Oh. Hello again.

Oh my gosh, I used to be so good about this.

The day would break and there would be words in my head that were flowing from my heart.  Words that longed to break out and be heard, seen, read.  I felt full with them.  Like water against a dam, bearing down. Insistent and roaring.

These words.  They came together easily and quickly, filling the expanse of plain white screen with all I was feeling and all I was seeing and all of the truths I believed I knew deep down.  Truths deeply rooted.  Truths needed by me and by my village.


But wait, it’s not that I thought I knew things.  It’s not that at all.

I just thought maybe people were slogging through the same kinds of messes I was.  That people maybe could relate to the minutiae of my struggles.    That maybe my struggle, my successes, my story could be of some help.  Some camaraderie.  Some, ‘you’re not alone in this’.  The day to day of being mom, being wife, being friend, being daughter, just being.  The day to day of chronic pain.  Of healing and seeking and wondering and weeping.

But then my words got stuck somehow.

No more flowing like a rushing river, the words slowed to a trickling little stream.  Eventually, the blockage grew until they were only coming out in bursts of hysteria and sorrow.  No time or energy to put them on the page.  No feeling of truths planted deep.

Just a fierce burst and then a fiercer patching up.

It started with disappointment.  Disappointment like a tarry black ball that stuck in my throat.  Words would rise up against it but disappointment knocked them down again.  Truths spoke up but Disappointment dug in, tarry hands grasping, holding tight.

Then Comparison.  Comparison sneaks in, tiny fingers of Discontent and Restlessness and  Impatience and that sense of This is Not Fair, it sneaks in and steals what space could be found.

And at the center of that sticky, unctuous, black ball … anger.  Anger grows so fast, before you even realize it’s happening, tendrils of it are all through you, clinging to walls and organs and soul.  Anger silenced my words and the truths that I once knew.

The words back down. They quiet themselves and even hibernate.  An anesthetizing comes.  Apathy that maybe the words that once refused to be silenced just aren’t worth saying, aren’t worth writing.

Suddenly it’s been ages since I wrote a word.

And here we are.


I’m Chris and I have some words to say.

It’s been a hard, hard season.  It’s been a time of disappointment, anger, sorrow, grief, even rage.  It’s been a time of confusion and weakness and even shame, but I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I’m not.


And I don’t even know where I am with everything right now.

I just know that I miss my words and I’m not a fan of this junk that’s blocking them.

So.  Again I say, here we are.


When I was younger in my faith and going through some things, I would center myself with five Things I knew for sure.

I don’t think my Things are the same as they once were and that is okay.  It’s all an ebb and flow.  I am resting in what I do know and the rest will follow.  Or not.

I don’t know anymore.  I think that’s part of the point.  We don’t always get to know.  We don’t always get a Blessed Assurance, a guarantee, an absolute answer.  There’s no roadmap or list of instructions for success.

There’s just this.


God is.

God is love.

God loves me.

And that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.



Love and Loss

IMG_1854This morning I’m thinking about love and loss and how neither one ever really go away.

Grief is funny like that.

It doesn’t matter how many years go by or how many tears are shed, love and loss are an endless ocean.

This morning, I’m thinking about a little boy who went to heaven eleven years ago.  I’m thinking about three friends lost in the past year.  I’m thinking about Nora’s twin Asher.  I’m thinking about the ones who are still here, whose hearts are full of love and grief and beauty and ashes.

I close my eyes and I see the ones I love, the ones that have gone on before us, the ones that have left behind holes and empty spaces.  I see them in heaven.  They are together.  They are not gone.  They are not even waiting.  They are in a perfect place, safe and loved and whole and perfect.  They rejoice.  They sing. They dance.

We wait.  We grieve.  But we also rejoice because this world is not our home and there is more after this.

And that love is still there.  Love is real thing that is living and full and that grows and evolves.  Love is something that can’t be erased or stamped out.  It can change shape but it remains.  It abides.  It is sometimes still.  It sometimes rages.  It sometimes grows.  It sometimes shrinks back but it never goes away.

And loss is that way. Grief is that way.  Sometimes grief quiets down and hides.  Sometimes it pops out and surprises us.  Sometimes it drops by for a quick visit. Sometimes it shows up with suitcases and a list of things to discuss.

Here is what I know, and I do not know much.  God is in the midst of these things.  God is Love, not the love that we know here on earth but Love.  Real love.  Our dear ones that have left us and that live in heaven, they know Love and one day we will too.  His love is different.  More different than we know.  But it is whole and complete and not scary and this real Love, it does not change.  It does not ebb and flow.  It’s the same.  Yesterday, today and forever.

And this is the other thing.  Grief is a place where he meets us.  He is present, right in the midst of the ugly cry, snot and tears pouring, sides aching from sobs.  He gets right in it with us.  He is there in a solitary tear.  He captures it and saves it, because our grief moves his heart.  He molds our hearts when we are grieving, if we let him.  He takes our hearts in his hands and he ministers to them.  He stands with us in our grief.  He sits with us, if that’s what it takes.  His perfect Love wraps us up, even when we don’t feel it.

And he does not forget our grief or say that it’s time has passed.  He does not rush us through it.  He knows that our love is real and that it never goes away and that our grief is real and it never goes away.  But he takes us through it to a place where we can live with it.  Not forgetting, not brushing it aside, but allowing it our love and grief to shape our hearts into something more like his.

There is not a time stamp on grief.  It does not expire or spend itself out.  It’s like love that way.  And sometimes I think the world wants to hustle it through, rush it past.  But it’s always there.  A piece of us.  And while it hurts, it is still precious.

Because grief says this, I loved.  I was loved.  God gave me a beautiful gift for a time.

Really, it’s beautiful.  When you think about it.

That’s how God is.  Making painful things precious.  Making broken things whole.  Making ashes beautiful.  Taking broken hearts and changing them, molding them into something new.


All This Wasted Time

I’m at war with myself at the moment.

I know I’m going too fast, doing too much.  I know I’m not still enough, resting enough, communing enough, investing enough in me and mine.  I know I’m always looking ahead to the next thing and I know I’m rushing from emergency to emergency.

But what if I slow down?  What if I stop?  What if I take days to be … just to be?  What if I do that?

It scares me.

There is so much to do.


There are 140 million orphaned children in the world.  There are believed to be 1.5 million of these precious ones in Eastern Europe.  There are believed to be around 10,000 just like my own daughter in Bulgaria alone.  Children who are starving, children who do not have access to medical care.  Children who do not cry because they’ve never had their cries answered.

And that’s just Bulgaria, a country close to my heart.  What about Ukraine?  China?  Vietnam?  Latvia?  Korea?  There are 47 countries on this globe that have children in need of families.

How can I rest?  How can I slow down?  How can I stop?  I only have ONE of these 140 million.

I need to know God’s heart for me and mine in this plight.  There is no way that he has caused the sounds of the orphan crisis to roar so loud in my ears for me to just sit and do nothing.


But here’s the thing.  How can I hear his heart if I am never still?  If I am never in a posture to receive but only rushing, rushing, rushing from thing one to thing one hundred and one, being urged on by the tyranny of the urgent.

There are things that must be done every day.  Caring for the children.  Investing in my husband.  The laundry.  The dishes.  Feeding the animals.  Paying the bills and balancing the checkbook.  Making dinner.  Taking a shower.  Scraping stickers off the floor.  (Is that just us?) Soothing nightmares.  Sweeping the floor.  Appointments, appointments, appointments.

There are the things that I need to do.  Time at the barn with Nora and Lila and the horses.  Time with Claire, cooking in the kitchen.  Time with Sisi and her Mother Goose rhymes.  Agents of Shield with John.  Singing at church with my band kids.  Hanging with my grown up kids and my family and friends.  Going to church and to Bible study.  Those things take up time but they feed my soul.

So where do I place that time to be still?  Where do I squeeze it in?  Or do I squeeze it in? Perhaps it should receive the place of honor everyday, finding it’s place first and not from amongst the leftovers.

A friend asked me this question:  “In your interactions with Jesus, is he slow?”  And it reminded me of a question asked by another friend about nine years ago.  “How is Jesus with you?”  I thought about it then and I think about it now.  It’s a heavy question and it’s important to answer, because I think he is slow with me.  He waits for me to settle in and quiet my heart and mind and my surroundings.  He waits for me to be fully focused.  He knows I need that stillness and so he waits patiently.  He waits for my undivided attention and that makes me stop and think, really think …

How much have I missed in all this rushing around?  

I think about how many hours of sleep I need and say to myself, “So much wasted time!”  I think of the time I spend scraping stickers and I say to myself, “So much wasted time!”  Time spent driving to these fifty bajillion appointments for the kids and myself and I think, “So much wasted time!”

But is it?

It takes up so many minutes and hours, my day to day.  But how much of that could I be spending with the one who has numbered my days, who knows how many minutes I’ve been alive and will be alive?

It’s not wasted time.  And the time I spend being still and being calm and being quiet and just being … it’s not wasted time either.

I’m challenging myself to just try.  Stop.  Stop rushing and calm down.  Stop running.  Stop fretting.  For a block of time every single day, shut down the noise and just be still.

Be with Jesus.


And if not, He is Still Good

The truth is, I don’t blog much anymore.

The truth is, I don’t have many answers.

I find it hard now.  Hard to sit down and write.  Hard to pour out my heart on this page, typing out heartbeats and tears. Hard sometimes to find my way back to the truth that makes it all a  little bit more okay.  That makes me a little bit more okay.

That makes it possible to put one foot in front of the other.

The truth is, I’m finding it really hard to reach out and grab those truths.  They are like soap bubbles, popping against my fingerprints.

And it’s not any one thing.  Just life.  Big Life Things.  Little Life Things.  Faith things.

I wrestle.  I weep.  I worship.


There is just this one question rising up.

God, what does your “good” look like?

Because I know that you are real.  I know that you are Good.

I know that you love me, that you work all things together for my good.

I know your word is truth.  That your Holy Spirit brings peace that is real and true and not like the world gives.

But God, what does your “good” look like?

Because I don’t think it looks like the world says it does.

It doesn’t look like easy money, easy days, easy relationships.  It doesn’t look like smooth sailing on calm seas.  It doesn’t look like always getting a perfect parking place or the best price on toilet paper.  It doesn’t look like #tooblessedtobestressed.  I know it doesn’t because I’m so very blessed but I’m so very stressed.  Stressed to breaking sometimes.

But I think the good is to be found in that broken place.  That’s where his good is.

He is Jehovah Jireh.   The God who provides.

He is Jehovah Rapha.  The God who heals.

He is Jehovah Nissi.  The Lord, my banner.

He is Jehovah Shalom.  The God who is my peace.

He is Jehovah Ra-ah.  The Lord, my shepherd.

He is Jehovah El Roi. The God who sees me.

He is good.  And I want to know what that means.

What does it mean to you?

When I was Brought Low, He saved me

The Yes On The Table

It started with a yes.

We were at Next Level church and this was long before Next Level was our church.  We were there only because one of our absolute favorites was there too, speaking and meeting people.  Even us!

Jen Hatmaker

Jen had come to speak and we had come to hear.  It was a holy moment because at the end, Jen said, “Just put your yes on the table.  Give Him your yes.”  And we did.

And it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

But it was.  Because a very short time later, we saw this photo.

2506_Sylvia 16-2

And we heard a whisper.  “This is your daughter.”  and we began the process.

19 months later and we thought the hard part was over.  She was home, she was safe, we had our seventh child in our midst.

But we didn’t know what hard was then.

We didn’t know that when we put our yes on the table and we said yes to Him, the One that holds all things together, that he was going to do more than just bring a little girl home.

He brought a little girl home but he also changed us.

And it kind of makes me want to say to God, “I see what you did there.” because I thought the whole point was bringing Sisi home.  And for sure that was one of the whole points.  The Bible says it clearly.  “Care for the widows and orphans in their distress.” and “He sets the lonely in families.” and “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God.” and “the Lord sustains the fatherless.” and “defend the weak and the fatherless” and “love one another as I have loved you” and that was all very clear.  Bringing Sisi home was the work of God.

But there was more to unpack in this “yes”.

Parenting a child from trauma meant that all of our ugliness was forced to the surface.  The stress of working our daughter through her grief and through her stress has changed us.  Because adoption is so beautiful, yes, but it is born of loss.  And Sisi has faced the loss of her birth family and then the loss of her foster family.

And as our characters were being refined, we found that what was being pushed to the surface was stuff we didn’t like.  Stuff we were ashamed of.

And that is where the YES that we gave comes in all over again.

We were also saying yes to refinement.

God has never promised easy.  He has promised presence, He has promised endurance, He has promised faithfulness.  He has never promised that if we name it we can claim it but he has promised that all things work together for our good.  He has never promised that this was an easy road, in fact he promised that in this world there will be trouble.

He promised us His peace.  Peace that is not like the world gives.  There is a peace, even in the midst of trouble, that comes from knowing you are where he wants you to be.   His presence in my struggles, in my selfishness, it is the healing gift that I need most.

He has promised us love and I have learned much about love in my 45 years.  What some people call love is not love at all because it is conditional, it is fleeting.  The love of God is permanent and nothing can take it from me.  It is not based on my performance but based on the one who is Love.  It is a love that lasts, that endures, that shapes and that transforms.


And he is transforming us.

Our yes is still on the table and we don’t know where it will lead us next.

But we know the One who does.  And we start with this.

Do small things with great love.


We go from here, with our yes on the table ready to go wherever that takes us.



Practical Matters

One of my favorite things to say is, “I’m good at other things.”  We’re not all amazing at keeping house or doing crafts or staying on top of all the papers for school or flossing or whatever.  We are all good at different things.  We are all unique.

One thing I am good at is meal planning and cooking.  John and I both love to cook.  Our kids hate everything we cook … but that’s a whole other topic.  I like to plan out meals for the whole month and so I thought I would share a sample month with you.

First thing, I plan only Monday through Thursday.  On Fridays, we are exhausted and we usually make pizza for the kids and eat leftovers.  Saturdays, sometimes we are out and about, sometimes we are with friends, sometimes we decide to make a meal we’ve been thinking about.  So, Saturday is always TBD.  Sundays, we spend with my parents and my sister’s family and some other friends that are exactly like family.  That is always a group production.  I often bring a watermelon, make a cobbler, do green beans or something simple in my instant pot.

Second thing, I live with four picky eaters and one of them is me.  John and Lila will eat basically anything.  Nora does not eat meat except for, and this is a direct quote:  “Bacon and that ham that’s inside of chicken nuggets.”  I can confirm this.  Those of us that are picky are especially picky about vegetables.  Here’s how I combat this.  I serve fruit at every meal.  I do my shopping once a week because we go through  a lot of fresh produce.  At dinner, I serve whatever fruit we have; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, even apples.  Oh, and cucumbers, or as Sisi would say, “Crost-A-Veetsa”. To sneak veggies in, I shred up spinach in my food processor and add it to things like spaghetti sauce and smoothies and meatloaf and really anything.  If you totally shred it in the food processor (the one Aubrey left here is AMAZING.  It’s a NutriBullet.) it looks like oregano in the food.  I wish I could remember who taught me that trick.

Thirdly, life happens and it gets NUTS around here.  I like to keep a couple of easy, last minute throw together meals in the freezer/pantry.  Fast food/ordering pizza is something that is cost prohibitive for us if it isn’t planned for.  So, I keep frozen tortellini and I always have pasta sauce on hand.  We always have pizza crusts in the pantry.  And of course, my instant pot.  You can throw stuff in there and be done in no time flat.

And finally (and this is a trick I learned from Ellen at Just a Girl Who Loves) I kind of loosely have “theme nights”.  Mondays are always going to be taco nights this school year.  We have Bible study on Mondays and so we need to eat quickly and get out the door.  Plus, my kids love tacos like crazy and will always eat them.  Wednesday is another busy night because we have a group that meets at our house.  Most Wednesdays would be pasta because I can make a ton (in case group members need a bite, if they’re coming straight from work) and because I can throw it in the crockpot in the morning and just make pasta while I’m running around cleaning bathrooms and sweeping at the last second.  Remember, #imgoodatotherthings.

Here is a sample week and links to recipes.  I’ll come back each week and tell you how it went and what we’re eating the next week!

Monday: Tacos, Cuban Rice, refried beans, black beans and fruit.


I didn’t take this photo, but this is what our rice looks like.

Our Cuban rice is crazy easy and so dang delicious.  Here is what you do.  Put 4 cups of water, 2 cups of jasmine rice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of salt in a pot on medium high if you’re John, high if you’re me.  (I’m impatient.  He burns the rice less often.)  Keep an eye on it.  Do not stir it.  Ever.  Wait for craters to form in the rice, it should look like the moon.  Put the lid on and then turn it on low for 10 minutes.  Boom, perfect rice.  This also works for quinoa but not for brown rice.  I just can’t make brown rice.

Tuesday:  Flank steak and mashed potatoes.  Green beans, carrots and fruit.

Green beans and carrots are staples at our house because many of us will actually eat them.

Jalapeno Flank Steak


When I make mashed potatoes, I do not follow a recipe. I boil potatoes, mash them with that masher thingy or throw them in my kitchen aid.  I always put in butter and milk but sometimes also sour cream or cream cheese if I have it.

Wednesday: Herbed chicken, orzo pasta, asparagus and fruit.  The recipe calls for zucchini but we don’t like that, so asparagus it is.  No child will touch the asparagus of course.

Herbed Chicken and Orzo


Thursday:  Honey Sesame Chicken, green beans, rice, peas and fruit.

Honey Sesame Chicken


This is a new recipe for me but so far everything I’ve made in the Instant Pot comes out great.  I’m excited to try it!

How do you do your meal planning?  What are some of your favorites?  What are staple meals that you make regularly?  What’s your go to when you are out of time?

Three Months Home

Sisi holds out her fat little toes for me to paint.  She has a tiny nail on her baby toe, just like me and it makes me smile.  God is in these details.  I paint her nails aqua, just like mine and she says, “I like it the polish.”

Next I take her hands and paint them too.  Her fingers are her own and I wonder about the womb they were created in.  She is made up of genes and chromosomes and traits and it is all a mystery.  Somewhere, more than 5000 miles away is the woman whose body made my daughter.  It takes my breath away.

Adoption is beautiful and painful and miraculous and awful.  It is born out of loss and in Sisi’s case, out of two losses.  She lost her birth family.  She lost her foster family.  Now, at four, she is asked to change her identity.  She is asked to accept a new mommy and a new daddy, new sisters, new brothers, new family.  She is asked to accept and embrace a new culture.  Gone is kebapche and shopska and tarator.  Now there are burgers and ketchup and Chick-fil-a.  The music is different, the customs are different.  She had to learn to shake her head no and nod for yes.  In Bulgaria, it’s the other way around.

She misses home.  Misses kepapche and misses her school and most of all, misses her foster family, her foster mom.  This grieving she is experiencing is all a part of it.

Yes, it’s beautiful.  Yes, it’s a miracle.  But it comes at a cost.

Sisi is three months home.  She is learning so many “America” words.  She no longer says, “Dah” or “Neh” but says, “Yes” and “No.”  Hot dogs are still sevanche, “let’s go” is still hi-day, “get dressed” is still “oh-bleach-uh”.  But dresses are no longer “lochla” and “sockche” is just juice now.  The Bulgarian is fading away and English is roaring in like a tidal wave.

She loves school and loves her teachers and friends.  She loves church, loves Miss Amy, who she calls “Church”.  She’s been in the creek with Pappy and loved every minute of it.  Busch Gardens is her favorite place.  She asks to go outside to play on the monkey bars with Clairey everyday.  She’s crazy about our animals, sometimes a little too crazy.  Okay, most times too crazy about our animals.

She’s adjusting.  We’re adjusting.  It has not been easy for anyone and it’s not going to get easy anytime soon.

But it is worth it.

Here in America, Sisi has access to medical resources she would never have had in her own country.  Here in America, Sisi’s special needs will not stop her from living a happy, healthy independent life.  Here in America, Sisi is a Carter and we are her own forever family.

I love this wild child.  She is loud.  She is persistent.  She is exuberant.  She is brilliant.  She is precious.  She is a gift.



When you give birth to a baby, you see their first moments.  The baby is born, she is placed on your chest, you nurse her or feed her.  You hold her and marvel.  Your breath catches.  You realize your dreams and your imaginings of what she would be like are nothing compared to who she really is.

You breathe her in.  These are holy moments.

These are those moments with my daughter, Lila.


When you adopt a child, it is different.  The first moment I saw Sisi, I was in a car in a foreign country.  She was standing in the window of her foster home and I could see her jumping up and down saying, “Mama Chris!  Daddy John!”

The first time I held her was in her home and she was big and beautiful and excitement was all around us.  It was different, but still holy.

Sisi became my daughter in an office.  We hugged her close and marveled.

It has been two months since we stepped off that airplane onto American soil with our newest daughter.


It’s been a wild ride.

But here we are.  I love Sisi as wholeheartedly and as fully as I love my other six children.  I love her fiercely.  I have crossed oceans for her, I have walked through fire day by day.

She is beautiful, she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  She is wild, filled with Great Big Feelings- love, rage, laughter, mischief.  It’s amazing to watch her learning English at the speed of light.  It’s amazing to watch her interact with her sisters and her brother.  I love how much she loves her brother in law and her dear friend, Chichco Musica.  I love watching her at Busch Gardens or going down  a slide.  I love watching her figure out English words and I love how she tells us Bulgarian words.

I love her wild hair and her long eyelashes.  I love her ferocity and tenacity.

It’s been hard but every day, it gets a little easier.

I think to myself, what if we didn’t answer the call?

We could have missed this.

On March 11, 2015, we went to Next Level Church to hear Jen Hatmaker speak.  It was the most amazing talk.  When it was winding down, she challenged all who were present to “put their yes on the table” for God.  John and I stood there with our palms uplifted and we put our yes on the table.

We put our “yes” on the table.

A short time later, we saw this photo on Reece’s Rainbow.

2506_Sylvia 16-2

And it was time to put action to our “yes”.

It took 19 months.  19 months of paperwork and jumping through hoops and panic over missed deadlines and So Much Fundraising.

19 months to bring this child into our family.

And now we are two months into her being home.  And I have no regrets.  My yes is still on the table.  And I still say, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”

I have a challenge for you.  And I’m not saying you have to adopt, but would you go to Reece’s Rainbow or Rainbow Kids or Adopt Us Kids, choose a child’s profile.  Print it off and pray.  Pray for that child like you would if they were yours. Do it everyday.  Put your “yes” on the table and see where it takes you.

Don’t miss what God has for you.


Spirit Lead Me Where My Trust Is Without Borders

Bulgaria is beautiful.  The mountain through our window, the sound of the people talking, even the roof line … I love this place.

When we were on our way, a precious friend said, “Enjoy the country that gave you your daughter.”  And we are.  We are embracing it as best we can.  It’s hard to be a stranger in a strange land.  We are out of our element.

Everything is different.

The sounds, the smells, the food, the water, the customs, the checking out at the grocery store, the playgrounds, the atmosphere.  Even my mothering is different here.

It is my privilege to mother Sisi.  It’s an honor I don’t take lightly.  She is a treasure. We’ve crossed oceans for her and will do it again in less than a week to bring her home.


She is fearfully and wonderfully made.  She is a good gift.

But it is different.  I am just learning who she is. She is learning who I am.  I have to make sure she knows I am a safe person, that Daddy is a safe person.  I have to set boundaries that protect our relationship but also help her become who she is meant to be.  This is hard.

Sisi is going through the biggest change of her life.  She’s been taken from all she knows, all that is familiar, all that she loves.  She doesn’t know what’s coming next because we can’t tell her.

Oh adoption.  Beauty, redemption, joy but also pain, loss and grief.

Pray for us.  Pray for Sisi through her grief and through her adjustment.  Pray for Sisi’s foster family who miss her so much.  Pray for John and me to have wisdom as we parent her.  Pray that God will go before us as we get on that plane.  Sisi didn’t even want to go on a cable car, I don’t know what she will think about a plane!