How to See the World More Clearly

Once again I have the privilege to introduce you to another dear mama blogger: Lea Turner. Once again I have to say I love her message! Lea is a mother of five—two of which are nonbio—and one of which is brand new. If anyone can address the topic here today, she can.

In the midst of busy, busy, busy, how do you see clear enough to make an impact on the future? You might be surprised at Lea’s answer. 

What would you want your life to look like in 20 years?

At the beginning of 2017, our pastor asked that question.

The challenge of this question is its demand to focus on what matters most. To scale back the fluff of life and ask what of today will matter tomorrow?

I take the challenge and write one evening what I want life to look like in twenty years:

Continue reading “How to See the World More Clearly”

Yes, She’s My Real Sister

I tend to write heavy stuff because I feel it’s essential we shine a light on the issues we’d rather keep in the dark.

Sometimes, though, encouragement is best gained from someone who points to positive experiences. Someone like Katie Carper. Besides the fact that her writing captivates me, and besides the fact she’s another owner of dark curls, Katie is also an adoptive mom. But mostly I’m intrigued by the fact that she brings to her children—and to us—lifelong experiences as a sister to three adopted siblings.

How refreshing to read the perspective of a child impacted by adoption. I hope you’ll find the same enlightenment from her story that I did.

Yes, She’s My Real Sister

Mar 27 Sisterhood is Real

In the early 1970’s, my parents learned that they would not be able to have any biological children. Though they had always considered adoption as a way to grow their family, this devastating news led them down that road sooner than expected.

After adopting two boys, Dad and Mom thought to increase the estrogen level in their home, so they adopted an infant girl. She was a dark-haired beauty with olive skin, full of giggles and spunk. They named her Melanie.

Ten months after the birth of my sister, I was born. Seems doctors can only make predictions regarding procreation. The Long family now swelled to two boys and two girls.

Growing up, I struggled to connect with Melanie, my almost-twin. I did not value our differences, made more apparent as we shared a bedroom. She was not bothered by a bit of clutter; I was a neat-freak. At 9 pm, she grew more animated while I crawled into bed. She often hit snooze; I jumped out of bed to beat the sunrise. Melanie did not stress over academics; I had mild panic attacks before every test. She was the optimistic extrovert; I was the overthinking introvert. She excelled in music; I began to sweat when pressured to publicly sing “Happy Birthday”. She had dark, silky smooth hair like Selma Hayek; I had a thick, course mane, like a brunette Ronald McDonald.

We were never mistaken for sisters. Strangers were stunned to learn we were siblings and even more confused to discover we were just ten months apart. Despite our conflicting personalities and interests however, I always thought of Mel as my big sister. I was happy to share stories that began with these two endearing words: “My sister…”

Over the years, many have asked, “So, is Melanie your real sister?” Real sister? What does that mean? Was that word a subtle attempt to cheapen Mel’s role in my life because we weren’t sisters by blood? Was it a question born of curiosity? Or did it reveal an ignorance in matters of adoption-speak? Whatever the reason, each time I was asked, I felt the need to explain myself, to provide concrete evidence that we were siblings, to prove to some jury that she was my legitimate sister. I imagined we were caught in a scandal, our sisterhood finally exposed as a fraud. Several years passed before I could name that feeling as shame–shame that we didn’t share the same womb, family history, physical characteristics, or core personality.

I’ve come a long way since those awkward, painful moments on the other side of that insensitive question. Time, adoption resources, and talking with other adoptive families have helped me to feel less alone as I’ve worked through those feelings of shame. I now have only deep gratitude for how God made us sisters through the pain and beauty of adoption.

I feel privileged to have enjoyed such a rich childhood, full of memories with my big sister, my only sister. Her feet kicked my own in the double bed we shared as kids. Beneath the handmade quilt and cool sheets, her brave hand reached for mine when late night thunderstorms scared me stiff. Those same strong hands yanked my thick hair during our knock-down-drag-out fights. Her fierce green eyes lost their sparkle when faced with my cruel words. Her stifled snorts only encouraged me to make her laugh harder when we got the giggles in church.

Melanie has always been and will always be my real sister. When we connect, we share real hugs, real laughs, and real stories while we sip our real blueberry wine over a real game of Scrabble. Regardless of the insensitivity of others, we know with certainty that our sisterhood is real and no one has permission to diminish that truth.

20170327 Katie CarperKatie Carper is a recovering people-pleaser with a strong sense of justice and a deep desire to include the excluded. She’s grateful for coffee, laughter, and this adventurous life with her husband and 4 kiddos. You can find her at where she blogs about community, faith, adoption, and special needs with hope, humor, and a good dose of snark. She also shares snippets of her life on Instagram.

Pushed into the Deep End

{Oh, the stories! Stories of heartbreak, confusion, disillusionment, and despondency. Not just my stories, but others have them, too. Stories validate our feelings. Stories give us hope. My story of parenting five children adopted from Russia is shared often in these pages. But what about the stories of other such moms? You’ve simply got to hear them! The struggles we all identify with are present in their stories – along with the hope that not all is lost.

Today, I have the privilege of sharing words of wisdom from Sarah E. Frazer. Sarah understands the struggles of parenting a nonbiological child; but she also believes God’s Word. Sarah shares her stories and her hope beautifully. I’m so grateful she’s allowed me to share them with you today.}


Appalachian summers are filled with heat and humidity. 70 degrees feels like 90. On the really hot days, our family would pile into the minivan and drive three minutes up the hill behind our house. Mom would park at the bottom of the hill. My brother, sisters, and I would pack-mule it up the concrete path. Chlorine and 90’s music greeted us as we walked through the entrance to the city pool. The teenager behind the counter would smile, and pull out our family’s membership card. We dumped our snacks, towels, and blow-up rings in our usual spot: next to the baby pool, but within view of the deep end.

The water, cool and blue, beckoned us to jump. My ten-year-old brother would run to the deep end and climb the high ladder to dive into the 12-foot section. I was content swimming in the shallows. Even though I was a good swimmer, the dark blue water frightened me. I didn’t like to swim where I couldn’t see the bottom.

Sometimes my brother and his friends would sneak up behind me and push me into the deep end. I never found it humorous. I was always mad about it. I didn’t like the feeling of not touching. Panic creeped into my heart as the water lapped beside my neck, seeping into my mouth.

I wanted to know what I was jumping into. I still do. I’m a planner. Last year, I had a plan. As we began the adoption process, I was pretty sure I was prepared for the unknown, even planned for it. I thought I was ready for whatever God’s plan was for our family. But I wasn’t.

As I sat on a lumpy hotel bed in the middle of Zhengzhou, China, I realized I had just jumped into the deep end. And I was mad. The water of fear rushed around my face. I tried to grasp onto truth, but I felt my fingers slipping. God had called us. We had chosen this. But I felt pushed. Pushed into the deep end. I thought, This is not what I signed up for…..

Even a year later, I remember the feelings of drowning. The rushing water of uncertainty, creeping up and over into my comfortable life. It wrecked all of my hard work. Destroyed my plans.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11 (ESV)

In the middle of my ocean of fear, I couldn’t praise Him. One day I might praise God, but not today, I thought. I held out my hands, empty of praise and found a friend’s hand. Community surrounded our family. We knew the waters were deep, but God had not abandoned us. Until we could touch the bottom, they jumped into the water and held us up.

Living in the deep end, with the waters of fear looming close, brings me more to my knees and to Scripture than ever before. And to my friends. I poured myself into God’s Word and prayed every day for strength. I began living one day a time. It was all could handle as I treaded water. 365 days later, I’ve realized that’s ok. Our God provides just enough. Enough forgiveness. Enough strength. Enough hope. I’ve come to see a change in circumstances will not bring praise, only the truth of God’s Word and trust in His plan.

And slowly my anger melted into praise. Praise to the Father and Son who has revealed how deep His steadfast love truly is – especially while I learn to swim in the deep end.

Oh the river it rushes to madness
And the water it spreads like sadness
And there’s no high ground
Closer to the danger and the rolling deep
Closer to the run and the losing streak
And what brings us to our knees
Sara Groves

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7-8 (ESV)

I understand that the deepest part of your heart just wants this hard place to be over. I ask you to walk through whatever circumstance you are facing one day at a time. You aren’t alone and you are made to be exceptional, right here, right now. I wrote a book about living in a new normal and finding grace for the moment. The Glorious Ordinary is an invitation to study God’s Word in your everyday life. You can find daily strength, joy, and peace when you look in the Bible. Read more about the book here.

20170227-sarah-picAs a momma of littles and wife to a busy husband, Sarah spends her days making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, reheating her coffee ten times a day, and sneaking quiet time with her earbuds to drown out the screaming. Sometimes she worries her sticky tables, cluttered counters, and crumby floors are not enough. Maybe she’s not enough.

In the empty places of her heart, Sarah has found God is enough. Enough to satisfy all of our longings. Enough strength to do the work He has called us to do. Enough hope to lighten the dark path. Enough grace to cover all the mistakes. Enough joy, even for just today. Sarah invites you to join her as we study God’s Word in our ordinary days!

When the Lies Creep In (by Jenny Marss)

Oh, the stories! Stories of heartbreak, confusion, disillusionment, and despondency. Not just my stories, but others have them, too. Stories validate our feelings. Stories give us hope. My story of parenting five children adopted from Russia is shared often in these pages. But what about the stories of other such moms? You’ve simply got to hear them! The struggles we all identify with are present in their stories – along with the hope that not all is lost.

Today, I have the privilege of sharing words of wisdom from Jenny Marrs. Jenny understands the struggles of parenting a child with attachment issues; but she also believes God’s Word. When I read her thoughts a few months ago, something deep inside me said, “Yes!” I’m so grateful she’s allowed me to share them with you today.


I wanted to write a post about our little family’s Advent traditions this morning. I wanted to share something light and straightforward.

Yet, here I sit, my hands hovering above the keyboard. I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. I refill my coffee.

I check my Facebook notifications one more time.

I start a load of laundry.

I’m avoiding the words I need to write.

The words pulsing through my head. The ones I can’t quite grasp, the ones just out of reach. I know I need to find them and they need to find their way through these tapping keys. I know because of the long discussions with fellow mommas and the text messages and the email steeped in sorrow I received this very morning.

The thing is, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to share the hard while still protecting my girl. And, honestly, I wonder why I need to share any of this. No, no…that’s not entirely true.

God keeps whispering, you’re not the only one.

And, maybe, just maybe, there is one who needs to read these words today and rest in the simple truth that she isn’t alone either.

So, how do I say this? How do I say that my daughter, the one who has been here under my roof and in my care for two and a half years now, still doesn’t understand that I’m her momma?

Yes, she knows the words. Yet, she doesn’t know.

In adoption circles, this term is called attachment. A strong, secure attachment is the pinnacle of achievement for us adoptive mommas. It’s the measuring stick we use to determine our ability to implement “connected parenting.” The style of parenting we studied about at the workshops we’ve attended and in the videos we’ve watched (repeatedly) and in the stacks and stacks of books we’ve read.

A faulty attachment is the equivalent of a faulty parent. You see the lie, of course. It’s clear when typed out in black and white. Yet, when you are living in the lie, you slowly start to believe the whispers of the enemy. You start to believe you aren’t good enough. You start to believe you really and truly cannot do this. You start to believe you heard God wrong. You start to believe that all of the people who have loved and prayed and advocated and donated and sent gifts and cheered at the airport will see through the veneer and find out that you are a fraud.

They’ll see you as you are: a momma who desperately wants her baby to love her back. A momma who tries and tries and tries. A momma who shuffles schedules and bills in order to get her girl the professional help she needs. And, a momma who eventually closes off bits and pieces of her aching, rejected heart. A momma who lets resentment and anger and fear and frustration and heaps of guilt creep in as the days pass into weeks and into months and into years.

I’ve been walking through a process called Chavurah with a small group of dear friends. Chavurah is a Jewish tradition, translated from Hebrew meaning Fellowship. Chavurah is traditionally a small group of like-minded Jews who assemble for the purpose of facilitating prayer services, sharing communal experiences and Jewish learning. In our case, we aren’t Jewish, yet we are applying the practice of gathering each week to focus intently on the gospel and the working out of the Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven in our daily lives.

This week’s practice has us shifting our mindset to one of a rejoice prayer. According to A Guidebook to Prayer:

“Rejoice prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude. It lifts our eyes to the hills from where our strength comes. It reconnects us with God who delights in our praise. By praying with gratitude we are lifted in spirit and we are given a broader perspective. The Holy Spirit comforts us and reminds us of Jesus’ love. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to see beyond trials to the power of the cross to turn on the light in every place of darkness.”

As in life, this post will not have a tidy bow holding it together. I don’t have the answers, I know the brokenness in this world and in our little love’s past is abundant. I also know love is greater than fear. And, I know each day is a new opportunity to practice love and to pray for healing. And, certainly, I know the Holy Spirit gives me wisdom to see beyond these current hard days straight to the power of the cross. I absolutely know He alone can turn on the light in every single dark, desolate corner of her heart and mine.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. {Lamentations 3:22-23}

There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you. {Deuteronomy 33:26-27}

Because of God’s tender mercy, the light from Heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to the those who sit in darkness and to in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. {Luke 1:78-79}

20170130-jenny-marrs-web-resizedJenny Marrs is a wife and mom of four. She is passionate about fostering authentic community, social justice and adoption. She loves deep conversations with close friends, thrifting and sipping from a steaming mug of fresh pressed coffee on her porch swing. She blogs at Blessings & Raindrops where she encourages her readers to seek joy in the midst of the ordinary and relentlessly pursue hope even when brokenness is abundant.