

good ol' fashioned close ups with the bigs.
giggly, new birthday clothes wearing littles.
lots of 'i love you's'.
lot's of 'see you in january's'.

they felt so close today.  like i could almost touch them.

the bigs, mohamed & mamie

deenie girl wore her new birthday dress


blurry, blobby birthday pencils

good golly miss molly, january can't get here fast enough.
i'm going to ask santa for a jet for christmas.

happy tuesday's best,

Monday, October 29, 2012

Michael Jordan and Me

what a weekend.
your prayers for sweet sara were most definitely heard, my friends.  and i can't thank you enough for them.  thursday and friday we at the raining season were flooded with leads to hospital connections, monetary donations to cover her current medical needs, new sponsors to assist in her extended specialized care, phone calls checking in on her status, and lots and lots of prayer.  i have been so overwhelmed at the outpouring of love people have shown.  when it is appropriate to do so i am going to individually name these people and probably open mouth kiss them for what they've done.  ok.  not the last part.  but you get my drift.  i won't do it.  i promise.  but i am going to hug them.  for an awkwardly long amount of time.  because what they have done is good.  and important.  and sara deserves to be loved that way.  so for now, a proper thank you.  i'll save the gushing for later.

quick update:  sara has been on iv fluids to hydrate, and successfully underwent a procedure that dilated her esophagus so that doctors can start getting nutrients into her.  today we will get a report from her surgeon in sierra leone that will tell us the extent of her scaring and recommend further treatment and surgeries to improve her health and quality of life.  bottom line?  we need to get sara to the states on a medical visa.  she requires an amount of care that she simply cannot receive in her current location.  so please keep up the prayers for our sweet girl!

alright, onward and backwards.  to the whole yes conversation we started last week.

have you been thinking about your yes?
- have you found it yet or are you still looking for it? - 

have you been thinking about where you are in this whole yes game?
- have you said it yet or are you standing on the edge sticking one toe in first? - 

since i'm asking the questions i'll go ahead and answer them first.  (giving the gift of letting people go second is one of my favorite gifts to give.  but mostly because i'm an oldest child and therefore loud and sometimes bossy.  not because i'm generous and brave.  but generous and brave sounds better, so let's go with that.)  yes, i've found my 'yes'.  yes, i've said my 'yes'.  but only recently.  this whole yes business is still something that i am sorting through.

let's start at the beginning.  well, the beginning of the beginning.  my yes found me fairly quickly.  an overnight success yes.  or, if you love a good 'bennifer' as much as i do, an overnight sucyes.  the kind of overnight success where years of preparation finally meet opportunity, and... boom.  you're michael jordan averaging 28.2 points per game in the nba.  or, boom... you're adopting 4 kids from africa.  basically the same thing.  (just go with it.)

this preparation stage fascinates me.  how long was i being worked on before i said yes?  just when did this preparation stage start, and how long of a road was it to get me to a place where i was capable of and willing to say yes?  how many different things happened along the way that set me up for this perfect storm type moment?  what got me to this place?  let's work backwards:

take your daughter to work day.  i accompany my mom to the neonatal intensive care unit where she works and rock babies all day.

i babysit and work at a day care in the summers during my high school years because i am hardwired to love kids.  not when they have colds and sneeze on me though.  gross.

i move to boston to attend music school.

i move to nashville and begin my career as a songwriter.  this means i won't make enough money for awhile to donate anywhere, so i choose to donate my time instead.

i begin volunteering at the children's hospital on the hematology/oncology unit.

at some point during this time period my friend mae and i begin to clock hours and hours and, you guessed it, hours of time on her porch talking about our future adoption dreams.  we begin reading katie davis's blog, become fascinated with her story, and first learn about 147 million orphans.

4 years of volunteering later and the loss begins to take a toll on me after losing one of my favorite patients who we'll call "d".

i have a conversation with a friend who tells me that he thinks the boundaries of hospital volunteering are limiting me.

i stay up all night researching orphanages in africa that i can take a trip to in search of something even bigger.

the next day i have lunch with one of my friends (who i have been having a lot more lunches with recently to repair some damage we did to our friendship - important because if we haven't done that damage we wouldn't have spent so much time trying to fix it, and might never have had this life changing lunch... talk about good coming from bad) who mentions that she just met two local women who started and run an orphanage in sierra leone and asks me if i want to take a trip with her there someday.  it is serendipitous timing.

she sets up a lunch with the kelly and erica, the women at trs.  at this lunch they tell me about the adoption ban, the forever family initiative they have created (skype once a week, travel once a year until the child(ren) are 18) to give the kids family in the meantime, and show me the first picture of g&g.

i stay up all night researching everything i can about this orphanage.  blog posts from missionaries, facebook photo albums from previous travelers, video footage of a child dying from malnutrition...  i don't sleep a wink because i am reaching for my phone every 20 minutes to say yes to being a forever family to g&g.  every time i start to dial, i get scared and hang up.

wake up the next morning, begin running errands, keep up the every 20 minutes routine, pull up behind a car with a 147 million orphans bumper sticker, and realize that they are the reason i began thinking of this whole adopting thing in the first place.  decide i'll call kelly to say yes to g&g when i'm done running errands.

2 blocks later i rear end that car directly on their 147 bumper sticker.  they have a dent the size of a golf ball and a $200 repair, my car is crunched up like an accordion and totaled.  subtle hint?

i say yes to g&g.

i meet josh.  he knows about g&g and our forever family from the beginning.

the adoption ban lifts between our first and second date.  i s*#t you not.  i am on board to adopt g&g.

josh and i have a conversation about me losing my favorite patient, "d" and how the last time i saw her one of her nurses kept calling her "e" because that's what her chart said, but she went by her middle name, "d".  josh told me that his sister's name was "e", and that he had recently lost her.  (this is where if i was writing a book i'd talk about josh's entire preparation journey that got him to a point where he'd be open to say yes to something this big, this brave, this bold.  this is where my preparation collides with his.)

josh gets on board with adopting g&g.  i quickly discover that he is my lobster.

i start saving pictures or m&m so g&g have pictures of their siblings.  josh starts to fall in love with them through those pictures.

we find out that m&m's forever family isn't going to adopt and we start praying. hard. 

we find out that m&m's forever family has decided that they can no longer be a forever family.  we decide to add m&m to ours.

i travel to sierra leone for the first time and it quickly becomes apparent that we are supposed to keep this family together.

i return from my trip, josh and i continue to pray about it, and decide that we are now a family of 6.

i can't make this up, people.  look at how far back this goes.  i have been being prepared, built, designed to be ready for this since i was 13.  and probably even before that, but i just bored you with a 20 minutes timeline read, so let's just go with 13 for the sake of your youth.  this was all a part of God's plan for my life.  for families to change so that ours can too.  for friendships to ebb so they can later flow.  for instagram pictures to come up with scriptures that support my blog posts just before i go searching for the prefect verse.  you know.  coincidentally.  


key words: prepared in advance.

for people who are more prone to go with the flow, this preparation might not feel like it.  it might just be.  for people who are a little more, um how shall i say this nicely, headstrong, *cough* yours truly *cough*, this process might be a little harder.  the molding and shaping might be a little more painful when it's resisted.  either way, it will happen.

i want to encourage you to go with the flow.  i want to encourage you to look at these sometimes painful periods as you being shaped out of what you were and in to who you will be.  hang on.  be patient.  stay open.  keep listening.

and come back tomorrow so we can keep talking about this.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sweet Sara

i am heart heavy today.  

i really want to continue our conversation from yesterday, because there's a lot in that yes business.  but today i need to take a prayer break if that's ok with you.

this morning i found out that one of the kids at our center is being taken to the hospital for emergency surgery.  

this is sweet sara.

sara came to the covering with severe burns on her face from being forced to drink boiling water at a different "care" center in freetown.  you read that correctly.  forced to drink boiling water.  by an adult.  before living in that center she had been used to sell on the streets and had open wounds from sitting in the same place for days on end with no food, water, or any kind of care.

despite the tireless efforts of our caretakers sara is still massively malnourished.  the scar tissue on her esophagus from the burns she suffered make it hard for her to keep food down, and she is being brought to the hospital today for surgery.  the doctor's are going to attempt to widen her esophagus in the hopes that she will begin swallowing again.  dangerous?  absolutely.  necessary?  absolutely.  could we lose her?  i pray with everything in me that answer is no.

i fell in love with sara this summer on my first trip to sierra leone.  i hope today you'll join me in sending prayers her way.  as many as you can muster.  

if you want to do more, you can donate to sara's medical expenses here:

thank you for taking a prayer break with me today.  please keep sweet sara in your thoughts.

for video footage of sara click here, and fast forward to 17 minutes exactly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Generation Yes

i had a really wonderful, inspiring, and three hour long conversation with a friend last night about one of my favorite words.  for those of you that know me, you will be surprised to learn that this word is not something inherited straight from the mouth of a dirty old sailor.  so shocking, right?  (i still stand my ground on the point that every now and then a choice four letter word is really the best punctuation you can add to a sentence.  but more on that some other time).

the word we were talking about is *#%.  
just kidding.
it's 'YES'.

she asked about my adoption journey and how i came to say yes to it in the first place.  we spent a good amount of our time together recounting the timeline of my story and where that first big yes took it's first big breath.  how i got involved with the raining season, when i first met gerald and geraldine, when josh showed up (and why on earth didn't he take off running the other direction screaming and waving his hands in the air like any normal person would do?),  how mohamed and mamie came to join our family... things of that nature.  all of it came back to that first yes.

which got me thinking...

i can't be the only one out there that has said it.  everybody's got a yes, whether it's in front of them or on it's way.  everybody's got one.  

some people are looking for it.  
some people are heading toward it.  
some people are staring it in the face and telling it no. 
some people just said it.  
some people said it to the wrong thing.  
some people have said it and are burned out from all of the yeses that have followed.

i want to talk about it.  all of it.  whether we like it or not, we are a yes generation.  we are being asked to say it so let's look at what that means.  or we could just sit around waiting for the real adventure in life to find us and twiddle our thumbs for a decade while, obviously, singing amy grant's 'oh how the years go by' because she's amy flippin' grant and her work should be celebrated so what else would you be singing while you have all of that time on your hands?

do me a favor.  think about your yes.  if you don't have it yet, start asking yourself questions to help you find it.  here's a starting point... if you could do anything, and i mean anything, with your time on earth what would it be?

think it over.  then come back tomorrow.  let's talk more about this.

happy hunting,

editor's note:  don't say yes to drugs.  that's all.  well, or maybe manslaughter...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday's Best: Long Live Elton John

the babies brought some of their birthday presents to our skype call this morning and it's official...

coolio is dead. 
 long live elton john.

yes.  those are groucho marx glasses on gerald.  

elton john

three years old.  learning how to show us three fingers.

geraldine didn't take those glasses off the entire time we skyped.  god bless.

happy tuesday's best!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Had Them, I Held Them, and I'm Grateful for Groucho Marx Glasses

i had the sweetest dream last night.  

i was walking home down a city street that felt like it belonged in boston even though i haven't lived there in 8 years.  it was evening so the city was quiet, hushed.  the sky had just stopped pouring and the air carried a crisp, freshness that comes with washing the day away.  the street lights were a soft yellow and the wet pavement reflected back their warmth.  i made it to the top of a hill where new cement met old cobblestone and paused to catch my breath.  that incline was a familiar one to me, in this dream of mine, and wasn't usually guilty of making me winded.  but last night it was a harder climb.  i was holding something.  i was holding my son.  i was holding him tight to my chest, both of my arms wrapped around him, and we were talking.  full sentence how was your day how is your heart how are you kind of talking.  and i was listening with all of my senses and we were just walking.  

then the oddest thing happened.  i don't recall transferring him into the arms of someone else, i don't recall walking back to where i began and beginning again, but all of a sudden there i was walking up the same hill, pausing in the same spot,  turning at the same corner, taking the same journey home... with my daughter.

i made that journey four times in my dream last night.  i held each of my children .  i asked them how they were and really listened to their answers.  i kissed their faces on the soft piece of real estate that is the space where their cheeks meet the outer corners of their eyes.  

i held them.  i had them.

today there is a phantom pain from their absence.  all at the same time i am heartbroken and grateful, mourning the time that i have lost and eagerly awaiting the time that is to come.  i am trying to focus on the gratitude part... so here we go.

today i am thankful for:

an in-country director who knew i would have wanted to see the twins open their birthday presents.
and camera phones.
and groucho marx glasses.

capitol records for continuously playing a video about the raining season to a crowd of 25,000 people at their annual street party in downtown nashville last week.

facebook for allowing me to stalk the photos of people who took trips to sierra leone when the twins were babies and captured moments holding them.  (baby gerald)

(baby deen)

looking through other people's trip pictures from sierra leone and spotting mo's sweet face in the upper left corner

this gorgeous profile (mamie on left)

i am grateful, i am grateful, i am grateful.  this is my new motto.  please don't let me forget it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Best Yes I Ever Said

happy 3rd birthday to the best yes i ever said.

gerald and geraldine.

you make me braver.  
you make me stronger.  
you make me happier.  
you make me proud.

i love you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday's Best: Big Head Little Body & The Best Yes I Ever Said

well, it's week two of birthday skyping bonanza here at gung ho heart.  this friday the twins turn 3.  sayonara babies, hello growing toddlers.  last night i made a late night trip to the grocery store to get a few essentials for our birthday skype this morning and made it all the way to the checkout line (and by checkout line i mean the do it yourself lane because who really waits for someone who's minimum wage salary is matched by their minimum effort take-your-sweet-time scanning attitude at the ghetto kroger on 8th anyways???) before realizing that i was holding two number 2 candles instead of two number 3 candles.  the kids.  they grow up so fast.  and by saying that i believe i just solidified my rapid transformation into my grandfather.

our connection was pretty blurry today, but the smiles were there.

we asked mohamed if he knew when we were coming to visit and this smile is what came along with a joyful, "JANUARY!!!!"

blowing kisses

our stick figure cutout birthday cards were a hit.  totally josh's idea.  the kids laughed so hard!  

blowing out their candles

birthday dance party.  duh.

the coolio braid has transformed into an antena.

our connection even wanted to party!...


josh and i were up 'til the wee hours of the morn bringing to life his card idea.  
i give you: little body, disproportionate head.

to my faith testing, heart stretching, joy filled, miracle (almost) 3 year olds...

you were the best yes i ever said.  thank you for changing my life.

love, mom

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Westward Journey Home

this morning, halfway around the world, at an embassy in accra, ghana, a very brave and courageous woman did a very brave and courageous thing.  

she can't possibly weigh more than 115 pounds soaking wet but today she was the strongest of the strong.  today she walked into an intimidating room and put her foot down.  today she begged for mercy.  today she demanded change.  today, by the grace of God, her daughter is allowed to come home.  

a visa was approved.  bags were packed.  plane tickets for a same day departure were purchased.  a year long wait came to a close.  a westward journey home has begun.

tomorrow i will be standing at an airport at the bottom of an escalator, waiting.
i'm not going to sleep a wink tonight.

read more about mae's brave journey here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


yesterday just before you blew out the candles on your cupcake we told you to make a wish.
when you were ready you told us that your wish was in your mind.
i hope it comes true today, sweet boy.

happy birthday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday's Best: Oh my glob we have a 7 year old.

oh my glob.
we have a 7 year old.

tomorrow is mohamed's birthday.  that means that as of tomorrow i am the proud mother of a 7 year old.  ha!  hey guys, remember how in 2012 i went from 0 to 4 kids and one of them is in 2nd grade???  holy crap.  things that make you go mmmmmm... i have kids.  big ones.

  today's tuesday's best is one of my all time favorites.  we had a little birthday celebration for mo, complete with a giant card, cupcakes (made a full batch just to have one for him to see and oops i need to eat them now), and candles.

i present to you, an international birthday party.

late night card making

the finished product

betty crocker from a box... who am i kidding?

look at mohamed's face here.  he was so proud to have his own little celebration.  makes me melt.
the covering holds quarterly birthday parties for all of the kids whose birthdays fall in that particular time frame, which is SO awesome of them, but we loved getting to have our own party!

lighting the candle

blowing it out

reading the card... which of course he couldn't because it shows up backwards.  fail.

reading to us (yeah that's right we make our kid work on his birthday. what?)

giggly mamie

deen digging for a super special present for her brother

we sang, we laughed, we cried (ok, deen is the only one who cried because she wanted a bigger space to sit than anyone else - yikes - but it's not a party until someone irrationally screams bloody murder, right?), we celebrated.  it was fantastic.  

to my handsome, smart, talented, brave, loving, faith filled son...

i am so proud of you.  i miss you.  i love you even more.
i wish i could be there tomorrow to watch you open the remote control car that you've been asking for since april.  please don't run over your sister's feet with it, ok?

love, mom

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tuesday's Best, A Christmas Story, and Gung Ho Giving

me: "guess what time it is!!"

you: "tool time?"

me:  "no, but omg jonathan taylor thomas was such a babe!  i miss that show.  what was with the creepy neighbor who never showed his face?  and how pamela anderson was 'heidi' and then all of a sudden she was just gone and they put somebody in her place like people weren't gonna notice that..."

you: (scrolling your mouse toward the 'unsubscribe' button) "yeah, right?!  what was up with that? ha" (nervous laughter).

me: "no wait!  don't go!  it's tuesday's best!!!!"

(yes.  i'm aware that it's wednesday.  yesterday got busy, ok?  just go with it.)

 i mean, that smile!  that single coolio braid!
(also, note how mohamed is so happy because he's looking at a picture of himself)

story time.  everyone turned toward mohamed as he read to us.

what book did he read?  the christmas story.  duh.  it's only the best story ever.
and if anything warrants a little early october celebration preparation it's jesus's birth.
it's beginning to look a lot like christmas.

this one's just to prove that mamie has a face.  poor girl always gets covered up by coolio braids.

man i love those kids.  3 of our 4 kids have birthdays in the next two weeks and it's going to rip my heart out not to be there.  there will be candles on cupcakes and balloons and streamers on our end of our skype call, that's for sure.

in other news... remember when i (politely) told you to go bling or go home????  well you still have a couple more days to get your orders in through our link with your proceeds going directly to the raining season.  the trunk show closes THIS FRIDAY so get your orders in now!

and remember... it's beginning to look a lot like christmas (shopping).