An introduction of sorts.

Sitting down to write right now feels a little bit like an awkward first date with a guy I’ve already dated before. Like that episode in Season 5 of Gilmore Girls when Luke & Lorelai get back together, and they have to keep reassuring each other, “We know how to do this. Yeah, we’re good at this. We’ve done this before.”

It’s not that I don’t know how to write — I’m actually really good at this. I think. It’s just that my life is so different now, and I’m SO. FREAKING. TIRED. all the time, and I have new mom brain which NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT, where you all of a sudden don’t remember anything and your mind moves, on a good day, at about 58% of the rate you’re used to from your previous, lots-of-brain-space, slept-through-the-night life.

Oh, and everything you eat or drink is room temperature because sure, it was probably either hot or cold once, but you forgot about it, so this is your life now. 72 degree everything.

None of this has anything to do with what I’m actually sitting down to write about, but since I’m re-learning how to do this, an anecdote to ease the tension.

Actually, now that I’m really thinking about it, it kind of has everything to do with what I’m sitting down to write about. Here’s the thing: on November 5, 2016, I was just the same Sara I’d always been — childless. And then on November 6, I received a phone call that I was going to have a daughter in oh, say, 3 weeks. (Insert jazz hands and lots of tears and all the dancing here.)

Most people get 9 months, y’all. And of course, it’s true that we waited and fought for this for Y-E-A-R-S, so technically we had a lot of time, but 3 weeks to wrap your head around the reality of that kind of life change is a little bit overwhelming, to say the very-very-very least. So what do you do? Well, we Gilmores happen to thrive amidst the chaos, so you know — when life sends a tempest, grab anything that floats and just keep swimming.

Enter: 3 weeks of absolute madness. Finished furnishing a nursery. (Actually, first I went to Nashville — praise the Lord — but then I finished the nursery.) Called all the moms for all the crash course help because who has time for books at a time like this?

At one point during those 3 weeks there was like $10K we still needed to cover some unforeseen birth mom expenses, and it literally just got handed to us by people in our community in one day. (What!?)

Packed a bag for Phoenix immediately after we found out we were matched, because I’m a planner and always prepared. HA! False. I frantically called my friend Kate 3 hours before I had to be at the airport on November 30, who is (1) a mom and (2) a planner, and I’m pretty sure all I said was, “Help. Come. I need all the things. Bring the things.”

I was in the middle of a photo shoot for our Christmas Eve marketing campaign for church that morning when our case worker called to tell me it was time to get to Phoenix cause this baby is coming today. “Aaaaaand that’s a wrap! Surely one of those 5 shots we got in this 3 minutes will work. Merry Christmas, everybody. I have to go have a baby now. Well, not me — er — see ya.”

And then 3 hours later, Noland and I are boarding a plane to Phoenix and we don’t know when we’re coming back, because interstate adoption paperwork has to clear, blah blah — point is we left with one way tickets in the middle of a work day and we were coming back on some mystery day hopefully before Christmas, with a small human.

And then I looked up and it was May.

My whole life has been flipped upside down in the best and hardest way, and there are so many things I’ve been meaning to “process by pen” as my friend Melissa says, here for all of you to follow along with.

But the sleepless nights and the room temperature coffee and the mom brain.

So here I am, just wanting to drop a note to tell you that I can’t wait to catch up. The thing is, when I catch up with you, I catch up with me, too. Writing helps me see and know myself. Which is probably why I’ve felt a little bit like I’ve floated through the last few months in a bit of a fog, in some ways.

I can’t wait to tell you a few more of the Ellie Joy miracle stories, in addition to the birth story I already shared here. I can’t wait to process what it’s been like to still be unpacking grief in the presence of such sweet fulfillment and joy, to tell you about how I’m really wrestling through feeling sidelined in my work, to share what I’m learning about being WHOLE after some really traumatic and broken years, and to talk about how I’m getting to know my husband all over again — he’s a dad! Who is this man?

So let’s think of this post as a bit of spring cleaning. Cleaning out the cobwebs. Reminding and/or reassuring you that I still live here.

Next week we’ll make our way back to the deep end. I sure have missed this place.

xoxo

Sara G

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Red Sea Road — the most timely hope anthem.

June 20, 2015.

It was just a few weeks after we’d lost Judah Rise. The sting of death still burned all the way to my core, and my heart bore a gaping hole so big that I think it may have been visible from outside my body. Grief marks you that way.

Maybe you remember the part of the story where my sisters were both pregnant at the same time that we were expecting Judah. All three babes were to arrive within a month of each other, and my aunt was throwing a shower for all three of us that Saturday. Within those few weeks between us losing our boy and the date of that baby shower, my sisters had both called me to let me know they understood if I didn’t want to come. I love them for that, but I went anyway.

I knew it would be hard. I knew my family had wholeheartedly released me from having to show up. But I kept thinking about my sisters, who are two of my dearest friends, and my two nieces that were on the way. I was about to move across America to plant a church, and the cost of that was to leave my entire family back in Texas. The years ahead would be full of major life moments I would miss, including the birth of my nieces, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to show up and celebrate with the people I love the most.

I remember just feeling sort of numb that day. Grief isn’t really easy for anyone — for those of us grieving or those of us close to those who are grieving. It’s hard to know what to talk about, what to acknowledge or not acknowledge. Especially in a setting where you’re supposed to be celebrating someone else.

It was easily the most uncomfortable I’d ever felt, trying to engage in conversations that day, dodging the sad eyes of my friends and relatives and smiling through awkward small talk. I’ve never been good at small talk, even on my best days.

I remember feeling like people were looking at me like they knew I was in pain but didn’t know what to say about it, so they just didn’t. I don’t blame them. I think I would have done the same thing. And honestly, I didn’t want to talk about it. That day was for my sisters, and that was why I went. But at the same time, I couldn’t ignore how I felt.

At one point I walked over to the corner of the room to get a drink and have a moment alone to regroup, and I happened to look at my phone when I did. There was a message from my dear friend Ellie Holcomb, who may as well have been an actual angel in that moment, because it was as if God had walked into that room and bypassed all the other people to walk straight up to me and say, “I see you.”

She had sent me a message earlier that week, which I guess I’d forgotten about, letting me know that she had been thinking of me and that she’d written a song that day inspired by us and our journey and Judah’s story. And that morning as I sat there feeling so lonely and exposed at my sisters’ baby shower, this is what she said to me:

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I choked back tears long enough to sneak out of the room. I sat down in the bathroom of an old historic hotel in downtown Houston, and I just wept as I sat there with my phone to my ear, listening to her sing a song in a voice memo that seemed to give me language for everything I was feeling but didn’t know how to articulate.

It felt like she wrote me a fight song, ironically partially inspired by words I had written in a blog post earlier that month. For almost a decade Ellie and I have stayed in touch just by praying for one another in every season, holding each others arms up in battle, lighting the way by worship and prayer through the valleys and celebrating with one another on the mountains. This song was a light in the darkest moment of my life, and it has carried the day for me through the hardest seasons I’ve ever lived through.

It’s about how God makes a way where there is no way, the same way he split the Red Sea for the Israelites to walk right through, when death was chasing their heels and it seemed like they had nowhere to go. It’s honest in the way it feels to grieve, doubt and question, and it raises a banner of hope even in the face of death, because with Jesus, hope always rises — even out of the grave.

Tonight as I write this, my baby girl Ellie Joy is asleep on my chest. Every time I look at her I can hear the words of this song in my head declare that He. Is. Faithful. That our stories never end at the graves we sometimes find ourselves standing over, and that our God is a way-maker in the wilderness.

I’ve been listening to this song and letting the truth of our God’s faithfulness wash over me on hard days for a year and a half — through a major move right after losing Judah and a lot of hard days on the way to healing — through a miscarriage and the hard days of healing from that, too.

And for the last couple of months, I’ve been singing, dancing, weeping, fist-pumping and worshiping to this new record of Ellie’s, and I am so excited to finally get to share it with all of you.

Do yourself a favor and go get this record today. I am so certain that it will be water to your soul. I pray it breathes life back into your bones the same way that it has mine. And if you’re in need of a declaration of hope in impossible places, I pray that Red Sea Road becomes your hope anthem the same way that it’s been mine these last couple of years.

I challenge you to do just what this song beckons us all to do…

“We will sing to our souls, we won’t bury our hope…”

Sing. Worship. I have learned it’s the only thing that keeps me whole when everything feels broken.

. . .

Click below to find Red Sea Road on iTunes:

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The dance of life & death

We had an obviously really sweet ending to 2016, but when Noland and I sat down on New Year’s Eve to process our year and dream into a new one, it was kind of crazy to remember how hard this year actually was. For the last month I have just been weeping joy tears over our beautiful baby girl, but in the 11 months prior to that, there was heartache and loss and all sorts of confusion — and all at the same time, hope, life, and the provision of God in the most impossible places.

We entered the extremely intimidating process of adoption, and I wrestled with fear and anxiety the entire time. Yet every step of the way, God reminded me how much He was with us and for us. We asked Him for a house; He gave us one. We moved forward with adoption even when we didn’t know where tens of thousands of dollars were going to come from; He literally opened Heaven and poured it out on us.

We were surprised by a sort of miraculous pregnancy in July, and we grieved the loss of that pregnancy at around 8 weeks. Less than two weeks later, another August 8 came and went, and it all felt like too much — questioning the loss of and longing for our boy Judah all over again, and still healing from miscarriage all at the same time. The entire month of August just felt like death to me.

We grieved with others this year, too. We spent two weeks in Europe over the summer, learning the stories of Syrian refugees and allowing our hearts to break with theirs in their longing and loss — emotions that are all too familiar to us. We saw a brokenness in our world that we can’t un-see, and our hearts will never be the same from it.

We walked with other friends of ours through the loss of babies, broken marriages and other wounded relationships. We watched as a really hateful election cycle unfolded, polarizing our nation and leaving a lot of people we love deeply heartbroken. All of these experiences made 2016 a really confusing year for me, personally.

I spent a lot of the month of November just grieving. I felt grieved over and tired from our three and a half year journey to family. I felt grieved over the brokenness in our nation. I felt grieved over the brokenness in the Middle East, over the friends I made in refugee camps in Europe this summer and their longing to be back home.

And then on December 1, this precious baby girl was placed in my arms. And it was so sweet and I will never be the same, but even her arrival wasn’t without grief and heartache. It wasn’t necessarily mine and Noland’s grief, but we were deeply touched by the grief of her birth parents that we saw so up close.

Something happens when you share such an intimate experience with strangers — they quickly become the opposite of strangers. In one night, these two precious people became so dear to our hearts. We laughed with them. We cried with them. Gosh, we had a baby with them. That sounds weird but there’s not really any other way to say it.

About a week after Ellie Joy was born, we took her by her birth parents’ place to say goodbye. It was one of the most holy moments I have ever experienced. We all stood outside, and some of the neighbors crowded around to see the baby they’d all been watching grow in their friend’s belly. We all ooh-and-ahh’d over her, most of us with tears in our eyes.

One of the neighbors asked if he could pray over her before we left, so we all gathered around, a bunch of misfit strangers quickly made brothers & sisters, as we laid hands on our girl and asked God to bless her and keep her. In my mind I sort of zoomed out on that scene — a scene I never in a million years would have placed myself in — and I thought about how sweet it is the way God weaves life into all of our dead and hopeless places.

We finished praying and we walked away to have a more private goodbye with Ellie’s birth parents. Her birth dad hugged Noland and with tears still welling up in his eyes he said, “Go be a daddy.”

Her birth mom walked us to our car, both of us awkwardly prolonging a goodbye we weren’t sure how to say. She kissed Ellie and handed her back to me. I hugged her and through my blubbering tears all I could say over and over was, “Thank you.” She thanked me back, for giving her girl a hope that she couldn’t, and told us both she loved us dearly.

As we drove away, I thought about how we would be celebrating in the weeks and months to come, and they would be grieving and healing. And oh, the ache of grieving your babies — I know it so well. In those couple of weeks in Arizona, I had no idea how much my heart was capable of grieving and celebrating all at the same time.

And that’s kind of how this year has been. Deep, deep grief coupled with extravagant celebration. Even this baby girl in our arms who we are so crazy about doesn’t take away the grief of losing Judah last year or the loss of our pregnancy in July. I still think about both of those babies when I rock her to sleep at night.

The truth is, there’s no real cure for longing on this side of Heaven. We’ll never be complete on this side of eternity. We will always experience grief even in the presence of life — and I’m learning to be grateful for that.

I know Jesus better because of it. Because He was a man familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief — and all in the same breath, He is Life. He is Victory. He is Hope. He is Peace. In His Presence is FULLNESS of Joy. And that is because for the joy set before Him, He endured suffering and death on the cross.

Sometimes when death sings melody, life sings harmony. And somehow the two together end up being a really special kind of beautiful.

In 2017, I hope we are all better at this dance of letting those two things exist alongside each other. When our hearts are breaking, I hope we let them — there is gold in being broken and allowing God to move and comfort and heal, even in our questions. And when we experience victories, I hope we are brave enough to claim and celebrate them, not allowing our previous losses to steal from our current breakthrough.

When we see injustices unfold before our eyes, I hope we really see them and choose to allow our hearts to be moved in such a way that our actions follow. I hope we let our own heartbreaks grow empathy for others.

I hope we’re all a little more uncomfortable this year — willing to be inconvenienced and interrupted for the sake of someone else.

And you know what I think fuels all of those things? Being willing to be heartbroken. There is something about experiencing grief that makes us all a little more hungry and willing to make sacrifices in order to bring forth life. And I think our world could use a little more of that this year.

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