We’ve Moved

I’m a creature of habit and would still be sleeping with my teddy bear, affectionately named Tiny Tim, from when I was five if it wasn’t for momentary lapses.

This blog move is one of them.

I’m branching out, although not yet sure why. How’s that for a promotional pitch?

Please scoot on over and check out the new digs that my hubby put together. I’m pretty excited about the space he’s created for my writing (and the designated spot he’s made for my adoration)!


If you are kind enough to link to me on your blog, please update the link (I actually even have a button – gasp!).

For those of you who want to view this in your google-reader, please update our web address to read www.EveryBitterThingIsSweet.com and check back in a few days here to make sure it’s coming through. As of yet, it’s unclear whether the google-reader feed is working properly. It seems to be still picking up this site. So if you use reader, join me in lapsing and …check the site direct for a while :).

If you’d like to subscribe by email, you can do so on the new site.

Why I Adore

In between wrapping paper tears, sips of punch, and the clanking of forks on chocolate-smeared plates came forth the stories. Of course, every home hosting a baby shower is filled with them.

At first they were humorous. Ones I could easily laugh alongside and not allow to penetrate the membrane between my mind and heart. Funny, cute, first-days-of-life-in-the-great-wide-open accounts.

But as the gift-opening slowed, it was only natural that the advice for this new mom-to-be filled the empty space.

There were only a dozen of us or so. All whose wombs had been opened, but mine. An observation, it seemed, that no one made.

On one hand, I was glad. Oh please let no one feel sorry for me, I thought at that moment when the membrane between mind and heart disintegrated and I became deeply sorry. This shower was a chance to bless my dear friend, not to look at my loss. On the other hand, I was searching for a way – any way – to put an end to this conversation that translated into grief for my fragile heart.

Please stop.

Someone stop these tales of labor and delivery that have singled me out. Your rite of passage, for me, holds a sign at the front that says “Do Not Enter”.

It carries with it so many questions, so many doubts, fears, and insecurities. Of me and of God. When I open that door, when I go to that place without the time to worship and the safe-print of those worn pages of Psalms written by many others who had their own Do Not Enter signs, I am lost.

As the laughter of shared experience increased, this sorority of sisters formed bonds around their anecdotes.  And I drifted further inward and downward.

Comparison plagued my soul.

I was heartsick again.


Everyone has at least one, and most a half dozen or more:

Life-reasons, my reasons, to believe that God is not good. To believe that God is not who He says He is.

They are a hidden handicap. We carry them around negligently, as if we can live life fully alive and still have them. Yet the whole of our perspective and interactions are first filtered through the lens of this unanswered question. Is He good … to me?

The cloudy eye-glass is indiscriminate. My calling, my family, my friendships, my view of Jesus are all subject first to how I see Him in light of my “not yet.”

My Dad was never healed of cancer and my body still waits to receive a child. There are others, if you can believe, even more personal than this. The ones most powerful are the ones closest to our chest. Hidden from the world but not to God.

Without God’s encounter, they are toxic for our hearts. And for those of us whose mouths say “God is good” but live with the looming uncertainty of this very thing, the sickness takes even deeper root.

This is why I adore. Why I have to adore.

While the moment at the shower was thick, its aftermath was an easy entry for Jesus. Technicolor experiences like this one, where my nose rubs against the loss in front of my face, I have learned to fight through. I’ve learned to fight, bible-in-hand and carpet worn thin, to believe the goodness of God. Jesus’ hands wrap around my brokenness and they tenderly dress my obvious wound. And I’ve walked away with my question answered. In my “not yet”, He is still good.

But it’s the day-to-day drip, which is the greatest threat to my heart. Subtle negativity, subtle unbelief rests ominous over my kitchen, my interactions with my children, my coming and going.

I reach across the kitchen counter, hurriedly finishing the morning clean-up and knock my glass onto the floor. Water-streaked cabinets, glass scattered across the floor and my first thought received, accepted: it figures.

As I sweep up the last of the shards, seeking clear space for brown-feet to dance, I hear the barreling of his body down the stairs before his yelp breaks the air. The broken glass now the least of my concern. Of course … I think.

I take slow drags on the cigarette of negative expectation when the question of God’s goodness lingers over my daily thoughts. I inhale toxicity. And the exhale over my life, my children, my husband is anything but holy.

This is why I adore God. This is why I have to spend time adoring God.

Minutes of speaking back to God the beauty of God win back hours of the unsettled mess of my heart. Adoration is breathing deeply of who He is and exhaling purity. It’s training my mind and my heart to look up.

I am in training.

And when you look up enough, even the “not yets” in your life are not threatened by the question of His goodness. Your eye is positioned on His goodness.

Adoration wars against a life lived as a response to our wounds.

I urge you, just try it.

In a few days or weeks, I’ll have a designated spot on my new site where you’ll see my daily lookings-up. All in an effort for you to join me. Early morning minutes, or between laundry loads are opportunities for life-change through adoration.

Pick one verse, start in Psalms (or use this book as a guide), that declares a truth of who God is, and stay there. Say it back to Him, once or twice. God, your gentleness makes me great. Linger. Let your heart absorb the words you are speaking. Ask Him to reveal specific areas of your life where you have seen this goodness. Listen. And speak it back. Declare it, to yourself and to Him. If you sing, sing it back. Set it to music.

If you’re like me and writing unlocks your heart, give yourself 200 words to write on just that one phrase. No asks, no pleas, just simply telling God how great He is. And then asking Him to remind you how that greatness in print in front of you has already taken shape in your life before you.

Long minutes in the morning, or short stints of adoration while children’s fingers are enmeshed in play dough and dinner is on the stove are infectious. A little looking up and I promise you’ll want more.

He is limitless.

Just try it.

Treasures Of The Darkness

“It’s bad,” read the text.

Days before, a cloud came over our reality. A few reports in my husband’s inbox forecasted, foreshadowed. Finances in his main business were not good.

He wore the weight.

We braced ourselves. The landscape before us was a scattered array of fires and their trail. The list of areas in our lives that were getting touched by trial was growing. Finances was one of the few men standing.

Not for long.

The texts that followed delivered the information that knocked the wind out of me, and knocked him over. A series of accounting errors, corrected, revealed an $80,000 deficit in the business. He had been in the red, living in black — a new kind of introduction to dark, black night.

We met back at the house and I did what Nate had taught me: I pushed back the furniture and said “time to dance.” We were going to dance on yet another misfortune and believe with our bodies that God was bigger.

My mouth managed to form those words “God is bigger,” but my heart began to wilt. How long, God? How much can one person handle?

The day before I would have said was my lowest. I didn’t realize there were yet  more depths to this pit. As the reality sunk in, and our budget stretched to absorb one less income, my heart fought sickness. We were in the thick of our adoption — this blow another hurdle on our path to parenthood.

The early winter of 2008 lingered cold into spring. Our hearts growing cold — the biggest danger of a season intended for so much more than the end of us. Most of our first-morning thoughts and before-bed whispers were centered around this whirlwind which had engulfed our lives. It wasn’t even about the finances, or the infertility, or the adoption delays, or the lost friendships, or the growing tensions in our marriage … they were peripheral. Who was God? Where was God? A crisis of faith was introduced by all these setbacks. Life had become one big setback and we sought desperately to find God in this new maze.

To say “He met us” in these ten-years-we-lived-in-this-one would be an understatement. To speak to the life lessons and wisdom He imparted would be trite.

God came. With treasures.

Isaiah speaks of treasures of the darkness, treasures that come by darkness. Treasures so that you know that it is God who calls you by name.

We got called by name. And that long, dark alley was chock full of gold. Personal gold — the kind of life-changing perspective no price-tag can quantify. Marriage gold — learning to forge a fire with a new best friend who was also making strides in their personal life. And the true gold of all — intimacy with God. We found a friend in God.

The details of this one segment of our lives could fill a book, but the point of this post is to highlight a promise.  The promise was first to Israel, then to me, grafted in. Every dark corner … has an opportunity for His win.

Then, it was big. I saw it large when the cost was large, the darkness encompassing. But, daily, I live it in the small.

The insecurity that rises in my heart as I see my sin — again, the small rift with my husband, the misunderstanding between a friend, the child who’s chosen the wrong side of the bed on this particular day. They write darkness on my life. Pockets of darkness which allure my mind into the dark perspective, on me and Him and everyone else around me.

But just as they write, He writes. Re-writes. Gold. Treasures. Himself.

He imparts the golden.

Darkness tells me to shrink back, to cower, to accept my place as forgotten. God says otherwise: press-in, this is where I take ground in your life.

I drive to the gym, swimming, drowning, in the latest circumstantial face-plant asking me to give my day to staring into it, and God whispers another. Treasures, He says. You can have them if you ask for them.

Before me like a movie reel is my history — big and small — of how He not only met me but advanced me — my understanding of Him, my depth perception, and my heart-connect with Him — in the face of every single dark spot.

If you’ll only ask, He says. My promises wait on the shelf for your ask.

So I’ve taken to asking. Every time, every dark corner threatening. God, give me treasures out of this. When I’m tempted to step back, step in, step down, I whisper (or if it’s really bad, I shout :)) take me higher. Deeper in.

Hope-filled perspective can’t help but flourish when a few bad days receive His touch.

God’s people have known darkness since the beginning of time. The ones who know Him, whose faces have felt His warm breath in winter’s dead, know a new kind of endurance. They live a new kind of endurance. Hardship equals opportunity for the kind of gold which can withstand fire. More of Him.

I want that endurance. I want the treasure from my daily darkness. I want Him.


The not-so-end of the story: the year that knew an $80,000 debt also knew an adoption almost-fully paid for without one single solicitation. It knew a business debt which was miraculously eradicated and a fresh fiscal start. It knew new growth, both tangible and intangible.

I leave the details out of the main post because the treasure we found was not financial, it was Him. We met God-provider that year when our bodies fell dark. The story, so much bigger than a pay check … but which included a pay check. The God of our whole-life story, in the details.

All kinds of treasure to be had.

Motherhood Starts Now

This won’t be a long and wordy post, just a simple reminder to some of my readers. To you — adoptive mothers and fathers who read this blog. But really to me.

I sunk deep into my seat in the prayer room, my treasured Wednesday afternoon where Nate gives me the gift of time. I left my minions creating a lego village in our family room, to put on a different mantle.

Or maybe the same mantle.

Mommy-at-home breathes prayers between trips up and down the stairs with arms full of laundry, mommy-in-the-prayer room catches her breath and exhales His fresh perspective.

Prayer is motherhood’s fuel. The heavy-lifting of motherhood happens in prayer.

As I prayed for Hope and for the second child we’re waiting for, I realized my role in their lives had been activated.

I live advocacy with Eden and Caleb. Combing through the day’s events, asking God for the simple and the divine. Help Eden to focus. Give Caleb a servant’s heart towards his sister. Most of my prayers are a response to what I see and what I live. And sometimes I wonder if my naked eye is a handicap. It’s harder for me to put on the perspective of Another when I trust my own vision.

With Hope, and our other referral to come, data points are scarce. Opportunity for hearing is large.

I am their advocate, now as I will be when their little bodies make our house full. My prayers, their cries. The Father heard from them first, but now I get to stand on their behalf.

It’s weighty. When I let myself go there, my chest feels the pain of having a child wandering outside of my fold. But it’s no time to buckle.

I watched my very specific prayers, match the ebbs and flows of my children’s homecoming. We have a history of God-inspired prayers and tangible answers. Today I’m reminded that it’s time to take my post again.

I am a watchman on the wall for two in Uganda.

That’s what a mother does.

What Does It Feel Like?

Running is allowed in our home.

Long Midwestern winter months make our circular floor plan the perfect race track for Ethiopians who were made to run. One of my favorite things to do is hide behind the corner wall and catch Caleb mid sprint just after I’ve coached him to “take a lap.”

Oh, the look on my boy’s face when he finds a mommy roadblock. Squeals of delight, loud enough to leave more writing on our walls which tell a thousand stories of what’s within.

My Father taught me how to surprise my children. He taught me how to expect surprises from Him, in the only way possible you can expect surprises: blissful oblivion with an observant eye.

A few weeks ago, I laid prey.

I sat in the prayer room worshipping, eyes up. Not asking, but giving back praise to Him. Unorthodox receiving – the best kind of receiving.

I was interrupted by a warmth I felt across my midsection that I couldn’t ignore, that if I didn’t have eyes to see I might suspect was actually a hand.

Reaching down, reaching in. Touching the broken place, hidden from most of the  world — but of which I live daily aware.

I heard no words but my sense from His Spirit was thick, tangible.

I would be pregnant.

Startling as it might be to you, reader, it was only more evidence to be added to the belief I have put on like a uniform: not mine, but owning it as mine for this assignment. I believe one day my womb will be opened.

Not sure if it was for now or just a foreshadowing, I thanked Him, eyes filled with tears, for distracting my upward glance and reminding me that He hears every inward cry.  And I went back to adoring.

Before I left, I quickly checked my email.

I have a five year old girl for you to consider” read the message in my inbox from our adoption agency coordinator.

Sure enough, I was pregnant.

I’ve had several friends ask me since the referral, what is it like to have a child on the other side of the world?

My observation of childbirth is that it is holy — other, but so natural. Daily reminders of God’s miraculous growing in their body invade how expectant mothers see themselves and their lives. A gift, not an entitlement, something you stare at with wonder like a toddler girl with her very first doll.

I can’t help but notice in checkout lines and restaurants that pregnant women walk taller, my life is more than just for me their motto as their breath sustains another’s. DNA from two, formed into the character of one, indeterminate yet to them, but known from the beginning of time by God.

Adoption is similar. It’s miraculous, is maybe more unconventional, and requires a studied eye, but the sense is the same.

That day in the prayer room was one of many more I expect to come for Hope. I have a mental baby book full of them for Eden and Caleb, including one that will forever confirm God’s story written before it was lived.

Adoption: God’s plan A or plan B, I don’t know. But I do know that He is forever building. For some it’s within their womb, for others it’s across the world.

And just like the mother who needs to peer over her growing girth to see the holy ground on which her bare feet tread, I need to look beyond the paperwork and waiting pains to catch God’s surprises.

Every adoption story has them. (If you have a friend who has adopted, ask her to tell the story of how God linked her story to her child’s.)

When the woman at the grocery store asks me if I have “children of my own”, I don’t shame her for her mis-speech, I just think to myself … she doesn’t know. The miracles standing with their brown fingers wrapped around the rungs of my grocery cart have a growing list of stories that testify. Our lives, woven together even before we first met, speak: they are my own.

Hope is a part of our story.

She was, five years ago, when another womb conceived her. She is now, her picture on our fridge. She will be, when her feet familiarize themselves with the stretch of carpet between our bedroom and hers. She is a Hagerty.

My opportunity is to find Him in her story, my story — now our stories. To expect that He is making something so unconventional just as miraculous as my best friend’s labor and delivery.

To not miss these moments.

To not miss the Man behind them.


My emotional rise and fall is determined within the almost-undetectable.

The still, small movements of my mind and heart — too fine to be caught by any filter I might employ — are where my greatest battles are fought.

And there are two areas of my life where I’ve worn the floor thin. I have memories created around both the internal and external cries of my life for breakthrough for these two things. Pages and pages of prayers, endless requests for reprieve.

If you’ve known this waiting room, you know that it must come — it has to come — with seasons. A distance runner learns endurance by the variety of their workouts. I remember times where my skin felt transparent. Did everyone I encounter see through my thin sheath into the weak heart below? And other times where if the floorboards in my house could speak they would tell the story of endless pitter-patter of my morning feet on their cold frame as I walked with the same fervency that I prayed.

This fall left me in a new season. I wanted greater faith. Old prayers, same prayers become stale prayers without the new breath and revelation of God’s Spirit. I needed new to keep praying anew.

God sent a forerunner for me. Something which my years have revealed to be a trend, at every turn of season. Often, He sends someone to go before me, to hold out a tangible picture — a carrot — of what I want. Living, breathing being who has the more-of-Him which I crave for my own lif

I sat with her over tea and got hungry. I saw her faith for her own not-yet and asked her how she got there. She didn’t tell me to pray for faith, she told me to look at Him. And adore.

Adoration unlocks the Beauty that can change a person. Adoration gives wings to what years of sermons, commentaries and exegesis speak to. It’s where the mind is won. When His word comes off the page and into my heart and becomes His writing on me, all over me, I begin to believe.

He is who He says He is. And looking at that Man can change a person, even the very worst parts of them. Especially the very worst parts of them.

The enemy has spent a lifetime — my lifetime — seeking to dissuade me from looking at the face of God. Because if I look up, everything changes. If I take my eyes off me, my sin, my failings, my shortfalls, and put them on the Man that says He can fill me with joy and peace — note: fill — hope implodes. And overflows.

It spills over into my early morning run, and my breakfast-making and shoe-tying and sheet-folding. He turns the moments where my hand is wrapped around her hand, teaching her how to write her letters, into holy. I can feel Him there. Even there, in the mundane. Even the “nothing” can be won.

When I look at me, I’m afraid to feel because feelings lead me astray. When I look at Him, I am introduced to a new palate and I can’t help but feel. He made me to feel His feelings and adoration lets me walk around in the mind of God, as I speak God’s words back to God.

If His win is received in the small things, the passing thoughts between dinner table and kitchen stove given over to adoration, I exchange the defeat I carry as the banner over my life for victory.

He can change me. If I just look at Him, for long enough — for my hundred short-enoughs during the day — and respond with adoration, my heart chemistry changes.

I’m seeing it, I’m living it, which is why I can’t help but write about it.

And those two things for which I’ve been praying? Adoring that Man has given me new endurance to pray hope. Against all seeming odds.

So I can’t afford to stop. Adoring. I just keep practicing adoration.

In a few weeks this exhale will have a new venue, with a special corner designated for this kind of practicing.

Would love for you to consider joining me. If you are a left-brain type who likes workbooks, this book is a great place to start. If you’d rather freestyle, the Psalms are where I spend my middle-of-the-day moments.

A Hope Sighting

God has a way with the fatherless.

Within just a few days of receiving our referral for Eden and Caleb, our good friends, Liz & Chris, traveled two hours across the Ethiopian countryside to spend the afternoon at their orphanage. They tickled Eden’s belly and held a sleeping Caleb — just days before his pneumonia required a hospital stay.

They told them we were coming.

They were the first of several Hagerty-sent visitors that could only be orchestrated by God.

Just days after accepting our referral for Hope, God sent another messenger.

Molly, a friend of ours living and working in Ug@nda, spent the day with her yesterday. The world got a lot smaller when my morning fireside prayer was interrupted by a text from an unknown sender that said: “She is sitting on my lap, but I wish it was yours. She is precious.”

Hours later, our inbox conceived pictures and stories. Later, we chatted across computer screens about our daughter whose hand she got to hold and whose knobby knees we first glimpsed peaking out from underneath the red dress she slid on for the occasion.

“She’s a spitball of energy” said Molly as she described Hope’s playful tackles and tussles with the other children at the orphanage. “A typical street kid.” Seems the skills our little one has earned fending for herself might mean we have another Alpha female coming into our mix. (Time for me to pray.)

Her dark chocolate skin against the white of her eyes and teeth, that made her blend in with the others lined up in the picture, made her striking to me. Almond eyes, which carry Eden’s sparkle, mark her as a Hagerty. Or maybe every orphan carries the Father’s signet in this way.

Fatherlessness on earth gives direct access to true daughterhood.

“American All Sport” read the over-sized, community-shared shirt she wore before opportunity arose for a change into the red dress. Does she know that her days on African soil are coming to an end?

Molly shared our family picture with her and explained the gap (now-bridged) between our home in Missouri and her way-station in Ug@nda.

She seemed unaffected. How can her young-mind comprehend the life change around the corner?

Nate has just left for the post office to deliver a package to another family traveling to Ug@nda next week. Another visitor for Hope. Another love offering: spring frilly dresses, a soft bunny, a photo book of us and chicken-scratch drawings from Eden and Caleb. The one from Eden had sketches of at least two dozen children (her plan for our growing family has no limits). Hope is coming into a fold.

The most surreal part of adoption is this lapse of time between referral and travel, where God gently prepares His own for their families. Pain is inevitable for children leaving what they’ve known and entering a world they can’t comprehend. These messengers along the way are holy practitioners. Gift-bearing, tender-hand-holding, gentle-whispering-of-a-family: sweet reminders that the hands waiting to catch this baby on the other side of the birth canal are merciful.

God is so kind to His children.

Her New Story Begins

Our family grew by one yesterday.

We accepted our first, of two, referrals. The Hagerty crest has been imprinted in another country, on another little heart.

And as I create my mental baby book, replaying the details of this past week’s events over and over again in my mind, the small insignificants are what make her story significant. He’s left His mark. Everywhere.

We first heard word of her just days after I emailed my coordinator to say “although we’re leaning towards four and under, please let us know if any child outside of this age range comes across your desk.”

Like a woman found pregnant just months after she delivered her last child, I readily field the skeptical responses. Aren’t they more likely to have … permanent damage? Doesn’t it take a long time to restore one who has spent that many years out from under your roof? Older children, older orphans, raise eyebrows. Including my own. I have no judgment for these responses, because they once were fears I slept with, and too much analyzing and not enough leaning into Him leaves me entertaining them again.

Humanity is fear’s breeding ground. We accept fear as our daily drink and pattern our lives around it. And something the Father has highlighted to me these past few weeks and months is this fear. In me. Rather than doing what I’ve always done and avoid all circumstances that might offer opportunity to play with fear’s fire, He has said a simple: walk through it. Hot coals, an obstacle in my path, are His corridor for this time in our lives.

The anything-but-flippant email to our coordinator upping our age range was our RSVP.

And she came back with this: “I have a five year old girl for you to consider.”

She prepared us for waiting weeks to receive the official referral, but I knew it would be less. In every way, this second adoption has been accelerated — for what reason I’m not yet sure.

One week later, my brisk-Colorado morning prayers echoed in the loft of our friend’s mountain home. Like a boomerang, they came from Him and I breathed them back. Today, Lord. Will you let it be today?

His yes came just hours later.

I scurried through the self check-out line with detergent and ketchup in-hand, staples that hadn’t earlier made my list. As I reached for my receipt, my phone revealed the sacred number that every adoptive parent memorizes when waiting for a referral — but because we were so early in the process, I didn’t yet recognize it.

“Sara, I have some news for you,” she said.

I stumbled into the car full of friend and children passing the time by singing, and swallowed deep. This is it.

My water broke and the waiting I have worn like an old, comfy bathrobe over my family-building years was exchanged for contractions. It’s time to fight for her homecoming.

Our last trip to these friends’ mountain-home brought with it the news that our first adoption was at a standstill. Three years later, He came with the restoration that says “I will wash over every-single-broken place.

We sat on the referral for days, unheard-of in most adoption circles, but my insecure heart needed the surety that this field-of-fear — adopting outside the birth-order and older than we’d anticipated, on top of some extraneous details of her story that brought some concern– was His to win. My already-reminded heart needed more reminding.

And the Remind-er patiently reminded me.

With the mountains at our back and Kansas tumble-weed blowing across the great plains, we made our final decision. This five-year old would be our five-year old. Eden would be, as she calls it, a virtual “twinnie.”

I picked up the phone to call our coordinator and as the receptionist wired me through to her line, out of the big-sky blue, barren of all but windmills, rose a hand-painted cry on a small billboard: “Adoption, Not Abortion.” One farmer’s declaration was God’s signpost for me.

Another detail, just in time, reminding us that He has written life onto our DNA and that, when we asked Him a year or so ago what we were about as a family, one of His responses was Life. At any age. Anytime.

The walk over hot coals is full of reminders. Full of daddy hand-holding and whimsical kisses that say trade your fear for Love, there’s a win on the other side of this.

I’m not sure which will be the bigger salvage here: her life or my fear-threatened heart.

So now we wait for our second referral. And when that comes, we pack our bags and go global.

In the meantime, please pray for our daughter on the other side of the world. And the name we’ve given her?


Please pray for Hope, that’d He’d whisper to her heart that we are coming.

My Father, Her Father Too on “Mothers of Daughters”

I have a new post on Mothers of Daughters that starts:

I was tucking in the last sheet corner of my bed before heading to the children’s room to announce that “reading time” was over, when it struck me.

His whisper to my spirit: What is surfacing is My response to your prayers.

The running dialogue in my contemplative-morning mind that day, and days prior, was a series of questions about her.

Questions to Him, questions of me.

Her need had emerged in a variety of unusual-to-her ways and I had expended my typical responses. I was left wondering    continue reading here –>

Just Another Chance, continued

I am a glutton for routine. If I was not encouraged otherwise, my children’s fondest memories might just be centered around the every-day mundane that so many loathe and their mommy loves.

Enter Beth, my cliff’s notes for the creative. Thanks to her, this day — like a handful of others — has gone from black-and-white to color.

Just another chance, just like with him, to say to them the things we laugh and whisper about when their minds are asleep, dreaming, and ours are spilling over with thanks.

First, a scavenger hunt of Mommy’s favorite of their quirks on paper, hidden across family and living room, where little eyes can search them and little fingers can reach them. E: I love how you dance. C: I love how you wear daddy’s smile.

Then, when word-gifts were received, reveled-in, giggled over and scattered …

… the real prize for hungry bellies, who don’t often know sugar, was revealed.

And consumed.

Tradition was forged in a full-contact feast.

Every last drop, a treasure.

No morsel left behind.

Just another chance to make the love of the Man that is changing me sweet to the ones He is using to do so.

Thanks, Beth, for the tip.

Every one of their memories is built on ideas I’ve stolen.

Just Another Chance …

At twenty-three when every-day demonstrations of this new love we’d uncovered seemed as simple as breath, an extra star on the calendar over February 14th was unnecessary.

At twenty-six when we finally dropped “new” in our newlywed existence, Valentine’s Day seemed extraneous. Hardly mature, but no longer green, we passed over bears and candies and flowers for seeming deeper expressions of what was being worked out of us and into us through our marriage. We tapped a deeper well, waters desperately needing filtered, and one day of the year to pretend love was light seemed foolish.

At thirty I re-instated it. Hard-lines on our faces from hard years needed exposure to light. A dinner out, a reason to laugh, a day on the calendar was like a tickle to a recently disciplined child. We were loved. We did love. This love was to be celebrated.

And while I’m not into cupids, and bears and candies would qualify as tchotchke in our home, I have earmarked today as just another chance to speak life into him.

Because words matter. Mine, to him, more than anyone else’s.

The thoughts about him that slip through my mind, between the breakfast table and mid-morning play-dough, need voice. And our relational God — who gave the waters their form by a word — gave us practice in knowing Him as groom through an earthly stand-in.

So today, like president’s day, groundhog’s day, grandparents’ day, and next Tuesday, and the following Wednesday … is just another chance to make the love of the Man that is changing me, real to the man he is using to do so.

Nate, you have been used to turn my world upside down. For many years I resented this, but somewhere in there gratefulness sprung up and has since produced the tree of forever-grateful in my heart.

I like my life upside down.

Thank you for growing up with me, when it was “grow old” that we’d actually vowed. You have callouses to show for years of long-suffering with my fickle heart.

Thank you for not bending. Not flinching. Not leaving.

I lay life’s highest compliment at your feet: you make me want to know Him more.

And you also make me laugh. A lot.

And you laugh at me. A must.

My Inheritance Is a Man

The project was simple: design a city, in three dimensions. Take childhood wonder and add construction. Glue stick and mini-scissors, your tools: Create.

Adult-sized splinters of light through second-grade motor skills. Big vision, tiny architects.

It set my mind spinning, ideas dancing through my imagination.

Weeks later, interrupted by dozens of refused offers of help from Mother and Father, the due date arrived. I experienced a growing level of frustration — as what had developed in my mind’s eye was compromised in translation. But I was relentless until the final hour.

Carrying my second-class results with A+ effort project to the teacher’s desk, I had the confidence of my daddy behind me. I held a seeming mess and he, one hand on my shoulder and the other in his pocket, carried a playful note he later told me said “I know where you live. She deserves at least a B.”

He read my angst.

I slid my project alongside the others and he slid his note in her hand.

The contrast was stark. Architectural artistry beside the best of what my construction paper and scissors could work-up, it was obvious my classmates hadn’t refused their parents offers for help.

I wore that day like a badge on my sleeve. Not quite was my elementary interpretation, that later, became a growing verdict over my internal thought-life. This incident wasn’t necessarily a catalyst, just an early warning sign. Aim high but settle for much, much less. You will never match up to what you envision for yourself.

I’ve spent the better half of a lifetime building a case against myself. Unknowingly, until it grew obvious. Subtle threads of thought reminding me of the chasm between what I expected of myself and where I landed. Day after day, they became my food.

Standing at the foot of a cross which promised me an exchange for the awful parts of me for the beautiful parts of Him, I had my chance to dispose of the growing plague inside of me that sometimes was manifest as pride (the greatest form of insecurity) and other times as self-hatred. But I chose to take it with me. This pet demon had become my friend. Existence without the constant drip of negative evaluation couched in self-improving analysis seemed impossible.

Enter adoration.

The thing I keep writing about and just can’t stop doing. Opportunity to lift eyes off me and up on Him. His thoughts about Him and His thoughts about me, sweeping out the cobwebs. One simple verse, a heart make-over.

I accepted them, these small vials of death that looked like vitamins, only until I started to look closely into the face of the man who invented me. The creator’s eye cast a different light on my failings, and my adoration offered a new viewfinder.

And so I just keep adoring.

Some days it’s five minutes, here and there, others it stretches until the very last minute before little brown fists knock on my morning door. Each time I never regret that I came.

So until we have our new website in place with a separate spot for my new hobby, I’ll break up life-and-times writing with excerpts from my new kind of morning chai.

Consider it an invitation to pull-up a chair, rest your weary mind and look up.

Here’s where I’ve been the last few days…

Psalm 16:5 O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance …

Not a set of blessings or platitudes. No spiritual disciplines or godly character traits, just You. My inheritance is a Man. A God-Man. Intimately knowing me, ever calling me up and into intimately knowing Him.

My inheritance is knowing a Man.

You wrap your arms inside of me and You embrace. My shame is no barrier to You. You take all of me. An offering in Your touch, it’s You. You are the offering.

The lines on Your face, layers of history with flesh made by You, but tainted by sin’s sting. You are a long-suffering God, waiting on Your people while they spend their days running. You are a kind God, speaking mercy to those, like me, whose case against themselves they serve to You with punishment’s expectation. You are a God of hope that doesn’t look away from faces full of fear.

You see all.

You know all.

You penetrate.

The worst of me is lost in the best of You, my Inheritance. I take brokenness as my dowry and You say, “bury it”, and You offer me the riches of a Man who never once looks away in disgust.

I’ve inherited a Man. Ever-unfolding, each day new. Relationship with the Man of Mercy. Stepping into my inheritance is a dance with a Man. Old in my habits, I am young to You, my Inheritance.

And You are offering it to me early, before time’s due.

Early taste of my one-day inheritance, is a today — now — inheritance.

I’ve inherited a Man.

Paparazzi Update

I have no intention of making this story more dramatic than it already is, I just simply am not in a frame of mind to find humor out of the $454 I spent yesterday on my 4 tickets and all the events leading up to the forking over of that cash.

When, at thirteen, I wiped out on rollerblades for the third time and re-opened an old wound that sore hopes for getting healed while it was attached to my clumsy-self, I knew my life was made to humor. Somebody.

This story will be funny, at some point. Just not today. Or tomorrow. Or next month when we review our Quicken budget.

Expensive mistakes age like wine.

Stay tuned. . .

The Kansas City Paparazzi, continued

I’m going to have to put a brief pause on all this contemplative-ness and fill you in on a funny little thing happening in our home, that is at risk of being not so funny in just a few days.

This past fall the Kansas City Welcome Wagon visited my home, my mailbox. Often. The last moving box was no sooner unpacked before I was indoctrinated into this city’s controversy — the photo enforcement program. My right-turn on red stop was more like a pause, or a serious thought about a pause … that never happened. Four in two weeks, all on the way to the prayer room, not one of them missed by Big Brother.

My husband gleefully laid aside his concerns about the financial implications of my actions, as this was his chance to tote the good-driver patch he never even came close to earning in Virginia. Compared to my tickets, his veteran 2-month Missouri driving record looked squeaky clean.

Sadly, all of this actually was my chance at fame. It won me a spot on Kansas City’s local news. Yes, someone somewhere lent a sympathetic ear to my blogpost and, within 24 hours of it being published, my family was asked for an interview. “We’d love to do a story on your adoption,” he said. When I dug a little deeper, he sold the story as “a local family who couldn’t afford to pay for their adoption and bring their children home because of the wife’s ever-growing photo enforcement tickets.”

Not exactly a winsome pitch.

I graciously declined. We like to be hopeful about these things and not so pessimistic, I said.

Though guilty-as-charged, with video to prove it, I decided then that I’d like to stand before the judge and … beg for mercy. I have most certainly learned my lesson, Your Honor. How about I just pay for one?

It seemed like a great plan until today when I realized my court date is in just a few days and if they don’t waive any of the fees I will pay $100 per ticket, plus the interest accrued since the tickets were issued, plus court costs. Picturing myself in my cute pant-suit that I haven’t worn since I had a job with a dress code, with a child on either arm, standing before the judge just doesn’t seem as compelling now as it did when I requested a court date.

Now I’m just chicken and feeling a lot like resurrecting a skill I learned on Sunday mornings as a child. I want to fake sick.

I don’t want to go.

In every way these tickets have reacquainted me with my youth and all that comes with adolescent reason. With a 4-week old drivers’ license, donning my cheerleading uniform after a football game, I strained my neck to watch Julie kiss Jim outside the stadium and forgot that I was actually operating a vehicle with three other passengers inside. Thankfully the car in front of me was full of other teenage-types, more excited about our school’s win than the dent my car left on their parent’s bumper. This, just days after I finished shouting “Sophomores rule!!” or some substantive remark to that effect to parting friends in the McDonald’s parking lot, and found myself, sunroof open and music blaring, driving against traffic on a 4-lane stretch of road. Again, three passengers. Three witnesses. Thankfully one of them yelled “wrong lane” quickly enough for me to correct my course.

At the time I had bigger concerns than the potential outcome of my actions. What if my friends wouldn’t ride with me again?

Some things never change.

Replace, what was then, Milli Vanilli with Seeds Family Worship and, then, three overly-compensating-for-their-insecurity pubescent passengers with, now, two preternaturally confident Africans …and you have a re-enactment. Call it a high school reunion, if you will.

My only hope is that Wednesday is a snow day.

Sneak Peak

In the coming weeks (or months, if in Mommy-time) we’re going to be shifting to a slightly different platform and “Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet” will be on its own site.

Writing is my exhale.  The deposits of God that come in through both the loud and the quiet hours of my day find their release in writing. And while I love to dabble with both quirky anecdotes and more serious contemplations, I have most especially found a home in adoring God … through my writing.

So this new venue will still include a-few-times-a-week blogposts about everything from adoption to adventures in hair to finding God in perplexity. No changes there. But in a small, back-corner booth, I’m going to put pen to paper on what’s been inviting new perspective.

Adoration. Looking into His face with intent to praise. Raw, through the lens of a little girl in an adult body, short breaths.

For those of you, like me, seeking an upgrade to your looking glass, here’s a preview:

And I Will Look Up
Psalm 5:3 “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.”

This particular day I am ready for declaration.

After a million subtle assents – of which I’m only faintly aware — slip through the membrane between my mind and my heart, I am ready for a conscious choice.

Clear head, clear sky inviting, I say yes to this. To You.

I’ve made a life out of saying “yes” to small impurities by not saying “no”. The myriad of thoughts pressing in from the moment the evening’s hardened-dew on my eyelashes is bluntly interrupted by the sting of my alarm, to when sleep lazily settles into my over-worked brain, are not-often filtered. I receive and accept, indiscriminately. My perception of myself and my world, continually morphed by glory and grime, equally absorbed.

Pauper and princess, I am — depending upon whose assessment is loudest. And if it’s up to me, it’s usually the former.  My own analysis is most lethal.

Danger is in the unknowing. Danger is the distance between my self-analysis and Your thoughts about me. And my self-scrutiny often flies under the radar. I swallow it whole. I allow and accept unholy from my own hand.

Until today.

A happenstance morning in the prayer room, by my records, is to Him, the choice entrance for new.

One simple verse — unfamiliar; an equation for life. Worship. It changes everything. Adoration, worship’s avenue. It unlocks me. Dusty caverns of my heart hear whispers of deliverance. Finally a light, breaking across the mold, bearing a message…

Simple for the simple-minded who have given themselves to a complexity for which they weren’t created:

And I will look up.

Today I will look up, because in looking up, I forget that I have sinned and remember You are my savior.

Life fixed on me only reminds me of the hamster wheel. Meditations of never-ending fallenness give way to hopelessness. And hopeless I have been, peering mostly inward.

You call me upward, oh God of the up-up-and-out. Promise in your beckon, I have a sense this is my liberty bell. Simply acknowledging You as the savior of my forever-broken soul offers no freedom when my brokenness is my guide.

Drips of spring rain in the dead-cold winter. Unlikely. Unnecessary. Unusual, against my very-studied Christianity. You are a non-conformist, refusing to conform to the way I’ve presented myself to You, refusing to further give way to my anorexic understanding of You.

You catch me at eye level and bedazzle me. Spellbound, I follow You with my eyes-up, without realizing that my long-evaluated self has just been allowed reprieve. And here I find You. And you’re so good that my virgin-to-fascination eyes can’t look away.

And what seemed like a chance encounter is now finding a new resident. Can I stay here? Can I live here forever? Because You are hope and when I adore Hope I become hopeful.

You are beauty and when I adore Beauty I become beautiful.

And on and on …

Yes, something so simple can sear me, seal me, envelop me so that even things like dishes, and dinner, and mid-afternoon squabbles from needing-trained hearts have your writing all over them.

I declare it.

I will look up.

Morning minutes of looking up, adoring you, stretch into a sum of hours of looking up in between laundry loads and children’s bubble baths before I realize I’ve given days to looking at You. And I’m being changed. Finally. The cry of my heart, answered through adoration.

It’s target, limitless.

The more I adore, the more You reveal of yourself.

Secrets dropped from heaven into hands stretched up.

My Assignment

The first sign of inflated dreams may have been couched in “cute.”

After my cameo appearance in the local high school’s Annie, I was convinced I was Hollywood-bound. “It’s a rat!” rang through my home for months in varied pitches and tones. It was the one-line offering of my second-grade stardom.

I surveyed the scope of early-actors, clad in their homemade costumes and somehow decided my stage would be bigger one day. Never mind that I was one step beyond an extra in this performance, not even an understudy for Annie herself. I thought I wasn’t lacking talent, just “undiscovered”.

The carefree nature of childhood fancy, overlooking every obstacle. Fearless in the face of a dream.

Eight years later and I heard a similar murmur, except this time it came from outside. Inside. My introduction to Jesus was quickly followed by a spirit-felt whisper: “you are set apart.” It was other and I believed it. Reverberating into my spirit, there was no room for question.

I stepped into it.

It wrapped around my faith and, in a way, became a sieve for all I processed about walking with Jesus. It made me willing to be more “out there” than I might have otherwise been because — after all, what did people who are set-apart do but live in set-apart ways. It contributed to the thrill of following God, as my assessment of even other believers around me was that not everyone wore this locket around their necks.

In His graciousness, God let me conform what I did to my interpretation of that simple phrase. He wasn’t threatened by any young-blooded misinterpretation. The rock of ages let it age.

Patience only a Father with long-term vision can own.

Ten years later, and a drop of understanding came in a dream.

I dreamed I was at my own funeral. The person speaking was a Young Life girl, one into whom I poured much of my time, energy and prayers. She had become a believer on my watch and was currently praying for her family and friends to be transformed. She was a disciple of Jesus that He’d assigned me.

She was my legacy.

In my dream, at the funeral, she didn’t say all the things I would have expected of her. No accolades about my impact on her life. No stories about how my influence had facilitated her heart and life change.

These were her words: “The most significant thing about Sara’s life was that she held the key to Nate’s heart.”

I woke up in a cold sweat, unable to measure the gravity of what this dream’s message exposed, just aware that it was not an ordinary response to too much pizza.


Revelation came in, the Weaver’s hand waiting for just the right opportunity. No detail of life unattended by Him.

Hours later, I began to make connections that only weeks, months and years would bear the fruit of understanding.

In my burgeoning faith, I did not hesitate to attach meaning to “set apart.” Big. Loud. Noticeable impact. People saved from the depths, both physical and spiritual. Hundreds, thousands reflecting the stream of His life in my life. Fame with christian-skin. My pride-filled heart believed that was said in hushed tone to me, would soon be known by many, …”she was one who was set apart.”

The kindness of God let me start to play the part. And just when my parched mouth showed late-signs of pride’s dehydration already settling into my bones, He spoke when I could not talk over Him. Being “set apart” in the upside down kingdom is not a natural rise in stature, but a strung-together series of hidden opportunities to show your hand to only God.

His assignment for me at that time was vastly different than the one I assumed for myself.  I was giving my best — my all — for that which was visible at the expense of the quiet — unknown to all but two — callings that really are the making of a man. And a woman.

Each season brings with it a new assignment from God. Some stay on for a while, over years, like the ring-bearing one reminding me of covenant’s anchor, and others pass like sand through my fingers. All of them invite the fulfillment of that word written on my fifteen year-old heart, but almost none are observable to the naked eye. Vapor to all but One. Invisible emblems.

“Set apart” by His standards is our heart’s response to those seemingly insignificant assignments. Gold concealed is the dish-washing, toilet-scrubbing, clipping of toddler fingernails. The wal-mart worker, laid off from corporate climbing, has a chance at the kind of success that will never be taken from him.

Jesus is found in the hidden seasons, saying in a voice only we can hear because if others could it’s power would be diminished: “you are set apart” and “I am found here.” What my immature mind perceived to be unique to me, is in fact an invitation to all of us.

My eyes for fame at seven were God-given. Early hunger-pains to be set apart, His doing. Tender fingers under wisdom’s calluses have gently undone what I built up as a result of that infant-whisper. With years of bruises on my knees from trying to climb out of the manhole God hid me in, I look back with Him like He’s a college crony and we’re dreaming about our glory days. Just me and Him.

Lord, let me never make one of your thousand small-but-so-large assignments become my footstool on the way to the one or two I might have in my lifetime that have only the appearance of being bigger.

You determine what counts.

Give me Your eyes for my now-assignment.

Misunderstanding, My Opportunity

It came from left field.

Harsh words in an email. False accusations over text message. Even the other end of the phone line, became a vehicle for dispensing seeming hatred. A string of barely-coherent vile, at least that’s how it felt. The words themselves are ones I’ve not read again, not once, but what came with them was like a weighted blanket over my soul.

My poor husband received them, about me. What’s worse than fielding unfounded allegations towards yourself, is taking the hits for your best friend. That’s what he did.

But there was a greater story going on than the rapid-fire my husband took on my behalf.

The enemy of God’s vindication is self-justification. And the subtle thread of so many of our lives isn’t too far from the mire from which my children are recovering. Orphanhood. We live as if it’s our responsibility to fend for ourselves and, even more, that the end goal of life is to be right.

Fight or flight? I stood in the face of blatant untruth and had a choice.

Except in this upside-down kingdom, to fly is to fight. To go underground, God’s strategy. His vindication is activated when we stop fighting for ourselves and let His assessment of us take the point in our minds.

While this particular line of one-sided discourse, stretching over months and years, was so obviously inaccurate  (and, as a result, easier to dive into the chest of the Father for protection) there have been scores of little misunderstandings of me along the way. And some “understandings” of me, mishandled.

These, the smaller passes of judgment, less-easy-to-dismiss as those that are so wildly-false, have been the making of me.

You haven’t lived unless you’ve been misunderstood, or someone else has gotten mileage out of your failures.

Misunderstanding is a God-orchestrated ushering-in to a theater where the seats are sold out and the capacity is one. The jealous God has words to speak over me that will not be heard if the world around me “gets” me.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

A beautiful prayer, until its implications drag you through the mud and you realize meekness isn’t something you’re born with. It doesn’t come easy for spitfires like me. So when I ask for a godly inheritance, experience has shown I better be ready to have the person whose opinion of me I care most about witness my failure of the day.

But even that isn’t the final word.

The end of it all is not character development. An unexpected run through the mud, in my opinion, isn’t quite worth it to develop one more godly attribute.

The end of it all is a brush with the Son.

The One whose eyes burn through all the accusation — that which is grossly inaccurate … and that which is unavoidably true — to seek the beauty of Himself in His created. The One who will vindicate all things, one Day. The  One who validates who He is in me.

Skid marks on my knees and dirt trapped underneath my fingernails, I was taken out. Heart-racing from the impact of unjust words, sweat beads forming on my brow — perceived judgment makes me fight-ready.

And yet the sign on the door in front of me — at just the height where the impact of judgment’s fall left me — says “welcome.”

Opportunity’s upside-down doorstep leaves me face-to-face with Safety. Life: to search the eyes of Jesus and, in searching, find the only true and accurate reflection of me.

Glory found, glory revealed.

He is fairer than the sons of man.

Ug@nda Adoption Update

Esther, Daisy, Lily, Lot, Ben, Lad.

Eden and Caleb have narrowed down their name list and, if it were up to them, our two new little ones might just be Lad and Daisy.

I think it fits for two Ug@ndans, don’t you?
(By the way, there’s a reason behind why I’m misspelling the country name. Too long to detail, just try and avert your editorial eyes.)

We are officially waiting.

Always waiting, ever waiting, storage boxes full of history notes on waiting and now we carry the label.

Our immigration approval came in record time. Five weeks after we filed it, our mailbox was pregnant with its reply. No hitches. Slightly different than the four months we waited for this precious piece of paperwork last time around and all the pavement we pounded of every congressman in and outside of our precinct to beg favor.

I didn’t even have time to stalk the mailman – it was just there.

As of January 4th, we have been on the waitlist. The nebulous waitlist that could have fifty families, or maybe just yours truly, though I suspect it’s somewhere in the middle of that number. We haven’t been allowed to peer into those details, but we have been given permission to share this milestone on our blog.

We are waiting!

And anytime between now and – who knows when — we will get matched with the glorious two (or three –shhhh! — don’t tell Nate) whose hearts have already been marked with the Hagerty name.

Our second “pregnancy” has been vastly different than the first.

Where there was furious panting around the mountain, a rush to the finish —  fueled by the question “will I ever finish” flaring up at every delay, I find myself lazily inhaling deep breaths as I skip past trail heads I thought for sure I wouldn’t encounter for miles.

I’m so glad I get to do this again.

Some of my casual approach to this second adoption is the result of having morning, noon and night full of two, already under my roof. My leverage is little, and my schedule full.

But these two do more than suck me into a vortex of motherhood, their existence is my history book.

They came home.

Delay after delay after delay, until delay birthed perseverance and the word over my life was no longer pain-filled-waiting, but hope.  I tasted with my own lips the sweet dew of the third-day resurrection of dreams.

All of which would have been meaningless without the wait.

They came home.

Eden said today as I was leaving for my weekly Wednesday stint in the prayer room, face all serious: “Mommy, can I just play some music for you and sing and you can stay here to have your time with Jesus? We can have a prayer room here today.”

It was waiting for the clasp of her prolongedly-infant fingers around the back of my arm that July afternoon that created space in my life for the prayer room.

Hunger birthed, and now I have her too. Fruit upon fruit. Living proof. Waiting changes shape. I am not ashamed that I had to run my fingers along the holes in His hands to see He was real, because He didn’t shame me. He allowed my weak heart. And belief finally took root.

Once a scarlet letter, now a badge. The Hagertys are ones who wait.

Every few days – and sometimes every few hours —  I am faced with the sting of my yet-empty nursery and midriff void of motherhood-marks. It’s still thick and the pain real, reminders all around me of what I don’t yet have. Heavy-laden wait.

But that hot July day when we returned to our home – four, instead of two — decorated with welcome signs and balloons and carried their sweaty bodies, limp from abruptly-ended carseat naps, to their new beds, we inherited a new kind of wait. Waiting unto something greater.

Waiting with hope. Waiting with expectation. Waiting for Beauty’s sake.

It was there all along; I just chose to believe the One constructing the delays different than He actually was.

It changes everything for me when I see the Man on the other end of the wait not as one hurling roadblocks my way which might finally serve to cleanse me from my sin-ridden motivations, but One with a cavernous heart and eyes deep for my deep, gently alluring me to stare at His face and promising that, if I do, I won’t ever be the same again.

And so here we are. Waiting.

But it sure feels different this time.

Guest Post on “We Are Grafted In”

Today I have a guest post featured both on We Are Grafted In and The Journey of Adoption*.

It starts: …
So much of what’s communicated about the world of adoption can feel so fatalistic.

Both the outside observer and the mom who is in the thick of it can share the same bleak perspective. One perceives trouble and the other lives it, daily. Anecdotes about the neighbor’s son who, post-adoption, traumatized his siblings, share equal weight with a mother’s desperate prayer requests for her child, whose countenance has iced-over since they brought her home.

Rewind 10 years and any sort of bump in the pathway to the “normal” life intimidated me.

My secret goal was to maintain an equilibrium in every way. A good marriage, steady friendships, growing impact on the world, faithful-but-not-interrupted walk with God. None of these, in and of themselves, are wrong, of course. But, they couldn’t exist alongside my prayers for a unique intimacy with God.

He let me share, however little, in His sufferings.

Little did I know that what was in front of me would prepare me to administer healing to my daughter and walk alongside my son in his grief. My hiccups found me a Father, and they are teaching me to be a mother. Read More Here –>

*For those in Virginia, and the surrounding states who are pursuing domestic or international adoption, Family Life Services is an agency I highly recommended. They completed our homestudy for Eden and Caleb and our post-placement visits, and we couldn’t have been more pleased.

Mothers of Daughters

I’ve been asked to be a monthly contributor on Mothers of Daughters, a beautiful blog just coming out of its nascency. I’m honored!

My introductory post starts like this:

I expected my twenties to include diaper changes and breastfeeding. Like anyone whose pump had been primed for parenting, I assumed that “trying” to have children meant conceiving children.

A few long years later, I was ushered into motherhood through the back door.

A dream that we had to adopt, birthed when we were young and had eyes full of great expectations for our life, happened in a way we didn’t quite anticipate.

But like any move of God, it was better than we ever imagined. Read More Here –>

Let It Snow

The beauty of snow is best admired from a window.

And the squeals of youth breaking the morning’s powder, best absorbed as an observer.

“But Mommy,” said Eden at dinner last night when we strategized for today, “we have to ALL go out as a family. We don’t want to leave you here by yourself.”

“Oh, Sweet,” I replied with resignation, “someone has to stay back [in the warm house by the fire] and make hot cocoa and popcorn for when you return.”

I took one for the team.

This thinned-skinned mama was happy to play photographer for the year’s biggest snow brigade.

And my Ethiopians are playing the part of mid-westerners quite well.

The God of New

Twenty minutes felt like hours, both because of what happened between when my boots first crunched across the hardened day-old snow and when I returned into the fire-warmed lodge and because of my body’s adverse reaction to anything below sixty degrees.

I stood underneath the canopied expanse over Michigan, and the very big God who created it came near.

In between the tears that dropped, one by one off my cheek and onto my woolen mittens, I heard the movements of those around me — also considering this message. The dark sky created a hiding place for the hundreds of hearts in that field, first exposed to the God whose eyes had been fixed on them since before they were born. The curtain was pulled back and a new dawn offered, in the night.

I’d grown up in church. I believed in Jesus. I had my own Bible. I paid homage, year-after-year, to His death just before devouring scores of peanut butter filled chocolate eggs. Our big events revolved around His big events.

But the notion of His appeal for relationship, however many times I may have heard it before, was new this night.

And as my fifteen year-old frame, wrapped in layers of long-johns and down, considered Him, His unraveling began.

I met Him at the nexus of need and newness.

I sometimes wonder now if, when I walked back into the gathering place that night, I knew my life would never be the same again.

We were made for new.

And November 13, 1992 was just the beginning of hundreds, if not thousands of “new’s” my life would encounter.

The enemy of God is the enemy of new, whispering to our spirits that true safety is found in familiarity. True life — in just slightly modifying the old.

But we, who are made up of cells that regenerate, were designed by a God who required a nearness to Him in order to have our whole being made new. Every single part of us was to be made new.

So my teenage angst that faced the scrutiny of a Father’s eye, who couldn’t wait to  speak love into the veins of defeat that coursed through my self-consciousness called adolescence, was only just the beginning.

New marriage, Sara.

New view of your husband.

New alliances with those who could walk you through your dark valley.

New perspective on your body.

New approach towards the middle-of-the-night fears you’re embarrassed to speak about in anything but hushed tones.

New hope for what everyone else may have written off.

New eyes for what impact really is.

New words to write.

New brush with the Father. Over and over again.

Not just one little testimony of a life once saved by the indwelling Jesus, but pages and pages and pages and pages of personal testimonies of the the Man who just can not stop changing me.

I wondered, the morning after the biggest decision of my life (a decision which matched the magnitude of what I should wear on the first day of school — a big deal for this high-schooler), if I would get bored with this God. Would my desire fade? Would this crush end?

And in the months and years ahead, when it was threatened, it was always because I stopped seeing Him as the God of new. He’s never boring; but I can be.

The God of new makes all things new.

And He calls me to settle for nothing less than His fingerprints on every area of my life.


A few years back, I surprised Nate with tickets to Handel’s Messiah, but the gift ended up being mine. For two hours I sat fixed on the musicians whose unique expression of personality, diligence, and passion was fused into something that made me worship the One who made them that way.

So much of my life is ordered, it’s easy for me to believe I wasn’t made for creative worship.

Enter writing.

Every once in a while, this mom (whose favorite accessory is her planner) needs to have a place to play her instrument.

So another edition of free-skating

In the wee hours of this morning when my offering was slim and gravity was still pulling my eyelids shut, You met me.

I came empty-handed, and left with another early deposit of my inheritance. It may also be a dowry, as my husband and family are sure to benefit from the strength you are pouring into my weak spirit.

You continue to love me this way.

Over and over again.

You show up most when I am most aware of my depravity, and are not put off by how I’ve failed you. To the contrary, you move in. You engage. You call me up and out.

This morning’s whisper was a building block. Because you are a God who builds. Last week you told me, “every single broken place” in reference to your restoration. “Go for broke,” you said. “I want to redeem it all.”

My mind danced around all the scenarios — from small to big. Stinging words. Severed relationships. Trust awry. Empty womb. Really, God? All of it?

I settle for scraps and get full on morsels.

But not for your daughter.

Feast, you say, not famine. And this morning, you, my father the builder, added to your words.


You are abundance. Abundance can be found in even just your eyes. And at six a.m. I knew it. I became acutely aware of my frame needing the fat that only the father can provide. Compared to all that is found in you, I am starving. And yet I feel like I’ve had my fill.

Oh God, time is short, increase my capacity.

What a shame to stand before you on that day only to find the acres and acres of land, full of harvest, left unexplored simply because I was all- too-satisfied with the castoffs. You will still allow me in, but how I will grieve my missed opportunity on this side for the depth of your touch.

A new kind of portion control.

Expand me on the inside so that I might receive all the fullness you have to offer. Grow my dissatisfaction with anything less than all of you.

Stir up hunger.

Prepare me to receive the abundance of you, God. Now. Not when it’s too late.

“My Heart Hurts”

I have this thing about cleanliness.

When things in my home are in order, my life feels at peace. Though my standards have devolved since having children, I still have some. Dust bunnies that used to haunt me have now simply become my excuse to Nate for why we don’t need another pet (his long-awaited dog). But I still develop a twitch about things like fingerprints on the walls, shoes out of place, crumbs on the counter tops.

And food on kids’ clothes. Or anywhere other than in their mouths, where it should be.

I’ve watched mothers of infants, totally comfortable overlooking the breast milk that is caked in a sphere around the top of their children’s onesie. The lingering scent appearing almost pleasant to them.

Not me.  Something about food dripping from the corners of one’s mouth, only to find a home underneath fingernails, in the middle of a neck crease or on a freshly-washed shirt, just grosses me out. Young and old, I can’t quite stomach it. I’d put a bib on my husband if he let me.

So, my children have presented a unique challenge. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that we have covered a sum total of 4 years of developmental milestones in one year. I have cleaned up diapers in between my children tracing their letters. What they missed in Ethiopia we are making up for here.

Most of those things have just felt part of the package to me and I’ve readily welcomed them.

Except the food thing.

When we first brought the children home the amount of food that ended up anywhere but in their mouths made me seriously consider dressing them in trash bags to eat their meals. At a weak moment, after sweeping up the food from underneath the breakfast table, I pondered just putting it in a bowl and serving it again for lunch. Anyone who wasn’t there to witness the actual consumption might have thought my children were throwing food in the air and trying to catch it in their mouths, with about a 10% success rate.

And days that I thought it was getting better (by gauging the smaller foodpile on the floor after a meal) only ended in discouragement when I would later find half of Caleb’s meal trapped in the crevices of his neck.

I vividly remember washing salmon out of Eden’s hair one morning. It wasn’t visible to the naked eye the night before, but somehow, it had worked its way down to her roots and made a comfortable nest between her curls.

Fast forward a year and a half, and we’ve made major strides. By “we” I mean that I have learned to walk into the other room and take a deep breath before responding to Eden when she’s somehow managed to drop the straw of her smoothie in such a way that I have spinach and blueberries scattered across my ceiling or when I hear the dreaded “uh-oh, Mommy” from Caleb’s mouth, indicating he’s just put his arm through his oatmeal. Again.

Their fine motor skills have improved dramatically (and I’ve started cutting their fingernails every day so as to eliminate any opportunity for food storage — ok, not really), but these quirks unnerve me at times.

The end of this story is the whole of this story.

Last week my patience was taut with things like I’ve described above. There’s no quick fix for these things. It’s a slow plod. And some days I feel the weight of adopting older children more than others.

But God always brings me back.

I was upstairs, taking one of those deep breaths I referenced and I hear this.

“Excuse me, Mommy. Mommy, my heart hurts.”

I head downstairs, as we’ve been dealing with some minor health issues with Eden so a “heart hurting” is something I don’t want to ignore.

“Yes, sweet. Where does it hurt in your heart? Does your chest hurt?” I ask her.

“No, Mommy. My heart hurts. It’s my heart.” she says.

“How does it hurt?” I prod.

Mommy, my heart hurts for people who don’t have any money. Can we pray for them?”

And that we did.

Though we talk and pray about people who are without, I’ve never spoken those exact words. This was not a mommy mimic. It was real. We’ve noticed her pretend play involving she and Caleb, at her instruction, distributing food and money to those who don’t have any. She, somehow, has an acute awareness of that from which she was delivered.

My little girl may miss her mouth 5 out of 10 bites, but her heart is alive. Her development is somewhat delayed, but God has rendered her one to hold His heart. She has what matters.

God came to me gently with a profound reminder. I am the steward of her life. If I can walk in His grace for the more difficult, adoption-related issues, I will get a front row seat at His glory displayed in one whose identity used to be her brokenness.

That’s adoption.

[As an aside, Caleb astutely recognized mommy’s heart-melt at Eden’s confession. A day later he brought his own testimony, though he slightly faulted in the delivery.

“Mommy, my stomach hurts,” he said to me. Now the kid rarely complains about any physical hurt, so I paid attention. He followed up with this: “My stomach hurts for people who don’t have any money.”

I wrapped my arms around him and whispered in his ear: “I think you mean your heart.”]

“I Think God Still Speaks”

“Babe, I think God still speaks” I heard on the other end of the line.

I still remember where I was, nestled underneath our down comforter in the 1940s “cabin” that was our first home. As we were doing renovations on this rental (in exchange for our rent) we discovered the master bedroom had no insulation. Literally. In August when we uncovered this little quirk it was funny; in December it was distressing.

The sun had set on the east coast and I had a night “off” from ministry. I was warming myself in the only place possible, under that down comforter, while Nate was having his own brush with heat.

At a Young Life staff conference in Colorado, he and another friend had met the new staff person on the block — a 50-something who was re-entering the “work force” after her children were mostly raised. And, after one of the evening sessions, they were all sitting around telling stories when this woman began to show her cards. As she shared her testimony of God’s work in her life, it didn’t stop — like most I had heard up until that point — at her moment of conversion. The stories that proceeded revealed a woman who was saved unto something.

She heard from God. Often. Through impressions deep in her spirit, dreams and visions. Just like the Bible says.

I had anecdotes in my back pocket from my early days as a believer where God was real and I had tangible evidence of His breaking through the expanse between heaven and earth to make Himself personal to me. But they were few. I had settled into believing that each person was allotted a small number of these in their lifetime.

Nate, on the other hand, had made more of a conscious intellectual decision about this topic after much study and conversation. To Him, the God of Acts, the God who gave specific direction and spoke through angels, had ceased functioning in that way when that chapter of the Bible was closed.

His chance conversation with this woman came on the heels of a prayer both of us had prayed (independently of one another) just months earlier. God, if there is more of you than what we are experiencing, show us. Our hearts had grown notably cold. As comfortable as we were talking with people about God, our discomfort with our own experience with Him was obvious — at least to ourselves. So I suppose the hungry heart was more willing to receive new data than the one that was satisfied.

And he couldn’t wait to tell me about it.

She wasn’t crazy like we had inadvertently categorized so many who claimed to have heard from God. Her stories, though some wild, were mostly personal. God was flesh to this woman. And there was no denying that she was in love. On top of this, she knew His word better than any layperson we’d come across (again, flying in the face of our previously construed perspectives on those who “heard” from God).

Like two children, giddy with the mystery that life presents to youth, Nate and I set out on a scavenger hunt to discover if God really was one who speaks. Daily. And often.

Nate hit the books. Commentaries, autobiographies and various theological exegetics filled our shelves. He spent the beginning of that next year writing his seminary response paper on the voice of God and what scripture had to say about it.

While he studied, I experimented.

For some of the first times in my life, my prayers became listening prayers. I wanted to hear what God might say to me. And I chose to risk being wrong (something that had made me averse to this pursuit before) in order to have a few encounters with the God I had dedicated my life to. I asked for God to speak to me in dreams. I prayed for visions like those of the early believers.

After a year or so of asking questions, studying, informally interviewing those gray hairs around us who had walked the Bible, we made a major course correction. Although, at the time it felt only natural. Simultaneous to our prayer if there is more of you, God, show us our personal lives had begun to get rocked. In small ways, then which became greater ways later. And as I’ve seen in so many, personal hunger for God was birthed out of pain and perplexity. If you can endure the pain, rather than avoid it at all costs like you might want to, there is dramatic life change to be had on the other side. The hunger which comes out of pain creates a space to receive Him in ways that go beyond the limitations of our mind and flesh.

The bitter really does become sweet, see.

Nine years later and that scavenger hunt has become a road map. His Word (and, I suppose I should hasten to clarify, His written Word) led the way.

This weekend, a friend remarked to us, “any plateau is dangerous.” And my experience with God, prior to that fall of 2001, had been one of constantly making provisions for my plateaus. I’d built a personal theology around creating excuses for a God I’d slowly settled for as boring.

When in actuality, I was boring.

At fifteen, I signed up to follow a God who would change my whole world. But when my resistance to change grew stronger than my desire for encounter with a a dynamic God, I subtly relegated Him to being a man whose story was captured in full in the pages of a history book.

But God had mercy on my broken heart. And He broke my world. So that I might ask for more.

Then He gave me a taste of more. And I was ruined for anything less.

Tonight, that God who spoke to my 50-something friend, is waiting to speak to me. And tomorrow, He has plans for me, if I would just listen. There is not one single day intended for boredom in the kingdom of God.

Lately He’s been whispering to me time is short.

I only have 80 years on this earth, give or take a few. Oh, God, let not one day be wasted.

2010 in Review

“Please Adopt” read the sign about 100 yards from the turn into our new neighborhood those months ago. Car weighted-down by the caterpillar car-top carrier we inherited from Nate’s parents, and our hearts heavy with expectation, we saw it just before we pulled into our new home for the first time as a family. Of course,  it was intended to remind me of the need to keep our nation’s roadways clean — but to me, instead, it was a prophetic banner.

Adoption is woven into my DNA, yet if you caught me on a day when I wasn’t thinking about it, I would forget my children are former orphans.

2010 marks our first full year as a family. On January 1st of last year, my children padded down the stairs of my sister’s house in their footy pajamas, ready to welcome in the new year with their new cousins. And twelve months later, on December 31st, I tucked them into those same guest beds, except this time they drifted to sleep satisfied that they had fulfilled their duty as Maddie’s cousins on her birthday. Last year, birthday celebrations were a new experience. Cakes, candles and presents unfamiliar to them. This year they belted out the lyrics of “Happy Birthday” with ownership. ‘Cause Hagerty’s celebrate.

So my 2010 album doesn’t include as many “firsts” as did my album from the year before, but it’s just as significant.

Caleb is looking more and more like Nate (as much as a boy with brown skin could resemble his white-skinned father). And Eden’s flair for the dramatic continues to give my mom a sense of restitution; finally I understand the road she walked with me. Nature versus nurture? It’s both. They are ours. My miracle delivery, whose birth canal bridged two separate continents, reveals the creativity of our God.

Below is our year in review. His year in review.

Well, more like our creative “outtakes” since this blog already has so many of our best photos.

For those of you who are called, but who haven’t yet taken the plunge, maybe these will be a tangible testimony that despite challenges there is rich fruit waiting on the other end of that decision. Like the sign outside of our neighborhood, another nudge that says “please adopt.”

For the rest of you, I invite you to celebrate with us the God who gave us these two (whose adoption day is now a very past tense occurrence). ‘Cause Hagerty’s celebrate.

2011: A Year to Learn the Lines on His Face

This fall has given me new eyes for hope and, really, how much my life and perspective has lacked the hope of Jesus. I’ve held onto my glass half-empty far too long. As I’ve been asking God His vision for my 2011, I naturally assumed the answer would be hope. My year to hope. My year to lay worst-case scenario expectations by the side of the road and pick up a new motto that says “I will hope.” Simple. Natural next step in my progressive plodding towards the throne.

But He said uh-uh. Not enough. Think bigger this year.

Hope is a bi-product. Beautiful as it is, in itself it’s not something to pursue. As I’ve asked God for His vision for this next year … for my family, my marriage, my children, my writing, my stance towards Him, my relationships … this was the phrase I got:

Pursue the lines on His face.

When I ran in Virginia, there was a small clan of us who would cut through the morning’s quiet with the pitter-patter of our stride on the pavement. Leaving and returning to my neighborhood for my run, I’d pass the others. I knew only a few of them, but I’d memorized the stride of each one. From one end of our main road to the other I could tell who was coming my way, simply by watching the way they ran. My friend Gigi had a determined stride. Older-man-with-a-pot-belly-clutching-a-nerf-football had a quick stride. Retiree-who-wore-the-same-jumpsuit-every-morning was slow (but steady).

I always thought it funny when I actually met one of these who I shared the early mornings with. The neighborhood chili cook-off, or a conversation by the pool would allow for an introduction to one of these stealth runners and I’d think, as they walked away, “oh yeah, I recognize that gait.” I knew their frame, but the few seconds that our paths crossed each morning didn’t allow me to really see their face.

I guess I’ve been sobered lately by the thought that I could live my whole life knowing the outline of God — only to have the intricacies of His character, His nature and His stance towards His people available, but unfamiliar to me. The Man I’ve pledged my life to offers me a close-up, that I could easily overlook in my own comfort with the broad strokes.

My time in eternity — for the rest of my life — will be built upon the relationship that I have with Him here. And I want to get as close as I possibly can. Front row. ‘Cause He’s just too good to put on hold.

Things like hope and faith and joy are inevitable at the discovery of this Man who knows everything I ever did and yet pursues me. And so I pursue Him. A close look in His eyes, if He will. A long stare at the beauty of His face. I want to study  Jesus and stand ready to receive the life-change that is inevitable from a brush with His person.

The few moments I’ve gotten lost in descriptive from scripture like “fairer than the sons of man”, “grace is poured out upon His lips”, and “my beloved is white and ruddy” have made time stand still.

The face of this Man is limitless.

And this year, that is what I will seek.

Happy 2011 ~ can’t wait to see what You bring.

Here’s another blogger I’ve discovered, also naming her new year.

Guest Post on “(in)courage”

Happy New Year! Ooh, I love the opportunity to see life as full of new beginnings and fresh starts. Because it is.  All the time.

And, umm, I love my new planner.

I have a guest post on a beautiful site for women called (in)courage.

Go check them out! (click on the button.)

Guest Post on “We Are Grafted In”

Today I have one of my posts featured on We Are Grafted In.

If you’re like me and don’t have time to scan lots of adoption blogs, but would love to glean from others who have walked this road before, this site is an excellent resource!

This Is My Beloved (Free-Skating)

I never would have guessed that my manual for life, my handbook on God, would be tucked away in the Old Testament, in a little book I once thought was just a poetic love story between a man and a woman. Years later, the most worn pages of my bible are that 8-chapter book called Song of Solomon. It is here that I first discovered the complexity of the God I spent years trying to codify.

To continue on with my newly-established, weekly free-skate, here are some of my reflections from chapter 5 of that frequently visited book:

He is excellent as the cedars.
When my world was winter, the smell of cedar overwhelmed my senses and drew my attention away from winter’s sting.  Towering overhead, they broke the sky and formed a hedge around me. Their canopy, my hiding place. Their strength and history became my tent. This patch of forest, though only known to me because of my long-resisted walk through the wilderness, became a homestead. My wayward spirit encountered the permanence of an evergreen.
He is excellent as the cedars.

He is chief among ten thousand.
Directionless and lost amid the hustle I had made of life. My facade of strength had long faded, its weak beams now exposed. Invisible to the eye of any leader who pursues only like-minded proteges, I shrunk back.

But He noticed me. His upside-down power, a boom off of beauty’s ship, offering me a lifeline. And offering me His leadership. I was under new management. And I was given a seat at a round table better than that known to kings. His counsel was perfect. His leadership, safe. He is chief among ten thousand.

His eyes are like doves, by the rivers of waters.
As I panned the river bank for some sign of life, I caught glimpse of His gaze that made my being shudder. One look of His eye, likened to the glance of a bird limited by its lack of peripheral vision, and I was discovered. He pierced through layers of my insecurity and uncertainty to find the soul He created. I was made in His image and He was enraptured by His likeness.

Where the exhaustion of the rapid’s toss and turn left me limp, His eyes spoke of hope. The river from which I emerged, easily forgotten in light of the Man whose eyes beckoned me out. I was known. His eyes are like doves, by the rivers of waters.

This is my beloved.
Your still, small movements are my opportunity for discovery.
Your voice like many waters. Your head like the finest of gold. Your lips dripping with liquid myrrh.

To reside in love is to know both the lines which define Your face and the outline of Your character. Take me on the pursuit that requires more of me than remembering Your shape and form but invites me to become acquainted with the intricacies of Your features.

At the end of my days, when the starting point for the next leg of my journey is the platform I built here, may I be one who, when finally face-to-face with you, can say This is my beloved.

For I want to know You when I see You.