When Stephen and I first started trying to get pregnant, I kept a journal. Yes, a handwritten journal—you know, something that can’t be read by anyone and everyone. In that moleskin notebook, I wrote out my prayers, thoughts, fears and excitement. I wrote about what I imagined the baby would look like, what traits of mine or Stephen’s the baby would have, and whether the baby would have Stephen’s blonde hair or my dark brown hair.
After months of keeping that journal, I grew restless and frustrated. I was writing about this child who didn’t even exist. I thought to myself, “Girl, you are absolutely crazy. It would be one thing if you were actually pregnant and carrying this child, but you are acting as if you can write this baby into existence.”
And so I quit. I tucked the journal away and didn’t look at it again. To be honest, I don’t even know where it is anymore. I may have thrown it away.
Before I quit writing, however, I ordered a different journal from Shutterfly. I wanted to write letters to my child—letters filled with prayers, hopes, dreams, etc. So, obviously, I wanted a nice notebook. The spine says “Dear Baby Hamby” and the front says “You are my greatest adventure.” I think, somewhere deep in my mind, I believed I would use it one day soon.
It was delivered to the house right around the time that I decided to quit writing that journal. I tucked that special-ordered journal in a drawer in our guest room, and I didn’t look back.
Fast forward 16 months to February 2017.
We had just made the decision that we were going to be moving forward with adoption. We signed up for an informational meeting, and we let our parents, grandparents and siblings in on our plans. As we were sitting at the dinner table one night, I told Stephen that I wanted to make a dedicated effort to write letters to our child. I told Stephen that one day, I want to give our child a journal full of Mom’s prayers and thoughts. I want him (or her!) to know that my love for him began the day that God opened my heart toward adoption. I want him to know that God did a mighty work in my heart. I want him to know that before we ever finished the home study, before we were ever matched with a birth mother, before we even knew anything about him—we loved him.
Stephen got up from the table, walked to the guest room, and pulled out the special-ordered journal from months ago and said “here.”
Isn’t God amazing? I thought that journal would stay tucked away and never looked at again, but the Lord is so gracious. The words on the front—“You are my greatest adventure.”—describe adoption perfectly. What an adventure.
I won’t share much about the words written in that journal, because they’re private and not meant to be shared. But recently, I was referring to Scripture when writing out a prayer. I referenced Psalm 139:13—“you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” I praised God for the woman who will one day (if not already) carry the child who will be placed in my arms. I’ll forever be grateful to her. But then I continued writing, praising God for not only knitting that child together in his birth mother’s womb, but for knitting that child together in my heart. The Lord is so gracious, and I praise Him daily for giving me the ability to love a child I haven’t met yet so deeply.
That’s a term I didn’t really understand until we started the adoption process. Sure, I knew adoption required a lot of paperwork, but I don’t think I truly understood how much. But gosh, y’all. It’s a lot. We each had to write autobiographical statements, telling our life story. There were about 43 questions we had to address in this statement. Mine was originally 12 pages, but I finally edited it down to seven. I’m sure our social worker was thankful. In the last month, we have gathered references; rounded up birth certificates and our marriage license; filled out questionnaires about our families and childhood; completed “child preference” questionnaires—don’t get me started on that; made contingency plans in case something happens to us one day; drew fire plans and marked escape routes; listed all our assets, debts and values of our house/cars/possessions; made copies of social security cards, licenses, and car, home and life insurance policies; pestered our vet to write a letter saying Rosie is happy and healthy; provided a list of every prior residence; gathered letters from our employers; made copies of tax returns; and much, much more.
It’s a lot.
It would be really easy to complain and say, “People don’t have to do this before getting pregnant!” Actually, I have said that. I said it right around the time I was drawing floor plans for our home and marking every possible escape in case of fire. I grumbled and muttered under my breath, “No pregnant woman has to do this before her baby is born.”
But, y’all, it’s so worth it.
The moment a baby is placed in my arms, I won’t care about the hours spent making copies and tracking down the necessary information.
The hand cramps from signing our names on 50+ pages of paperwork? They won’t matter.
The frustration I felt after the 17th revision of our profile book? It will be forgotten.
The hours spent writing an autobiographical statement? It’s in the past.
It’s worth it. I keep reminding myself of that, because I know that this is only going to get harder. The waiting period, I know, will be one of the most excruciating times of our lives. But the frustration, pain and anxiety I feel now can’t compare to the joy that is coming.
It’s worth the wait.
Around this time every year, I choose a word to meditate on for the coming year. I spend time praying and asking God to reveal what He wants to teach me. Usually, the word I pick reflects things I’ve already been learning and want to continue to learn. My word for 2016 was “light.” Obviously, “light” has several definitions, and I applied each of them to my life: I asked God to shine a light on my sins; I turned my burdens over to the Lord, making my load feel lighter; I prayed that God would light my path and make His ways known. Light was manifested in my life this year. Praise God for giving me that word.
I’m claiming “content” as my word for 2017. It stems from Philippians 4:11-13. Paul writes:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I’ve often struggled with contentment, with being satisfied with the life the Lord has given me. I find myself dismissing the blessings that are already in my life and holding out my hands asking for more. More money, more clothes, nicer possessions … material things that don’t matter. But I also find myself discontent because I don’t feel like God’s answering my prayers for what I desire the most: a family.
Over the past couple of months, however, the Lord has started teaching me about contentment and relying solely on Him. He’s taught me to turn to Him on a daily basis for grace and strength. I’m reminded of the Israelites and the manna they ate for 40 years. The Israelites were running out of food and complaining. God reaffirmed his sovereignty and presence by sending daily food—the exact amount the Israelites needed. Every day for 40 years, the Israelites went out and gathered the food—the manna—that appeared. It was always there. God didn’t let them go hungry. He provided for their daily needs.
In her book, Seasons of Waiting, Betsy Childs Howard writes, “God doesn’t give grace in a lifetime supply. … God doesn’t allow us to stock up on his grace. He gives it to us one day at a time. We should want to learn how to wait well so that we can go on waiting well because we will always be waiting for something in this life. The Israelites lived on manna for forty years, and if your particular season of waiting lasts forty years, God will supply your daily needs. … Can you trust God to get you through today? If the answer is yes, then you have what it takes to survive for the long haul. You just need to ask yourself the same question tomorrow.”
In Philippians 4:12, Paul wrote that he had “learned the secret of being content.” I know the secret is to rely on the Lord for my daily strength, but I’m asking for Him to reveal that to me every day this coming year.
A few of you may remember when I set out to read 214 books in 2014. I came close—I read more than 150! I wasn’t as ambitious this year, but anyone who knows me knows that I always have a book in my hand. Stephen bought me a Kindle for Christmas (and gave it to me at Thanksgiving because he’s wonderful and loves me), and I’ve already put it to use.
I’m not a book reviewer, but I love recommending my favorites. It was hard to narrow down the list, but here are my top five (with some honorable mentions at the end).
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I’ve read this one before. I don’t think you can call yourself a book lover if you haven’t read Anne of Green Gables. And I’ll admit, I didn’t actually read this one. A new audiobook version was released this year, and Rachel McAdams narrated it. She made me fall in love with Anne, her friends, and the town of Avonlea all over again. I love Anne’s youthful innocence, her wide-eyed wonder and her ability to find joy despite her circumstances. It may be a novel for children, but I think every adult should re-read it. (Side note: My middle name is LeeAnn, and I feel like my parents did me a disservice by not spelling it “LeeAnne.”)
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. At 181 chapters, this was my go-to beach read. I’m a sucker for any retelling of Jane Austen’s stories—no matter how cheesy they are. (This one does not fall in the “cheesy” category!) In this modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Sittenfeld moves the story to the Cincinnati suburbs. As Sarah Lyall of the New York Times wrote, Sittenfeld’s “special skill lies not just in her clear, clean writing, but in her general amusement about the world, her arch, pithy, dropped-mike observations about behavior, character and motivation. She can spot hypocrisy, cant, self-contradiction and absurdity 10 miles away.” (Side note: Keep in mind that this won’t be as, well, wholesome as Austen’s novel.)
Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard. For my full review, check out my post from this past September. Howard points to five common issues (waiting for a spouse, a baby, physical healing, a stable home and the return of a prodigal) and describes how waiting can be sanctification process and also a representation of the gospel. For my season of life, this was a powerful book, and one I turn back to on a regular basis.
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I don’t know about you, but I often feel left out or unwanted. Satan wants us to believe we are unworthy of love, and he will do anything to make us feel abandoned or rejected. It’s a lie. In Uninvited, TerKeurst explains how rejection can hinder our relationship with Jesus. TerKeurst encourages her readers to replace negative self-talk (hello! I’m so guilty of this) with scriptural truths. It points to the importance and necessity of being grounded in Scripture. I love this quote: “With you, Jesus, I’m forever safe. I’m forever accepted. I’m forever held. Completely loved and always invited in.”
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. I’ve followed both Chip and Joanna on social media, but I didn’t start watching Fixer Upper until this year. We only have one TV in our house, so we typically only watch shows we both enjoy. But Stephen watched one episode and got hooked, and it now has a regular spot on our DVR. I listened to the audio version of this book (bonus: Chip and Jo read it!) and loved it. It was the bright spot of my commute for a week. I love how Chip and Joanna live out their faith on TV each and every week, and I’m amazed that this business they’ve built truly started from nothing. The Magnolia Story is a behind-the-scenes look at the Gaines’ life: Their relationship, family life, business and faith.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
Bare Bones by Bobby Bones
Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs
On my to-read list:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (on my Kindle now!)
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
What were your favorite books this year?
I know what you’re thinking—you’re probably only reading this post because you saw “black bean” and “brownies” in the title and you’re thinking, “What?!”
Yes, these are brownies. Yes, they have black beans!
And they’re good! I played around with different recipes until I got the right taste and texture—they’re gooey and fudgy, and one brownie is packed with 10 grams of protein! We featured these in the Fall 2016 issue of H2U, but I liked this recipe so much that I wanted to share with my own readers.
- 1 (15 oz.) can plain black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. skim milk
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Place beans in a food processor and process until mashed. Add all ingredients except chocolate chips and process until smooth. Gently stir in chocolate chips and pour into a greased 8×8-inch pan. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 12 small brownies.
Nutrition information (per serving): Calories 221; Total fat 4 g; Protein 10 g; Sodium 116 mg; Fiber 6 g; Sugars 17 g; Carbs 41 g