Friday, April 17, 2015

unfolding grace for bleeding hearts

SO, Sophi, 

you and me, 
we're not giving up. 
How could we! 

Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us,

on the inside where God is making new life,

not a day goes by without His unfolding grace.
2 Corinthians 4:16

So, Sophi, you and me...

We went to church on Sunday. I count this a big victory even though we only lasted for the first three songs before we had to slip out. But it was definitely worth it, seeing you so happy and smiling. You were very proud of your new birthday dress and necklace, and I was very proud of you.

You and me, we both loved the music at church that Sunday. You rocked back and forth and lifted your arms up high in the air. Your attempt at dancing got you quite a few stares, but you didn't care and neither did I. You opened your mouth, trying to sing. And, me, I stopped my singing and just couldn't stop looking at you... 

Sophi, we've had our struggles. You and me, we know struggle very well. I've struggled to love you in a way that you can grasp, and, you, you've struggled to receive my often faulty and flailing attempts at love. Bless that broken and bleeding heart of yours. How could you possibly even begin to understand what love is? 

And that's why I stood there just watching you. Because I knew that I was staring at a miracle. 

You reached your arms toward me and said "up" (a miracle that you can actually use a word and use it appropriately) and how could I resist? Of course, you are much too big to be picked up and my back is much too tired, but I did it anyway. You cupped your hands to my face and your big brown eyes looked straight into mine, and that, in and of itself, is another miracle. How many months (years?) you refused to make eye contact, I can't even remember. But, this day, you hugged and kissed me and held on tight, and I did the same. All the wounding and trauma your precious heart endured during those first six years of your life without a momma to love and care for you? And all the ways this momma has let you down over the past three years? 

Children, drop your chains and sing...

Somehow in that moment, I knew that Love was winning. I saw love. You for me and me for you. And I knew I was living and breathing a miracle. A miracle wrought in my heart and in yours by the One who saw fit to make you and me, mother and daughter. 

Chains have been undone and we are singing...

Ours is a messy love, and I have faltered and failed you more times than I can count. There's a weakness in my love, and I am so, so sorry for the many, many ways I have wounded your already gaping heart. But here's the thing I've learned since the day I first heard the pitter-patter of your little feet and you walked into my world. His love is stronger. Stronger than how I feel. Stronger than how I fail. Strong enough to sustain and strong enough to keep giving and giving and giving. Strong enough to not give up.

There's no other way to possibly explain it. 

His love has made a way for your heart to love me in spite of the many times I have blown it with you. And this blows me away. I stand humbly amazed by the way the Lord has worked a miracle into that heart of yours, enabling you to learn to forgive and love and keep reaching those arms up toward me. Again and again, Sophi, you have shown such grace and courage, and I have learned from you, more than from anyone else, what it means to truly love.

And His love is making a way in my heart, too. It's just as much a miracle. He's helping me accept you, and He's showing me just how to love you. Sophi, your love language is different from anyone else I've ever known, and it's taken me a long time to learn it, but the Lord is faithfully showing me just what you need from me. It's been my heart's cry for a while now, Lord, show me how to love this child in a way that she can understand. And He is. 

Our stone hearts become flesh that's beating...

Some days, I am the one learning how to give you the grace and space you need to be exactly the special and unique little girl that He has made you to be. Other days {most days}, you are the one giving me the grace that I desperately need. Sophi, there have been many days that I haven't known whether to laugh or to cry at the sheer craziness of the Lord giving a child like you to a momma like me. But there's one thing that I do know and at the end of the day, no matter how miserably either of us have messed up, these words are just what we both need to hear: Not a single day goes by without His unfolding grace


Sophi, that day we celebrated your ninth birthday, when I watched you in your pretty white dress, opening your mouth, and trying to sing, the Lord gave me a glimpse of eternity... 

Encourage the exhausted, 
and strengthen the feeble. 
Say to those with anxious heart, 
take courage, fear not...

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, 
and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 
Then the lame will leap like deer, 
and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.

Isaiah 35:3-6

I've claimed these words from Isaiah many times before. For you and your sister, for me, for all of us. And this day, your ninth birthday, I claimed them all over again.

Sophi, you will sing, and your sister will dance, and me, there will come a day when I'm not exhausted! And, oh my, what a day that will be! I can hardly imagine it.

And that's why we're not giving up. How could we? On the outside, it might look (and feel) like things are falling apart all around us. But that's ok. Because on the inside, I know, He's making new life. He's changing your heart and mine and giving both of us all the grace we need to keep going, one day at a time. SO, Sophi, happy 9th birthday! I'm believing this is going to be the best year yet!


***Fellow adoptive mommas, or, really, any of you who feel a bit like love is a strugglethis post is a must-read. I have been so blessed by the words of Sara Hagerty, both from her new book, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, and her blog. Can I encourage you to check it out? And a special thanks to the sweet friend who loaned me a copy of her book. The day that I took Faith Ana to Birmingham for her surgery back in January, I devoured this book! The next day, the day I miscarried, the Lord knew that this is exactly what my own bleeding heart would need to remember.***

There's a wreckage, there's a fire
There's a weakness in my love
There's a hunger I can't control
Lord, I falter and I fall down
Then I hold on to chains You broke
When You came and saved my soul. Save my soul

We are free to struggle
We're not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children, drop your chains and sing

So, why, Lord, do I still fail,
Do I wear thin?
Why do I still give in to temptation?
On my own, I am bankrupt,
I don't trust You or take You at Your word
What You've promised, yeah.

We are free to struggle
We're not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children, drop your chains and sing

Death is overcome and we are breathing
Our stone hearts become flesh that's beating
Chains have been undone and we are singing
The fire has begun. Can you feel it?

Tenth Avenue North
"The Struggle"

Friday, April 10, 2015

my hope lives...

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf...

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 

Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we may become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5: 14-21

My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died;

my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, He is my righteousness. 

 My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is doing now for me.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


Saturday, April 4, 2015

little hearts and big bright mercy

Have you ever really weighed and considered how great the sin of God's people is? 

{the kids each made a shirt to symbolize our hearts without Jesus.}

~hopeless and hurting~

Think how heinous is your own transgression, and you will find that not only does a sin here and there tower up like an alp, but that your iniquities are heaped upon each other, as in the old fable of the giants who piled Pelian upon Ossa, mountain upon mountain. 

~soiled and stained~

What an aggregate of sin there is in the life of one of the most sanctified of God's children! Attempt to multiply this, the sin of one only, by the multitude of the redeemed, a number by which no man can number, and you will have some conception of the great mass of the guilt of the people for whom Jesus shed His blood.

~broken and bleeding~

~messy and miserable~

Isaiah 64:6 says that even our righteousness, apart from Christ, is nothing but filthy rags. 

But we arrive at a more adequate idea of the magnitude of sin by the greatness of the remedy provided.

It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God's only and well-beloved Son. God's Son.

Angels cast their crowns before Him! All the choral symphonies of heaven surround His glorious throne.

And yet He takes upon Himself the form of a servant, and is scourged and pierced, bruised and torn, and at last slain; since nothing but the blood of the incarnate Son of God could make atonement for our offenses. No human mind can adequately estimate the infinite value of the divine sacrifice, for great as is the sin of God's people, the atonement which takes it away is immeasurably greater.

I tell the story, and when they ask me why it's called GOOD Friday…

Therefore, the believer, even when sin rolls like a black flood, and the remembrance of the past is bitter, can yet stand before the blazing throne of the great and holy God, and cry, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that hath risen again."

We go back to the cross...

and I show them Why.

While the recollection of his sin fills him with shame and sorrow, he at the same time makes it a foil to show
the brightness of mercy

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

I Corinthians 15:57


Sunday, March 8, 2015

for when you need to be carried

Carried thitherthis is what I will remember when I look back on the month of February. The shortest month of the year that felt like the longest, I'm not sure that I've ever been so thankful to turn the page on the calendar. 

It was a month full of cold days, sick days, sad days, struggling days, and hard days. 

Which means it was a month full of merciful days

Because the bookends of my days, without fail, were His words - His truths and promises that greeted me each morning and covered me each night. And then for all the moments in between {and there were a lot of moments}, these life-giving words were just what I needed. 

For when I needed to be carried.

There was a stretch early during the month that, quite literally, I stayed in bed for several days. Call it what you will. The flu virus that swept through our house. Recovering from my miscarriage. Fatigue. Exhaustion. Depression. Or maybe just a combination of it all. And for a while, I wasn't sure that I was going to snap out of it. 

And, quite honestly, I didn't.

He carried me out of it.

He met me where I was and carried my weary and wounded heart to where I am now

He turned this hard place into a holy place, a place I will not forget.

And along the way, He poured His words into me, like soothing ointment for my soul. 

Words, tenderly applied, to raw places, filling me with hope and grateful joy.

Heart medicine.

Today, my heart is so very thankful...

~ for fresh markings that cover the tattered pages of my Bible

~ for new mercies that cover the bare places of my heart

~ for precious Words straight from His heart meant just for mine

~ for warm sunshine streaming through open windows

~ for bare foot boys {and a little brown-eyed girl} running shirtless through the back yard

~ for fresh air and a Saturday morning adventure

~ for how well Sophi has been doing these past few weeks and for the blessing that school has been for this sweet child {and for her momma}

~ for how Faith Ana is growing stronger

~ for how we are all growing stronger

Mostly, I'm thankful for His strong shoulders. 

I'm thankful that no matter how heavy the load we carry
I'm thankful that it's never too heavy for Him. 

Which means it's never too heavy for us.

There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no avail, unless a gracious hand shall apply them to us. We are thirsty, but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds, and medicines there to ease all the pains which he now suffers: what he needs is to be carried thither, and to have the remedies applied.

It is thus with our souls, and to meet this need there is One, even the Spirit of truth, who takes the things of Jesus, and applies them to us.

Think not that Christ hath placed his joys on heavenly shelves that we may climb up to them for ourselves, but He draws near, and sheds His peace abroad in our hearts.

O Christian, if thou are tonight laboring under deep distresses, thy Father does not give thee promises and then leave thee to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well, but the promises He has written in the Word He will write anew on your heart. He will manifest His love to you, and by His blessed Spirit, dispel your cares and troubles.

Be it known to every mourner, that it is God's prerogative to wipe every tear from the eye of His people.

The good Samaritan did not say, "Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you"; he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of the promise, but holds the golden chalice to your lips, and pours the life-blood into your mouth. The poor, sick, way-worn pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is borne on eagles' wings

Glorious gospel! which provides everything for the helpless, which draws night to us when we cannot reach after it - brings us grace before we seek for grace! Here is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to them.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon 

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem
and Joshua said to all the people:

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; 
and put away the false gods…
and serve the Lord…

Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…
but as for me and my house,

we will serve the Lord…

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem

And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.

Joshua 24

Here, in my own "Shechem", this place where I've been this past month...

There have been many days when I've had to choose love.

Days when I've had to choose joy.

Days when I've had to choose gratitude.

Days when it's hard to forgive, but I've had to choose grace.

Days when it's just been plain hard, and on each of the days, every day, I have to choose.

I have to choose Who I am going to listen to.

I have to choose Who I am going to serve.

Is it going to be the false god of perfectionism or the One Who goes ahead of me?

The false god of control or the One Who promises to always be with me?

The false god of pride or the One Who will not fail me?

The false god of fear or the One Who will never, not for one second, forsake me?

And, each day, as I deliberately and purposefully echo these words of Joshua, as I choose Him, He reminds me of something that never ceases to bring me to my knees. 

That in this place of me choosing Him, He keeps reminding me of this one amazing thing:

That He's already chosen me

He's already chosen to forgive me, to help me, and to pull me through. 

He's already chosen to carry my weakness, my sickness, and my brokenness

He's already chosen to carry it all, all on His shoulders. 

He is carrying it all on His shoulders. 

He is carrying me on His shoulders. Already.

Glorious Gospel, indeed!

The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary beast.
They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
They could not rescue the burden…

But you who have been borne by Me from birth,
And have been carried from the womb;
Even to your old age, I shall be the same,
And even to your graying years I shall bear you!
I have done it, and I shall carry you;
And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.

Isaiah 46:1-4

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

Isaiah 40:11

In all their affliction He was afflicted…
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them;
And He lifted them and carried them…

Isaiah 63:9

The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked, until you came to this place.

Deuteronomy 1:30-31


P.S.   Shechem was a fortified city on the edge of a fertile plain in central Palestine. Aside from being the site where Joshua and the Israelites made a covenant with the Lord, it's also the place where God first appeared to Abraham and promised to give the land of Canaan to his descendants. It's the place where Jacob built an alter to worship God and the place where Joseph was buried. Additionally, it was one of the designated cities of refuge in Old Testament times. 

And one more thing…

Take a guess what the word Shechem means?  

It means shoulder.

Now, that makes me smile!  

When confusion's my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near

When I'm caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I'll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You're right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don't have to see to believe that You're lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don't have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don't have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it's true


Saturday, February 7, 2015

mercifully hard

Dear Haddon,

The Lord sent your Daddy and I the most amazing gift when He sent us you, 
Caleb Haddon BlackmonThe baby who might not have been had it been left up to worldly wisdom or even a decision guided by our own common sense. I mean, honestly, who in their right mind gets pregnant twice during the middle of two separate international adoptions?

But, you, my sweet boy, you might have surprised your momma, but you certainly didn't surprise your Heavenly Father. 
In fact, I know for certain that the He was smiling big when He formed you. And I'm smiling now too as I think about your first year (and nine months) of life. 

For now Thou dost number my steps…
Job 14:16

We are world travelers, you and me. We've been to Bulgaria. We've been to Greece. We even spent a little bit of time in Germany. That was quite an adventure we went on, meeting your new sister, visiting family from far away, seeing new places so full of history and deep with meaning. 

One day, when you are a little bit older, I will show you the pictures and tell you the stories. I will tell you about climbing up those orphanage stairs every morning and every afternoon. How we saw your new sister smile for the first time. How we met all of your Greek uncles, aunts, and cousins and how very much they loved us both. I will tell you about that curvy mountain road leading up to your MiMi's tiny village. How I held my breath and was so terrified that we were going to drive off the cliff into those brilliant blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. How we saw the house where your MiMi lived as a little girl. How we walked up the dirt pathway lined with olive trees all the way to the tiny cemetery where your great-grandparents are buried. How we survived off tomatoes and cucumbers during those two weeks in Europe. How I wasn't sure we were going to make it home after a turbulent transatlantic flight home. And I will share with you how hard that trip was being 32 weeks pregnant with you kicking away inside of me and me being away from your Daddy and your brothers and sisters for so long. How tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed I was when we finally got home. And I will tell you how hard those last few months of pregnancy were for me, and how anxious I was to meet you and finally hold you in my arms.

One day, I will tell you how I wrestled with the Lord, questioning and doubting the story that He was writing for our family. Haddon, I was scared and overwhelmed. I never dreamed that I would be the momma to eight little people. Between a new baby and a little girl who couldn't walk and another one who couldn't talk, not to mention all five of the others, I was afraid that it would all be too much. I will tell you truthfully that this particular season - my pregnancy with you and your first year of life - was one of the hardest stretches I've ever lived through. You weren't responsible for any of the stretch marks on your momma's tummy (I can thank your big brothers for those), but I can tell you that my heart was stretched more during that season than any other time in my life. 

One day, when I share with you the reality and the truth of your first year of life, my hope is that you hear a Truth that you can hold on to when you find yourself in your own hard places and in the midst of your own stretching seasons. Haddon, for every hard thing that touches your life, and, trust me, there will be many hard things, there is One who is always with you. He always stays by your side, strengthening you and holding your hands. Others will let you down. Your daddy and I will let you down, but He won't. He will not fail you, and, Haddon, that's a promise you can count on.

I hope when you hear my stories, you will see that even though your momma was very scared and often overwhelmed, you will see how He made your momma brave and strong. Haddon, I know the Lord has called you to be brave too, and your daddy and I can't wait to see what adventures He has for you and how the story for your life is going to unfold.

Does He not see my ways,
and number all my steps?

Job 31:4

When I look at you, Caleb Haddon, the Lord reminds me about the man you were named after in the Bible. I love the story of Caleb, and I will keep telling you and retelling you his story. When you face difficult things in front of you, things that seem too challenging and too daunting, when something seems too big and you feel too small, I want you to remember that you are not alone. Just as He was with Caleb scouting out the Promised Land.  Just as He was with your momma during those two weeks we spent across the ocean together. Just as He was with me when I had to go back to Bulgaria a second time all by myself. Just as He has been with me, and with all of us, every moment in between and every moment since. I want you to know, that in the same way, He will always be with you. Listen to what Caleb told the Israelites when the path in front of them seemed too hard. It's the same words the Lord tells me all the time, and they are the words that I commit to not stop telling you: 

…and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.
Numbers 14:9 

Haddon, I pray for you and for each of your brothers and sisters that you will not fear the hard things in life. 

Can I tell you why?

Over these past few weeks, as I've been walking through my own hard things, I've been drawn to a book that I love, written by the other man you were named after, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The book used to belong to your MiMi, and a long time ago, she shared it with me. And I'll be honest with you. For the longest time, I didn't understand what I was reading. But not that long ago, when I found myself in a hard place, I began to read these words with new eyes. Haddon, the Lord opened my eyes. He began showing me, your stubborn and strong-willed momma, how I had been trying so hard to do things on my own strength. He showed me how starved my spirit had become and how barren and empty my heart was. It wasn't until then that the Lord got a hold of me and filled me with a hunger to truly know Him more deeply. It was then, during that season when your three oldest brothers were just babies, that I began reading the words in this book and finally began understanding them for the first time.

Desperation does that to you. It can draw you to Him. If you are willing.

Five little people later and many more desperate and hard moments in between, and, today, the book that I love so much is falling apart. It's highlighted and marked in, and there are notes filling the margins on almost every single page. One day, it will be yours and I'm already praying that these words will grip your heart just as they do mine.

There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales - in this side He puts His people's trials, and in that He puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy.

Haddon, while there is a part of me that hates the thought of you or any of your brothers and sisters having to face hard things, what I hate even worse is the thought of you walking through life never having to be dependent on the Lord, always thinking that your sufficiency is enough, and believing that you have what it takes, all on your own strength. This often happens when the path is easy. Even though it goes against all earthly reason, I want you to know that it's the moments of desperation, your struggles and failures, the messy parts of your story - these hard things - that make you realize how much you need Jesus, and this is a good thing. A mercy. So, please, my precious littlest boy, don't ever fear the hard things.

When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempests is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to His crew.

Haddon, this is why I am not afraid for you to walk down hard paths. Listen to me, son. Listen to these words of the man you were named after. Hard things are the heralds of weighty mercies. Believe me when I tell this. I know firsthand.

It is a blessed thing, that when we are the most cast down, then it is at that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation.

Haddon, more than anything, I want you to learn to look to Jesus. In the hard places. In the easy places. In every place. This is what your daddy and I are teaching your brothers and sisters, and as you grow old enough to understand, we will teach you. But you need to know that sometimes people will look to other things for what they can only find in Jesus. Haddon, this happens even to people who know and deeply believe the truths that I am telling you today. As much as I want to shield your sweet and innocent heart, there is so much pain and brokenness in this world, and you need to know that there are temptations and distractions and an Enemy who wants to divert your eyes off of the Only One who can see you through your hard things. This Enemy will try to convince you that there are other things that can make you feel better. And when you are in the midst of something hard, sometimes you can just feel so desperate and alone that you listen to his lies and you are willing to try anything. Remember that I told you that desperation can be a good thing? It's true that it can be good, but it's also a dangerous thing. Trust me, I know all about this too.

Haddon, there is a part of my story that I don't like to talk about. But as I've been walking through these past few weeks, the hard place of losing our littlest baby to miscarriage, the Lord is making me brave to share these hard things. I think it's important for you and your brothers and sisters to know. It's not something that I'm proud of, but I'm willing to tell you because I want you to see that no matter what type of hard place you find yourself in, even if it's because of your own bad choices, I want you to see that it is not too hard for Him. Nothing that you can do, no hard thing you could ever face, is too hard for Him! Can you remember that for me?

God comes into our heart - he finds it full - He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this - then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honor Jehovah.

Haddon, long before you were born, I went through a hard season. I'm laughing now as I think about it, because in retrospect, it doesn't seem nearly as hard as what I've walked through since. But your daddy and I were just learning how to parent three tiny boys, he was in the midst of job changes and challenges, we were building a house, we were navigating some difficult family issues, and on top of all of that, the market crashed, creating some intense financial concerns. The combination of all those circumstances just felt like too much for me to handle. I pretended like everything was fine, but the reality was opposite. I was continuing to deal with postpartum depression along with some unresolved heart issues from the past, and it left me feeling like my orderly, once-controllable world had been turned upside down. 

Instead of running to the One who was strong enough to see me through this hard place, I simply ran. Miles and miles. Every day. Your momma turned to running as a way to escape my hard things. When I was overwhelmed, when I was anxious, and when I felt like everything was spinning out of control, I would run. I would tell myself that it was helping me, but the truth was that it was actually hurting me. Addictions always do. In the moment, they might feel good. They might make the pain disappear. They might make you feel like you are back in control. But it's temporary. Even after running, I would still feel overwhelmed and empty inside. So, I ran more and tried harder, all hoping it would make me feel better. Of course, in the end, it made everything worse. Much worse. Instead of opening up my heart, I shut it down. Instead of feeding it with good things, primarily the truth that Jesus was with me to help me through my hard things, I did the opposite. I starved my body and starved my heart of the nourishment that I so desperately needed. Haddon, you need to know that addictions always make the hard things harder. 

"Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord."

There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are heralds of weighty mercies.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Little brown-eyed boy of mine, I want you to know how easy it is in this life to lose your way. Even when you know the Way, it can happen. Haddon, this happened to me. My particular struggle is one that hopefully you won't ever have to deal with, but the truth is that we all have our battles to face. It might be an addiction to drugs, alcohol, work, sex, shopping, food, or any number of things, really. And it is hard. Even now, I still have hard days, days when the struggle is very real and the Enemy is very loud. I pray that you, your brothers, and your sisters will never have to walk down this particular road. But, in case you do, there's something you need to know: 

There is mercy. 

These hard things are mercies... 

If you will just let Him meet you in the midst of them. 

Can I share with you what you will find? It's what your momma has found and is still finding, even today as I write these words? 

You will find that He has never once, not for one second, left your side. You will find that He is able when you are not. That in your struggles, He is sufficient. That in your weakness, He is strong. And that in your failures, in spite of your failures, He is faithful. 

Haddon, I believe with every fibre of my being that God can redeem every single hard thing. He can use them to make your heart more like His. He can use them for His glory, to help further His kingdom.

Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns to the right, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:8-10

Haddon, you will meet people along the way whose hard and difficult circumstances have turned them into hard people. They might be hard on others because of their angry, resentful, and unforgiving hearts. They might be hard on themselves, allowing guilt and shame to keep them from forgiving themselves and accepting the grace that the Lord so freely pours out. Sometimes, Haddon, hard things turn people's hearts hard toward God. I pray this never happens to you. 

Today, Haddon, I can't stop staring at you. Your big brown eyes. That toothy smile. Your chubby little fingers that pick up everything you can find. Your legs that are always moving. I think this might be my most favorite age of all. You love to laugh, and you are trying so hard to talk. You love your brothers and sisters, especially the brown-eyed little girl who seems to get into the most mischief. You and Evie are quite a pair! You love your daddy, and you love to snuggle with me. You give the best hugs. But I know that I will blink my eyes, and you will grow into a strong and tough man. Haddon, my prayer for you is that your heart will always stay soft and open to your Heavenly Father. He loves you, sweet boy, and the path He has planned for you, though sometimes it will seem hard, will be for your greatest good, His highest glory, and will accomplish mighty kingdom purposes. The Lord has called you to be brave, Caleb Haddon. No matter what the path ahead looks like, He is with you, and you don't ever have to fear the hard things. They are simply heralds of weighty mercies.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:2-3

Happy first birthday, Haddon! I have no idea all of the things, both the good things and the mercifully hard things, that the Lord has in store for your life, but I know that He has big plans for you, my littlest boy, and I know we have nothing to fear. I also know that He is already using you in mighty ways. He's using you to help make your momma brave and strong, and for this, I am eternally grateful.