To the Grieving Sibling: What I Wish I Could Tell You

I had no intention of posting this anytime soon. I wrote this post a while ago but never felt comfortable sharing all of it. But I just felt this nudge from God telling me to share this because someone who is hurting right now may need to read this and realize that they are not alone.

So wherever you are and whoever you are, know that God does indeed have a plan and a purpose for your life that will far exceed any of your greatest expectations.

I don't know your story. I don't know your heartbreak. I don't know your seemingly hopeless situation. But I do know mine and I know the pain of grief and the pain of the road my family walked three years ago and the hurt we've been walking the past fifteen months.

I've lost two siblings. I've experienced days where numbness takes over and life is walking through the motions and attempting to act as "normal" as possible.

I've hidden my grief on days to the point of where my life looks complete and I've almost convinced myself that everything is okay and that my life is fine.

But there's been days and moments where I've sobbed in my room and let it out to caring friends and the tears have freely rolled down my face. Days when the pain becomes too much and it spills over the top and I can no longer hold it in. Sometimes I shut my bedroom door and cry and pray and worship and I wonder. I wonder how God will take the ashes of a broken heart and use them for His glory.

I struggle to go back to the hospital. The hospital where I said goodbye. It hurts me to walk past the elevators I went up and down so many times. Yet at the same time, I long to go there. I long to be in that room again. For just one more second together. One more moment together. One more tear together.
my sweet sweet Rose. Oh how I miss you.

If you were standing here face to face, I'd tell you that grief is a crazy thing. Sometimes a reminder will make you smile and other times it brings on the tears.

And sometimes grief catches you at the worst moments. When you would usually shrug off a minor issue, the next thing you realize is that there are tears streaming down your face. You really never know when it's going to hit and it always seems to be at a bad time.

Another thing I'd tell you is that no one will completely understand your pain. And as hard as you might try, it is impossible for the average person to understand the amount of pain you're feeling over losing your sibling.

Whether your sibling was with you from the day you were born or was adopted two months ago, they are just as special to you and just as important to you. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I wish I could cry with you and hold you tight and whisper God's promises to you. Because it's not only a sibling you've lost. It's a friend. Someone who you understand no matter the circumstance. Someone you laugh with and cry with and someone who does life the same as you.

Don't be offended when people don't ask. They just can't completely understand it. Sometimes all I want is someone to ask. To ask me how I am. To share a sweet memory of my sibling with me. But others are so afraid they might mess it up or say something they regret.

People will make comments that are meant to heal but really hurt. They will say that you should move on and continue with your life. That you can't change the outcome but you can make the future better. But please don't listen to that. You don't need to move on. And you are only expected to survive one day at a time. One hour at a time. Try not to get angry, instead fill yourself with the Word. The constant truth's found throughout the Bible.

Because when your hope meter is empty, God will fill it.

When your life feels destroyed, God will begin rebuilding it.

When your joy is stolen, God will restore it.

When you cannot walk, God will carry you.

When you feel as though grief overwhelms every day, God will redeem those days.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

And the amazing thing is that when God fills and rebuilds and restores and redeems, we are made new and amazing though him.

Somehow through such deep grief, God can take our hurting and emptiness and fill it with Him and only Him.

God somehow takes the ugliness and the ashes of our past and turns them into a beautiful picture.

If you were here with me now I'd tell you this.

Your grief will be used for good.

Because God can use even the worst situations and turn it into a reason to praise him on the darkest of days

"God sees the broken as the best, & He sees the best in the broken, & He calls the wounded to be world changers." -Ann Voskamp

My friends, we are the wounded. We have battle scars. Scars that others might be able to see but don't know just how deep they go. And these wounds? These scars? They will be used for a greater purpose.

Just keep holding on. Find joy in the hidden places. And keep going. God's got you. I'm standing beside you and cheering you on. You got this. And I bet your sibling in heaven is cheering you on too.



Looking Back on My First Semester

I'm sitting here in my chair in the middle of my room eating dinner. I just finished my last final and I'm somewhat excited, dazed, tired, and hopeful all at once. School has settled down but there's a whole lotta crazy going on in my life right now.

I had five finals this week and I finally understand what people mean by finals week.

Even if you're fully prepared for your exams, it's still a stressful week of exams. Add gymnastics practices and strength training to that, it makes a pretty busy week.

So yeah, here I am through my first semester of college and I wanted to jot down some things I learned from being a student athlete at UK.

First thing I learned, was that if you don't like football don't convince yourself that it will be fun to go to the game. I went to one football game this season and I disliked every minute of it. Of course I picked the game that was sold out and ended up sitting in the nose bleeds. People say it's fun but I guess they are lying. :)

Another thing I've learned? Always always set an alarm if you decided to take a ten minute nap between practice and classes. I fell asleep at 12:20 woke up at 12:50 for a 1pm class and made it to class in 9 minutes. It's usually a 15+ min walk. #winning Also don't set a phone alarm when you're phone is about to die. You just might be late for a 7am practice. I know from experience.

I've learned that saying goodbye to mama is hard but thank goodness for phones and text. I literally call her everyday when I walk to classes. Even if I have nothing to talk about. I just miss her and home and of course my dad too :).

One sign that I'm at the right school? The main street of campus is Rose st. Literally saw that the first day of classes and cried the entire way to my class. It's just so perfect.

I've learned that I have an obsession with decorating my dorm. It no longer looks like the picture below, I've already switched up my decorations. And the sunsets here? absolutely gorgeous.

I've learned that I'm not like the typical college student and that's okay. That being a follower of Jesus isn't on the top of everyone's list. That I don't need to agree to be friends and I don't need to fit in to be happy. That I can be alone and not be lonely and I can be content without excessive worldly items.

I've learned that it's all about perspective. I was complaining to my mom one day on the phone about walking to classes, cooking food, school, etc. Then I realized what I was doing. We have so many issues. So much noise coming from all different directions and it's easy to complain about the blessings. Because really? These are all #firstworldproblems

Everything I get to do and have the ability to do is a blessing. And walking this painful road this past year, the little things don't seem to matter nearly as much. What a blessing it is to be a gymnast and student here at UK.

I learned how to solve a mystery using DNA (maybe useful someday). And I learned how to make a packing tape sculpture (not useful at all). I experienced a bad class (hello chem 105) and one that was hard but I had a fabulous professor (I love you Dr. O'quin and I semi-love you bio!).

So much has happened this semester both at school and at home.  The battle still rages on back home and what seemed like a major breakthrough a few weeks ago has now been stalled and will be stalled until spring. Choosing to trust that God's clock keeps perfect time.

Well that's all I've got today, friends. Christmas is coming and I gotta go pack up my dorm so I can head home for the holidays in a few days. It's going to be a tough holiday season but choosing joy even when all I want to do is curl up and cry. God is good. And I know He's got this.

Love ya friends.



2017: By Faith a Year of...

The past few years, I have picked a word and a Bible verse to be my theme for the year. My word for 2016 was peace. The verse I chose for 2017 was Romans 8:37 (Be on the lookout for an upcoming post about this!).

I started writing this post in January. It's now the middle of November and I have sat down many times to write but my words have failed me. I opened up this post today and deleted most of what I had written. Because I have seen things recently that have shown me that I had a distorted view of the word I chose for 2017.

The word I chose for 2017 was restore. 

I somehow thought that if I chose this word, God would restore our family. That if I claimed restoration over my life then God would surely fulfill my dreams. My hopes.

That if I chose the word restore, He would restore my life to its fullness. To what I wanted. To what it used to be.

But I was wrong.

You see these were my dreams. My desires. My plans. It was as if I was saying, "God I know you're better and wiser than me but I really want this so if I post all it on my blog where hundreds of people will read it will you please restore these areas of my life to where I want them?"

I remember praying during this battle I've been walking saying, "Lord, surely you won't let this last the entire year. You will definitely restore my life this year in just the way I want it. I just know it."

But here I am. The middle of November. The hurt still happening. The pain still raw. My broken life waiting for the restoration I long for.

The plans I had dreamed up weren't coming true. The goals I had written were gone. The rebuilding hadn't started. The resolve hadn't come.

But maybe? Maybe God's plans for restoration are so much better than mine. Maybe my plans? Are flawed. Maybe my desires? Are all unimportant things in this world. Maybe my dreams?  Are nothing compared to what God has in store for me.

When my life feels like it's in shambles maybe it's really just God taking over and turning it into something better than I could ever imagine.

Maybe God is in the process of changing my selfish attitude and restoring me to be more like Christ. Maybe He's already rebuilt so much of my life.

Maybe I need to change my prayers to say, "Lord, lead my steps. Lead me today where you want me to go."

I need to surrender my plans and dreams of restoration and realize that God has already begun to rebuild my life. When I gave my life to Christ I said goodbye to my own worldly dreams and opened my heart to follow His dreams. His plans. His desires. And the hope He gives me for my life.

But I had missed it. I kept waiting. And waiting. Saying to myself that God would surely fulfill this plan of mine and I could someday post my word of the year on my blog and say, "wow look at how God had restored my life this year."

But ever so slowly, I'm learning.

I'm learning that...Maybe I don't need to wait. That's He's already been restoring. From the minute I said, "Lord, my life is yours," He's been changing me and restoring me into something better than I could ever imagine.

And as I sat on my bed the other day and thought to myself, the Lord really hasn't restored much this year. I realize just how wrong I am.

Each morning I can get up and realize that he is rebuilding my attitude. He is restoring my hope. Giving me the desires of His heart.

Looking back, I can see that every day there has been miracles and moments where God has so evidently been at work rebuilding. I have been so caught up in what I wanted and what my hope was that I missed out on the moments where the hand of God was restoring my life.

That God is taking the brokenness and nastiness of my life and giving me the opportunity to be rebuilt and restored each and every day I get up and say, "God, my life is yours".

And that every morning I get out of bed I can say to myself that God has fully restored my life to where I can live each moment to the fullest because of Christ.

Will you join me?

Give up your dreams. Your plans. Your desires. And start running after His. Because the plans and dreams He has for your life are pretty dang amazing. 




There is Purpose in the Pain

**I meant to post this yesterday on 11/11/17 but life got the best of me and I never got it finished. I pray that the words you read here will be encouraging as you go about your day. Be blessed friends.

Six years ago a little girl was born halfway across the country. Her birthday was extra special because it was 11.11.11. This little girl would touch my heart in numerous ways but I would never get to meet her in person.

The journey began in August of 2012. Little did we know what the next five years would hold.

I have never really shared this part of our adoption story. It's the raw unedited version of our story that didn't seem to have a happy ending. I never thought it was important to share. But without these first tribulations, we would have never found Rosie or been prepared for the battle we are currently fighting. And Rosie? Was quite possibly the happiest ending of all.

Most people don't know that our family began our adoption journey domestically. We knew there were numerous amounts of children stuck in the foster care system and felt that the Lord had called us to open our hearts and our home to children without families within the United States.

I used to dream about have another younger sibling. About playing with them, laughing with, just doing and loving life with them. I was thirteen at the time our family started domestic adoption and could not wait to welcome another child into our family.

The paperwork took months but once we were approved, we were shown the file of a little girl with many different medical needs. But the thing that stuck with me was that her birthday was 11/11/11. I am a person who pretty much goes nuts when things line up like that. I wrote an entire post on my sixteen birthday announcing the addition of Carlie and Maisey to our family because I turned sixteen on 10/12/14 (pretty cool, right?!). (You can read that post here-- it has 20 pictures of Rosie in it so you won't regret it :).

We were told that we were the only family interested in adopting this little girl but we still have to go to a "match conference" to official be matched and start the process to adopt her.

I wrote this note the week when we were supposed to be matched with her.

Hopefully, on Thursday I will have a new little sister. It would bring such joy to our family. Little B* I hope someday you will read this and know that you are very loved. I prayed every day that God would bring you to our family. I've only seen one picture of you but that pic was the cutest thing. I hope you look up to me someday and that I'm the best big sister ever. We already got you an adorable shirt, it says little sis on it. You may never be part of our family but any family will be blessed to have you. Hopefully, someday you will read this. And I'll keep on praying till we meet.
I love you with all my heart!
Your big sister,

*name removed for privacy

That Thursday we got a call that we were not matched and we would not be adopting her. I was crushed. I couldn't understand how we, as the only family, with the qualifications to adopt her were turned down. 

Little did I realize how corrupt the system was.

And little did I realize that our family would go through the same thing over and over and over again throughout the next year until God lead us to international adoption and our sweet Rosie.

I have been thinking back to that year the past few days and realizing just how much God has done in my life over the past six years. I could not have dreamed up this journey if I tried. It is crazy how God used our domestic adoption journey to lead us to adopt internationally. 

There have been many moments where I couldn't understand where God was taking us.

I couldn't understand the direction of the journey. And this battle we've been fighting? Still seems to make no sense.  

And sometimes? The path turns in a direction of darkness and leaves your grasping for something you cannot see.

Sometimes the door slams shut and it hurts worse than you ever thought it could.

Sometimes the bitter cold sweeps across your face and leaves you in stunned silence. 

Sometimes a strong "no" comes when all you were expecting was a "yes".

Sometimes it hurts to love. It hurts to expose your heart and fully embrace the fact that heartache might be right around the corner.

I will probably never meet this little girl. And to the outsider looking in, it might of seem like a waste. A mistake. Like we somehow got off the path God put us on.

But no. This little girl was not a mistake. And it was not a mistake that our family found her and fell in love with her.

God knew five years ago that this tribulation would prepare us for the adoption of Rosie. And Carlie. And Maisey. And Adam. And Nate. And Collin.

And He also knew? It would strengthen us for the battle that rages on today.

Because I can look back and see that God was always with me in the trial. That standing right next to me on the unknown path is Jesus.

And I have seen that God always provides.

Always redeems.

Always restore.

And this seemingly meaningless time our family attempted domestic adoption was not meaningless at all.

God was preparing me and equipping my heart for the His work for me in the future.

And here I am. With the battle raging on around me and hoping for victory. And I am looking back and realizing that He's done it before and He will do it again. His love will never fail me.

He alone is able.

Wherever you are today, realize that you have a purpose there. It may be painful in the moment, but God will surely use the pain for your good.

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1



Life Here Lately (Fall 2017)

Hi friends. :)

It's been a while hasn't it?! I've missed blogging and I wanted to pop back on here and thank y'all for so faithfully praying for our family. I've seen your emails and I sincerely apologize for my lack of response. These past months of college have been overwhelmingly hectic and wonderful all at the same time.

It's been a really long year, and the battle is still raging on. I can't share much publicly, but I can share that the door is every so slowly creaking open. I cannot wait for the day when God smashes it open but I am so grateful for the recent answered prayers. Keep praying friends, we are feeling it and the mountains are moving.

I started my undergraduate degree here at University of Kentucky in August and am fully feeling the weight of being a student athlete (go wildcats!). I absolutely love being a collegiate gymnast and am looking forward to our season starting in January. I really hope to get into more of a blogging routine, but we will see if that actually happens.

These past weeks, I felt such a strong urge to go back to China. I feel like this is the first time I've thought about China and my dream of being a missionary there in quite some time. This past year, I've felt so numb and to feel a little bit of my old happy self is good. I've actually been able to cry this past month and, as crazy as that sounds, I treasure the ability to feel some emotion and processing for what's been going on.

I'm longing to go to China and hug all those little ones. I tried to see if I could take a quick trip over Thanksgiving or Christmas but alas, seven days isn't really enough time to go to China and back. I've been praying that God would open the doors for me to be involved in orphan ministry right here in Lexington. I am looking for to the day when I earn my degree and can live and serve there permanently.

^^^ Rosie on official adoption day in China. Gosh it makes me smile and cry all at once. How I miss this girl and her sweet sweet laughter. ^^^

It seems every girl at college is boy crazy and I find myself wondering how much more girls could accomplish if they set their sights on God and not every boy they see. I'm learning that I don't have to agree with every decision someone makes to be their friend. I'm learning that I don't every need to give in or fit it to have fun. And I'm learning it's better to be lonely than follow the crowd. #truth

So yeah, this post is the ramblings of a college freshman who's trying to navigate college, athletics, and a life dedicated to serving Christ. I am looking forward to the day when I can share more about the journey our family has been walking, but for now...thank you. Your prayers mean more than you know.