You Can Always Come Home

Over the past several months I’ve looked back longingly on those exhausting nights of waking children and all those witching hours when one boy would be hanging at my ankles whining, and the littlest would be needing a diaper change, and the oldest was clearly responding out of low blood sugar craziness. Without me even realizing it, those days were in my past. I put a sweet toddler down for a nap one day not realizing it would be the last daytime tuck in. And somewhere along the line, I took my final middle of the night groggy walk up the stairs to comfort a child in distress. No more dropped blankies. No more night terrors. No more tumbles out of bed. One night we just kept on sleeping… again and again until those peaceful sleeps became our normal. Life was suddenly a bit easier. Or maybe we were simply facing it with brighter eyes and rested spirits.

It’s totally cliché, but we blinked and opened our eyes to five big kids. No babies. No toddlers. But children who could all dress themselves and brush their own teeth and make their own beds (even though they don’t). Many halleluiah’s fell from our lips!….but then a few of those big kids became teenagers. And our halleluiah’s turned into genuine groans for wisdom and divine interference. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove this season of parenthood (not the show, my actual life. But I also very much love the current season of Parenthood). Parenting older children is full of great conversations, common interests, heart transformations and lots of dreaming. But amidst the sweet compatibility, there’s painful shaping of the heart, tensions within expanding freedoms, and wild hormones that make everything more intense. Continue Reading

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He will Come

After a national chorus of gratitude, it’s no wonder we begin a season of expecting life. For thankfulness births good things. Today marks the beginning of Advent, the time set a part to anticipate the arrival of a baby that belongs to the whole world. The One born of flesh, but equal with God. The One who was rejected, yet welcomed all of creation. The One who came with wholeness to a broken world who needed Him. This baby was God coming to his people to bring them back to Himself. The days leading up to His birth demand our attention. They ought to captivate our hearts with anticipation, mesmerize our souls with the joy that’s to come….and lead us to the humble places where he is sure to be born.

Advent is a little bit like we’re all entering into a 26 day pregnancy…together! It’s a season where we swell with trust and grow in faith. Where we wait in great expectation for Christ to be born into all our present realities. The broken ones. The ugly ones. The embarrassing ones. The hurtful ones. The exciting ones. And this baby, he happens to be the only one worth expecting, the only one who will not disappoint. Jesus, the hope of the Earth. He will always come.

But what does this mean for our earthly waiting? Like the things and people we long for. And the expectations we can’t help but form. And the outcomes we hope for. It seems near impossible to eliminate those human responses. If Jesus is the only one worth expecting, what does hoping look like between people? How should we of flesh expect worthy things from one another? Is it possible for flawed people to wait upon flawed people in a way that brings about good? Continue Reading

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Sanded Through

A few years ago I purchased a piece of furniture on Craigslist for $20.

It’s a classic colonial dark pine buffet and hutch, something similar to what my mother had in our dining room in the 1980s. As I sanded by hand every inch and crevice, exposing new surface and leaving some old, I considered how even our furniture can reflect a little bit of who we are.

We are a people continually being made new. By the very hands of our Creator who makes us more like him. By the experiences that round out our edges. By the people who enhance our character. By the hurts that peel back layers. By the jobs that wear us down. By the children who paint us new. By the years that give us lines. And with every new layer of heart and spirit, comes a story, his story etched into our very being.

My favorite pieces of furniture are ones with history. Like the piece built by black hands on my veranda in Uganda. Like the small tables I remember holding lamps and coffee mugs in my grandmother’s homes {which now have sticky little fingerprints covering their naturally weathered finish}. Like the little painted hutch my grandpa would placed his wallet, keys and tobacco pouch, and how now it holds little girl treasures and baby doll belongings. Like my grandma Pippin’s cabinet that once displayed her china, now graces my barn with mason jars of dried hydrangeas. Continue Reading

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I Had a Baby in Africa

On their special day, we lay in bed and tell their birth story, almost as if we’ve never heard it before. We remember the same details and giggle at the same parts. Our Tessa has a special story. It’s one we recall with such fondness because so many of us actually remember it. We experienced her as a family, in a place where we had learned to cling to one another, and the memories are every bit sweet. Having a baby in Uganda was never on my bucket list, but I’m so glad it was on the one God wrote for me.  My prior labor and deliveries were in an American hospital surrounded by my family — all my family. Not just Mark, but my mom, dad, brother, sister, brother-in-law, niece and friends in and out for the whole thing. I remember at one point the doctor asking us if we wanted him to bring in bleachers. After witnessing my sister deliver her first child, I decided birth was the most magical thing ever and should be witnessed by anyone who has the slightest desire! Sharing those moments with my loved ones was so special, and the thought of delivering a baby in Uganda without them circled around me was sad. Also, we had just lost our teammate and friend to the dangerous Ugandan roads. Africa had been stealing lives for as long as her history….but suddenly {to my eyes} it became a place where missionaries die too. Everything in me wanted to scoop up my treasures and flee. But God’s peace washed over me, and after extended time in the States for our friend’s funeral, I took my swollen belly back to Uganda, trusting God would deliver life into a time of loss and grieving.

So this morning in my bed, we remembered August 18th, seven years ago. And we laughed at how we stopped for a big breakfast in the city while contractions were increasing in strength and frequency. And we shook our heads at the bumps and deep pits in the road that Mark had to gingerly avoid on my behalf. And we remembered how before we took that two hour drive, our family of five piled into bed together at 4:30am to savor the last moments of “just us.” And how we wondered what she would look like. And how she would change us. You see, the five of us had shared a lot together by that point. We had moved away from home and family together. We had discovered Uganda together. We had been re-created together {by God} in our shared journey of adoption and cross cultural living. We — the five of us — were the Manry’s, and it was hard to imagine welcoming another person to become one of us. She wouldn’t know our stories and everything we had shared up to that point. She wouldn’t know America and everyone we missed and loved. She would be separated in years from the other children – not far, but farther than we had known before.

And then she came. All plump and pink and perfect. And it was like she had always been a part of us. Like God had written her into our family long before, and we were only just meeting her. Continue Reading

This Two Becoming One

Sex is an act of hospitality – the giving of oneself and the receiving of another. In our sex craved culture where people are objectified, where pleasure is something easier achieved by yourself, and pornography is rampant and acceptable as television humor, it’s easy to forget just how intimate and divine the coming together of two bodies really is.

When I married, no one told me sex would reveal some of my heart issues. I had no idea it would be a source of conflict in my very happy and satisfying marriage. I did not anticipate the reality that babies would morph my body in a way that would cause insecurity to hinder vulnerability. No one warned me that what seemed so appealing and exhilarating, would one day be the very last thing I wanted to do when I crawled into bed with my mama fatigue! That I would actually meet my touching quota during the day with all the little hands holding and tugging and all the little bodies on my hip or in my arms. So when darkness and stars settled in, I ignored the twinkle in his eyes, and pulled the covers up over the body that everyone seemed to love. Everyone but me. Continue Reading