The Wait is Over

I heard someone say once that to be a great writer you have to be a great steward of pain. In the last few years I’ve learned that’s true — that to be a good steward of pain, you have to be willing to sit in it long enough to make some sense of it. And even then, after all of that, you have to be brave enough to show up and relive it in order to write it all down.

I haven’t always been the best about that last part these last couple of years. It felt exhausting sometimes to revisit trauma, and exposing to put my bleeding heart on paper while it was still gushing. I wrote when I felt like I had the grace, but a lot of times I sat in front of my computer with an aching heart and a blank stare, and I walked away with nothing.

The last time I posted here, we were waiting to be matched with a baby. Tonight that baby is sleeping soundly on my chest as I type with my falling-asleep-arms, not wanting to wake her.

It all happened so fast and unexpectedly, the way a snow storm comes quietly in the night and you wake up and everything looks different, blanketed in white. We were matched with our little girl on November 6, and on November 30 we got on a plane to Phoenix to be there for her December 1 birth.

Everything had been so crazy that day — the phone call that her birth mom had gone into labor and the frantic packing and trying to get on the next flight — that I didn’t even think about the date. That night around midnight, when we knew she would be born the next day, a friend reminded me, “Sara, this baby girl is going to come on December 1. The first day of Advent, which literally means arrival.”

What a sweet prophetic mirroring of that night in Bethlehem, when 400 years of silence ended with the cries of a baby boy — a King. A Savior. And there we were in a hospital room in the desert, far from home, anticipating the glorious ending of our own years of silence and longing — and the sound of her first cry, it was magic. Like a trumpet heralding the end of a long and painful road to family.

In the chaos of our girl coming early, I wasn’t able to get quite all of my work done before we left. So the day after our daughter was born, as I sat snuggling her in our hospital room and bonding as much as possible, I also had to finish designing a sermon graphic for our church’s Christmas series, which was starting that week.

I laughed at the awkward juggling of motherhood and ministry that I was being immediately thrown into the fire of, but as I opened my computer to finish this project for church, I wept when I remembered the title of the series:

“The Wait is Over”

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I sat there with this tiny miraculous promise fulfilled in my lap, reliving that moment in the delivery room the night before where I got to be the first one to lay eyes on her, all the emotions of years of silence coming to an end rushing back to my heart and out of my eyes in a river of tears.

The wait is over. And my baby girl in my arms on December 1 is only the tiniest glimpse of the Greatest Gift we celebrate during this season.

Can you imagine the glory of that night? The shepherds interrupted in the shadows by the great light of an entire Heavenly host of angels. The chaos of labor and delivery in a barn. The sound of angels singing, and the image of Mary “treasuring it all up and pondering it in her heart.”

I felt a little like Mary that night in the hospital. Noland and me navigating the sort of awkward but somehow beautifully comfortable relationship with the birth parents of our girl. Nurses in and out of the room looking so confused by our dynamic. Our hilarious case worker entertaining us all to keep things feeling light hearted. The sounds of labor and pain, the buzz of doctors and nurses, and the sobering reality that what we were about to celebrate, our girl’s birth parents were going to grieve.

It all seemed to be spinning around us, echoes of every story in that room being orchestrated into this beautiful harmonious moment. And then her first cry — it was like it silenced every other sound, and time stopped, and the room froze, and there was her face. And even in the middle of all that chaos — I was overcome by peace & wonder.

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The wait was over.

I looked at her, and I thought about all the things that had led to this moment. The promises and prophetic words spoken. The hope deferred and longing and loss. The ways God always proves His Romans 8:28 promise to be true — a working of all things together for good.

I felt in that moment like I tasted a little bit of Mary’s pondering that night in Bethlehem. Like maybe time stopped for her for just a moment, and she thought about that first conversation with the angel who told her what would happen and she said, “but how?” And now she knew. She never doubted that it could be. She just wondered how.

Two weeks later we were standing at an intersection in Scottsdale, waiting to cross the street, and a lady commented on how pretty our girl was. We got to talking and told her that she was adopted, and that we were getting to go home the next day. As we parted ways after crossing the street she turned to me and said, “Enjoy your new life!”

Enjoy your new life. I love that. I’ve been thinking about it constantly ever since she said it. New Life — it’s who He is. It’s why He came. It’s what we remember these weeks of Advent, as we light candles and sing carols and take time to be still and adore Him.

Our wait is over, and this is the part where we enjoy our New Life.

And me? I’m not really sure what that means yet. But I know I feel awake again, and ready to be a better steward of all that pain I’ve been sifting through the last couple of years.

This Christmas week, though? I plan to treasure up all these things and ponder them in my heart.

Cheers. It’s time to learn to celebrate.

It’s 10:48 pm on October 27, and I’ve got a birthday in a little over an hour. Something about that always makes me feel a little reflective; a little nostalgic, even. Another 365 days of life gone by. Another trip full-circle around the sun. I always wonder at the end of a year if I got everything out of it that I could have. Some of that is just a chronic case of middle-child FOMO (fear of missing out).

I think some of it is valid, though. A desire to live well, to take opportunities when I should, and to be still when necessary and actually be in certain moments without chasing another one. Did I love big and grieve well? Did I give more than I took? Did I learn from the places I failed? These are the kinds of questions I ask myself at the end of a year when I’m wanting to know, “Did I do that OK?”

This year, though, y’all. It was a whirlwind. We planted a church and ran like crazy to try to keep up with all the ways God has been growing it. We tried our best to learn how to be winter mountain people when all we’ve ever known is the South (come, Jesus). We moved across the country and then moved again, just across town.

We wrestled through messy things like how to respond as the Church in the midst of a global refugee crisis, a desperate need for racial reconciliation in our nation, and a really confusing, hate-filled election season.

We flew to the other side of the world and looked in the eyes of Syrian friends who had lost everything, and we sat with them and allowed our hearts to break with theirs, and we told them they hadn’t been forgotten. I still can’t imagine the ache of longing for home and family and wondering if you’ll ever see it — or them — again.

I made dear new friends this year, the kind you know from very early on will be forever friendships. I welcomed another niece into the world and grieved all over again that the cost of my “yes” to Jesus is knowing I’ll watch them grow up from afar. I walked through the highest highs and lowest lows of surprise pregnancy followed by miscarriage, and I stepped right back into brave, terrifying hope as we continued down the road of adoption through it all.

And in looking back at all of this, here’s what I think I’ve realized: twenty-five was a year of being shaken to my core. Twenty-six was a year of healing, and realizing I don’t really care what’s mine on this side of Heaven, because everything I long for already resides in eternity. Which maybe sets me up really well for twenty-seven… Empty handed and totally free, in the best kind of way.

I want to learn how to celebrate again this year. We have been through some heavy things this year. Not just personally, but in our community, in our nation, and in the nations of the world. Yet somehow in the Kingdom of Heaven there is this redemptive quality of allowing every place of ache and longing and loss to be primed and prepared for redemption.

I feel primed and prepared for redemption.

We’re getting emails all the time right now about birth moms and babies out there, just waiting for someone to choose us. That is the most vulnerable and exposing thing I have ever done. And somehow, something in me can’t wait to throw a party.

I think maybe something happens in us when we’ve seen enough of the darkness, where we just believe all the more that the light has to be coming. Not in a rite-of-passage, I’ve paid my dues in suffering kind of way. That’s not who God is. I just think maybe I left my life on the altar long enough to see the smoke clear, and I’m realizing hope didn’t burn away.

I love that about hope. About Jesus.

I want to live inside of the reality of a resurrected, walked-through-the-fire-but-not-burned life this year. Regardless of who’s sitting in the oval office, or when I hold a baby in my arms with the last name Gilmore, or how many more global tragedies I live through. Resurrected people are the kind of people who change the world in such a way that those other things look different one day.

So, here’s to learning to celebrate again. I’m just kind of ready to feel alive.

Cheers.

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The Risk of Making Room

I painted a bedroom in my house this weekend. Riveting opener, I know.

When we moved into this place in May, we knew it was with intentions of growing our family, so we left the bedroom upstairs next to ours empty. It’s acted mostly as a storage space for the last 5 months. I keep the door shut, partially because it’s a mess in there and partially because if I don’t look at it, maybe I don’t have to think about it for what it really is:

The empty space that we long for God to fill.

The whole process has been vulnerable, really — the mountains of paperwork that almost felt like they were mocking me all summer, the emotionally exposing home study, the fund raising that uproots every ounce of fear and insecurity in my being — and those are just the major ones.

The empty bedroom in my house, though — that is the thing that scares me the most.

My in-laws were in town two weeks ago, and while they were here we went to look at nursery furniture. The second I stepped into Pottery Barn Kids that day, my stomach was in my throat. I walked around somewhat in a daze, wondering what in the world I was even supposed to be feeling.

I wrestled with God in my heart that day about how I wish I could feel celebratory, but I just feel guarded. It seems like everyone else celebrates their way through growing their families, and we have done nothing but ache and question. It’s sobering, when you’ve fought some losing fights and not received the miracle you were asking for.

I wish I felt more celebratory about it at this stage of the process. I’ve had so many people walk up to me at church in the last couple of weeks since our big fund raising push to congratulate me, and my response feels so empty.

I always smile and say thank you, and tell them how excited we are, and those words are true. But sometimes what I wish I could say instead is, “Thanks. I’m really scared, and my heart still aches for my babies in Heaven, and some days I’m not even really sure I believe that God will give us a family on this side of Heaven. But we’re going to keep asking Him to, and we’re really thankful for all the people in our life that are asking Him with us.”

So as we get ready to be matched with a birth mom and eventually bring home a baby, the logical next thing to do is begin to prepare that empty room I’ve been ignoring for months.

It feels so risky to make room. Foolish, even. Yet I know no other way than to believe that the promise in Psalm 25 is true, “No one who hopes in the Lord will ever be put to shame.”

I wonder what Noah felt like, building that ark with no rain in sight. Yet if he hadn’t, there would have never been an opportunity to see the promise after the flood. Sometimes obedience is a foolish risk.

So, foolish as it feels, we decided to start making room.

We went to Home Depot (a labor of love in itself, because I kind of hate that place) and bought some white paint, and all weekend, I painted what will soon be a nursery.

I thought about how it seemed prophetic, while I was spackling parts of the walls before painting, filling holes and smoothing edges, that maybe something of this process is being mirrored in my spirit.

I prayed and I worshiped as I painted those walls over and over (because white paint on green walls equals more coats than anyone has actual patience for), sometimes crying, sometimes smiling in wonder of the little life that will grow in that room. I prayed over this baby, whoever they are, wherever they are, and the sweet woman who’s carrying a life that she will choose to entrust to us.

At one point I looked down at my paint-covered hands, and I couldn’t help remembering the way they looked on that night two months ago, covered in the blood of another lost life. Now here they were, washed in white with the risky hope of redemption, and that felt prophetic too.

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We don’t get to know when or how God’s promises for our lives will be fulfilled. And the more I grow up, the more I believe that’s probably His grace.

Our job is to hope with open hands — or in my case, and open bedroom. Knowing at the end of it all, our hope is not in an outcome. He is our hope. Firm and secure, as an anchor for our souls. Steadfast. Unshaken. Immovable.

And you know what I’ve learned about making room?

He always fills my hollow spaces with bigger Hope.