One Year Home

An entire year has transpired since we brought our son home. It has flown by and crawled by at the same time. So much has happened this year, it’s hard to believe that it’s all been packed into one year.

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Those first days…gosh I felt so uncertain of everything. How strange it was to have a new son, who was four years old, finally home after all these years, and feel like I didn’t know a single thing about him. Will he sleep? What does he like to eat? What is he saying? What does he do? What toys does he enjoy? Seriously? Like, what am I supposed to do now? Deer in the headlights.

Cocooning at home was much harder than I anticipated. I felt isolated and overwhelmed, yet suddenly “bored.” If “bored” is even the right word!? Stunned? Listless? Traumatized! We took things at a snail’s pace here and introduced people and places very slowly. It’s such a strange thing, really. To want to do and show him so much, yet so carefully inching through life’s events. It’s also exhausting… monitoring how he’s processing, constantly watching for signs of stress. Gas, brake. Gas, brake.

I think after an adoption process that takes so long, your brain etches a pathway of longing, waiting, and frustration. Then, they finally come home and you’re still left with the pathway that still needs to slowly close and heal. It’s like PTSD! It leaves you in a sort of funk…and YES, you’re happy and elated that your child is finally HOME! But, now you’re left with the trauma of it all, and you’re also pouring all of your guts into trying to figure out how to parent a child who is essentially a perfect stranger with orphan responses and behaviors. Meanwhile, you simply DO NOT have the capacity to maintain outside relationships and friendships. This is where you find your true people, I think. The ones who give grace upon grace and expect nothing. The ones who text you words of encouragement. The friend (or sister in-law!) who says, “I’ll be at your door when you need me. In the meantime, know I’m praying for you today.” Or, “I’m stopping by for a few minutes to bring you tacos and a hug.” Let me tell you, those friends and family members were the wind in my sails.

It has been one of the hardest years of my life, and also one of the best years of my life. God has shown up.

He’s taught me how to give myself grace.

He’s taught me how to love a child born of another woman.

He’s broken my old heart and given me a new one.

He’s shown me what true friendship looks like.

He’s shown me how love and care can transform a little four year old soul.

He’s reminded me of the gifts that I have in my bio kids, who have struggled alongside us, and have grown up a whole lot.

…and He’s been merciful to all of us. We have all grown and changed. And with all the change, all the pains of growth, we have somehow been welded into this new family. God has done the welding with His skilled hands, making us stronger than before.

Changed. Different.

New, together.


Photos by Kim Calabrese


Water from the Sanctuary

When we moved into our 150 year old home on five acres, we named it Engedi. A place of rest, a getaway. A place where King Solomon would take his bride for a little vaca (Song of Solomon 1:14).

Moving into this peaceful country life after living in the ‘hood, was a welcome reprieve. Engedi was a name well-suited. I couldn’t believe we LIVED in this place!

Eight years later I still feel the same way about our home, and I simply thought of Engedi as the little place Solomon references.


I’m coming off a weekend spent at an adoption conference in which I heard amazing stories, took frantic notes, connected with other adoptive moms, and came home encouraged. The Holy Spirit met me there, and had something for me. I kept hearing Him  whisper one word to me: REST. Which, in all honesty, did not feel like it made a lot of sense. Rest? Seems odd given the season I find myself in: homeschooling my children, keeping our home running, working hard on helping my son adjust to family life, being intentional in my marriage, etc. Rest? If I rest everything falls apart, that can’t be right. Rest seems counterproductive. Surely the Holy Spirit wasn’t really telling me to rest.

But rest is hard work. It forces you to quiet spaces where God to sheds light on the corner cob-webs of your heart. It’s hard because I have to reflect. I have to set things aside that keep me distracted and numb to the pain I don’t want to face.

Don’t we need rest in order to have strength?

How can I have strength to do my job well if I’m depleted…emotionally, spiritually, physically? After all, my family benefits from the overflow, and is hurt when I am malnourished.


Today I finished reading the ENTIRE Bible. Something that only took me like…four years, but I did it. I had read everything except for the book of Ezekiel. I kept starting it, reading a little, then going to other books. I COULD NOT get through that book. It made zero sense to me and was…well, weird. But I KNEW God had something in there for me, I just couldn’t imagine what, because I trudged through passages that felt a bit like gibberish!

I was almost to the last chapter, and I was just excited to be done. Then I read this in chapter 47, verses 10-12:

Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea…. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary.Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.

And the Holy Spirit nudged me, winked, and said, “THAT is what I wanted you to see.”

Water for the flows from the Sanctuary.

Fruit for food.

Leaves for healing.

From Engedi to Eneglaim.

Our home, Engedi. A place of rest. This place we call home, is where I will water my children with love and truth, and the water will not run dry because it flows from the sanctuary. The leaves that nestle around the abundant fruit will be for healing.


My son from Haiti has had a lot of loss in his short life. I cannot begin to fathom the hurt that lies far beneath the surface of that beautiful smile. But I do not fear the future, because God has entered me in a season of rest. This rest from God will grant me water from the sanctuary. And from the sturdy vine, fruit when there’s hunger. And along with fruit, leaves…for healing.



Living in the Exhale

It’s been six whole months since we brought Djoulensky home from Haiti. Those early days feel a little like a dream…not in the romantic sense, but in the sense that it’s a bit of a fog. Everything felt a little strange and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to be doing. I had a new son, yet it felt a tad more like glorified babysitting. I felt guilty because some days I didn’t “feel” the love I was “supposed” to “feel” for a child I called “mine.” Thank the Lord for a good adoption community, where so many other adoptive moms told me to be patient with myself and allow love to grow, as it doesn’t all come at once. And that’s ok.


So I let myself grow into love with him. And have done my best to let go of guilt for not feeling it all at once. The thing is, I DO and always HAVE loved him. He is easy to love. I think I was hounding myself for not feeling the same for him as I always have for my bio children. Adoption is weird, you know? It’s not entirely natural to have a four year old suddenly be a part of an existing family unit and who is of a different race, different culture, different language, and has spent three of his crucial years in an orphanage. Yet as we have longed and prayed for him, as I spent nights weeping for him…missing him so much I thought I would break in two………I now have a peace in my heart knowing he is sleeping soundly upstairs. I feel relief, like the deep sigh after a really hard cry. And at the same time, I feel a “pressure??” to have all the love all at once. It’s all just so weird.

Did all of this really happen? Did that wait and longing and frustration and trips to Haiti and fundraising….all actually happen? It feels like a past life. It was as if we were holding our breath for four straight years, and now we exhale. We breathe in, breathe out. I have said several times that I feel like I can finally sleep, all that angst and breath-holding had me tossing and turning for too many nights to count.

So for six months, we have lived in this place of exhale….the long breath out. I know God isn’t done with us, I know that God will continue to place things on our hearts that require obedience once again…a new level of trust and a new level of faith. But for now, He’s simply telling me, “live in this for now.”

I have a son who is still new to me, who needs all of me. I find myself challenged in parenting on a whole new level. I suddenly require to have more of everything: patience, understanding, grace, love, kindness, self-control, knowledge, discernment.

Yet I cannot forget my other jobs that require all of me…Lilly who has really hard math and daily medications and a constant eye on her health. William whose dyslexia has me putting forth massive effort to make sure he’s getting the one-on-one attention in school he needs. On top of being a teacher to my children, I am also a wife, a cook, a housekeeper, a driver, a friend. I am bound to fall short at any one or more of these on a daily basis. And I am learning….that that is ok. I find more and more that grace abounds in my shortcomings.


So as for now in this space and season, I’m just going to live in this exhale. Knowing that we will all find more rhythm as we all learn grace and patience for one another. God is not requiring any giant leaps of faith, but is instead requiring I do this incredibly important job of building His kingdom by instructing my children. In some ways, that requires more faith and trust than those giant leaps. Small, unseen, every day giving and sacrifice…praying that God will use each of my children to harold the good news of the Gospel, that each of their hearts will love Him deeply and find unending joy in their Savior.


The exhale isn’t as glorious or exciting as trips to Haiti or giant platforms to speak and proclaim the gospel, BUT. It’s God’s current required work nonetheless. And I might argue, equally important.

The space in this exhale is full of peace and gratitude. God has done this, and it’s humbling to experience a fulfilled promise, the result of obedience, the fruit of faith.




When God Calls Out My Orphan Responses

“Mommy no love Djou.”

Those were the words that came out of my son’s mouth this morning as he watched me hug and kiss his older brother.

It caught me by surprise, and yet I’ve been watching for moments like these.

I looked over at him standing there, head hung low, with his massive frown. I went over to him and took his face in my hands and tried to find the right words to say, with my limited creole and his limited English. Oh how I begged God in that moment for him to understand that my love is never divided. My heart hurt for the years I didn’t have with him, the years that factored into this moment where he thought my affection elsewhere meant no affection for him.

These are the red-flag moments that have me scurrying to my adoption books, looking for answers and correct responses. But in the middle of my page flipping, God whispered to my heart. “Djou’s response is, yes, that of an orphan who didn’t have you for the first four years of life, but his response reminds me of you. How long will you believe my love is for everyone else, and not you? How long will you believe the lie that I don’t delight in you as much as those around you? My heart hurts like yours does in those moments that your son claims you don’t love him.”

I didn’t even realize I had been doing it…believing the lie that God isn’t as into me as he is others. I listen to my favorite podcasts, I read my favorite authors who write in the loveliest of ways and they breathe God’s love for them, I read through the blogs of women who are living out God’s mission in the far corners of the earth, or I listen to speakers who communicate so well all the things of God and have the ear of thousands. I have no desire to be these people, but somehow I started to believe that God is for THESE people more than He is for me. Those who are OUT THERE, being the hands and feet of Jesus.

In so many ways I see myself in my son. And as I yearn to tell him the truth of who he is and what he means to me, I find I need to learn it too.

I need to believe that God loves me and is for me, even when I fail in the every day. I need to believe that washing the dishes, changing sheets, mopping floors, making dinner, and educating my children are just as worthy as speaking to the masses. My delight rests in pouring into these little souls God has entrusted to me. Serving and loving them to the best of my ability and asking God to fill in the gaps.

Just as I yearn for my son to KNOW my love for him, God desires for me to KNOW His love for me. And if I still struggle with this after following the Lord for thirty years, I will simply grow in patience and understanding that my son might not grasp my love for him today, and that’s ok. My love won’t change. And neither will God’s.

Joyous Beginnings

A new season is upon us.

It’s been almost a month and a half since we all walked through the doors of the orphanage, unceremoniously picked up Djou, and began our journey together as a family of five.

Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed. If that even makes sense. It’s so difficult to find the words to describe the last month and a half. It’s taken a while to realize that HE’S HERE! He’s home, we are DONE with the adoption (well, other than the social worker update visits and the readoption process, but whatever.)  He is OURS. Can this be real? Something we’ve prayed and longed for for so long, and here we are, living the days we’ve longed for and dreamed about.

I have had to remember what it’s like being the mom of a busy toddler. We’ve all had to adjust to having a new member of the family, and Djou has had to adjust “being” a member of the family. There have certainly been challenges and I realized that over the years I’ve become very comfortable in my “me” time since the other two kids are older now. It’s been challenging to find time to read my Bible (read anything for that matter), take a shower at normal times, take naps, make dinner, go shopping, flip through instagram, put on makeup, do my hair…and even now at this moment, I managed a shower but my hair will air dry all wonky and I’ll end the day without makeup. I am putting a lot of energy and thought into parenting, as parenting an internationally adopted child is somewhat of a different ball game. I have to be intentional and conscious of every decision I make to parent him. And that’s just kinda exhausting.

But here’s the thing: I love it. God’s given me a real joy and love for my son and I delight in him. I was terrified….terrified….that he would come home and be a holy terror and I would not love him, or I would greatly struggle to love him like a mother needs to love her child. That’s the real deal, and it’s not out of the ordinary for many adoptive mothers.  I prayed, begged, petitioned, and pestered God over and over for one thing: give me YOUR love. I don’t have the amount of love it will take…I need God’s love. I knew that the seeds of this love were sown the day I walked away from my son while in Haiti. We had to leave and I didn’t know when we were going to see him again. I felt God’s love fill me that day, and I knew it was going to be ok. But, I wavered and lost trust that God would really help me. I feared I would fail, I feared I wouldn’t be enough, I feared God would abandon me to be a mother to a child I didn’t know how to raise.

Day after day, as I learn my son and delight in his infectious smile and sweet laugh, I hear God whisper, “See? See, I told you. Now, enjoy your son, raise him up in My ways, and wait for the plans I have set before him.”

So, even though I’d love to go take a nap or read a novel for pleasure, I am simply living these days in awe and delight. My son…oh, how I love him. I love, love, love this boy. I keep thinking, “it feels like he was always meant to be mine.” I know that statement comes with loss. One mother lost and one mother gained. I know that in a perfect world, Djou was not meant for me but meant for the mother who carried him in her womb. But I also know that God saw the brokenness before time began and made a plan. One thing I know for certain: God has a plan for my son. I feel it, I sense it. He is unique; special. And, I get to be his mommy. I get to be the one to talk to him about Jesus, I get to see him grow and mature, I get to be the one to kiss his scrapes and see him lose his first tooth. I don’t take that privilege lightly.

So this is what it looks like: day after day, I continue to learn more of him. I continue to grow in my love for him and I pray he continues to grow in his love for us. What a kid God has created, what a kid.

Something Sacred

Sometimes moments are so big that you know you have to tuck it away in your heart and tell yourself, “I’ll process that later.”

I am still unpacking the moments I spent with my son’s birth mom. It feels sacred and I hesitate to even share it. But I don’t want her to go unnoticed; I don’t want her to be a mere shadow hiding in the story that has loss holding hands with gain, fingers intertwined.

The day came, and we walked to the orphanage in the morning around nine in the morning. She had just arrived and was waiting for us. I quickly calculated in my head what time she must’ve gotten up to get there so early since it was a five hour trip in a tap tap, and I knew it would have cost her a lot of money to make the journey.

As we entered the gates, my hands were shaking and my stomach was in knots. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea how this was going to go.

Three women sat in front of the blue tarp that hung from the outdoor school. I figured she was one of them, but I didn’t know which one. I looked at each of their faces and knew, since I had been wondering where my son got his eyebrows from. Their eyes were the same, beautiful and kind.

She saw Djou and said, “Hello, Djoulensky!” I gave him to her and she sat him on her lap. She spoke with him in creole. I have no idea what was said, I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around what was happening.

I introduced myself and gave her a super awkward hug. Soon someone came to translate for us so we could talk to one another. I had my list of questions ready, not for my sake, but for my son’s sake. I wanted to gather as much information as I could so that as he grew, and his questions came, I could answer them with certainty.

The conversation was deeply personal and it ripped my heart in ways I didn’t know it could rip.

She loved her son, and she desperately wanted me to know that. But she didn’t have to tell me, I knew it by how she looked at him. I knew it by the pain in her eyes as he sat on her lap. I knew it by the tone of her voice as she chatted with him.

I sat there and took in her face, her voice, her mannerisms, her smile. My heart synced up with hers and I felt a bond forge with this woman I had just met. A bond that would exist until the day I died, because I held her loss in my arms.

I wanted to tell her over and over that I would love this boy who we both call “son”  with all my heart. I wanted her to know how I wish she wouldn’t have had to make that choice, that I was sorry and I wish her life could’ve been different. I had so many words I wanted to speak…but all I could do was swallow the giant painful knot in my throat, that threatened to lurch out of my mouth and betray me with tears that wouldn’t stop once they began.

We took a lot of pictures; I wanted to fix her in my memory. I wanted my son to know the sacrifice his mother made for him. As she her other son got into the back of the truck to go back home, I couldn’t help but wonder how she was feeling. She was driving away from her son that now belonged to another mommy, not sure if or when she would see him again.

The magnitude of the time I had just spent with her broke through the levies, and the sobs began. Haitians don’t like to show emotion and I knew it would make those around me uncomfortable, so Lane told me to go find a place to gather myself!

I went into the kids’ bathroom in the orphanage and braced myself on the side of the sink and allowed myself to feel the pain, giving into breath-heaving sobs.

I knew I’d never be the same again. Not after that. How could I be?

My gain is her loss.

My delight is her sorrow.

My joy is her pain.

So my job as his second mommy becomes that much bigger. I have a responsibility to her, I have a promise to keep. I will cherish those precious, tender moments with her and I will tuck that bond we share deep into my heart. She will not be forgotten, she will not remain in the shadows. She will be praised, she will be remembered, she will be loved. She will always be his first mommy.


Why I’m Begging You to Stop Telling Me to “Trust in God’s Timing”

“How long has it been now?”

“Four years…” I say, bracing for the reaction I know is to come.

“Oh wow. Keep trusting in God’s timing!”

There it is…

I smile and nod, “MmHmm!”

Countless: that is how many times I’ve had this conversation.

It’s not that it isn’t true. Is God’s timing always perfect? Yes. Is He ever late? No. Do we learn much in seasons of waiting? Yes.

Yet while this is true, and all of us who are believers can rest in God’s ultimate sovereignty over all things, there still exists a struggle that I don’t think many Christians are even aware of, at least not those who have entered in to the trenches of warfare.

There is a reality that exists here that we don’t often like to acknowledge. We are a practical people, unenchanted, demystified, and intelligent. We chock all unexplained seasons of wait to “God’s timing” and don’t consider a spiritual reality, one that is at war every day for our souls.

When we were in Haiti with our son, I experienced an unseen feeling of darkness. This darkness seemed to cover the land, thought the landscape took my breath away with its beauty. It felt heavy…yet, in the midst of this, I felt protected. As if there were angels hovering over us wherever we went. I could sense the darkness, but it could not touch me. I CLUNG to the Lord for DEAR LIFE. Every moment of every day I was in prayer, an open line to the heavens, constantly asking for God’s protection. When we left our son at the orphanage each night, we prayed that angels would guard over him and God would grant him safety and protection over the things we could not see.


Psalm 91:11 – For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

Before this, if I would have heard this story from someone, I might have rolled my eyes and giggled at the believer who thought there were demons lurking behind every bush. Yet I feel my eyes have been opened to the spiritual realm that exists.

I think all will be revealed to us in time, but we as believers might be shocked at the spiritual battle that was fought for our children to come home where adoption is concerned. Satan knows He will ultimately lose, but that doesn’t stop him from creating delay, administering fear, doubt, discouragement, bitterness, and worst of all….despair. He enjoys the ease of his victory especially with Americans, who are too demystified and comfortable to believe in real spiritual warfare.

Neither Satan nor his legions of demons want to see God’s will accomplished. They do not want to see people walking out their lives in submission and obedience to Christ. They do not want to see the orphan claimed by God, or the widow taken care of, or the oppressed freed from chains. They are working to delay what is good and right, and desire for hatred and evil to flourish. So we enter into this battle and pray our guts out. We pray that the angles of the Almighty continue to push back the darkness, that we would not despair, and that we would not fall asleep, but be vigilant, on guard, and at the ready.

Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, and enjoy our comforts: our comfortable church pew, our comfortable home, our play, our food, our busy and distracting lives. We can use Christianese to explain why an adoption from Haiti takes so long, and think that’s all there is to it. “Trust in His timing,” BAM! Nailed it.

Or, we can take off our blinders, dress for battle, and enter into the war that is at hand. We can climb down into the trenches and sit on our knees in prayer, pleading on behalf of the orphan. Pray so hard that your knees shake,  your nose drips with snot, and your face is drenched with tears. Do not be fooled, there is nothing more powerful than the prayer and tears of the saints, crying out to God in one voice, asking Him to unleash His power to push back the darkness. And there is nothing more damaging than the believer who doesn’t believe the war is at hand, and therefore does nothing but speaks “Chrisianese” without ever experiencing raw and bloody knees.

Oh lovely, sweet, well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters, please stop telling me to trust in God’s timing. While trusting in God is so true and so paramount, I beg you to prayerfully consider if this is helpful. Get in the muddy trenches with me. Bleed with me. Cry out in prayer with me for my son to come home. Hold my hand with your bloody knuckles and tear-stained face, lift my weary arm around your shoulders and THEN say to me, “God is with us, and we MUST keep trusting.”