The New and Messy

We are coming to month number 6 of being city dwellers.  Typing that seems so crazy!  These last six months have flown by and as I sit at my neighborhood coffee shop to type it feels so much like home.  The day we moved in was Savanah's first day of school at Urban Christian Academy.  So needless to say, change was just a hurricane on our family.  New home, new school, new house, new neighborhood, new sounds, new sights, new people....new, new, new.  
We were also so obviously new in our hood.
Yet new does not mean wrong.  
It means feeling vulnerable.
It means feeling risky.
It means feeling scared.
It means feeling excited.
And sometimes when I am feeling all of those emotions my controlling Suzanne begins to take action.  She wants to minimize the feeling of new and make it normal as quickly as possible.  Thinking that I am smart enough to completely bypass feeling new.  Feeling vulnerable or afraid.  But normal is something that cannot be created or contrived.  It is something that has to happen through the process of feeling vulnerable, and afraid, and unsure, and excited.  Holding those out and letting your days start to reveal to you the new.  And the days when we thought, this isn't where we should be....this feels like the wrong decision....this is hard....we knew.....this was so right.

As our days and time in the city have unfolded we have learned so much.  For instance, the roads may be two way, but seriously, you can pass anyone at anytime as if they were four lanes.  And honestly, do not wait for the bus to start back up again on the road.  Just go around him as if the bus is not there.  The bus driver does not think you are being nice when you smile and give him a little wave as if to say, "after you kind sir"....no...he is annoyed by you....he needs you to just continue with your day.  So, go, kind waving and smiling white girl.  

The days have revealed that relationships take time.  That maybe I had expectations of others or situations or of God that I didn't know were lying in my heart.....until they became unmet.  And in the unmeeting, it begins to feel messy.

Yet (thanks to a dear friends reminder), messy does not mean wrong.
It means feeling vulnerable.
It means feeling scared.
It means feeling lonely.
It means feeling sad.
But it is not wrong.  When you begin to lean into the spaces that God is inviting you, mess is inevitably going to be there.  And to be honest....I didn't have a whole lot of mess one year ago.  Things were pretty tidy and predictable.  We were finally a family of five and I was doing my day to day.  But it has been in these messy places that my dependency on the Lord has grown because I know that He needs to clean up those messy things about me.  Where I am in constant need of Him to refine me and remind me that I am His.  

Our days have also revealed how simple answers do not solve complicated problems.  Solving for x around here is not simple.  Just like dividing 37 by 5 gives you a remainder of 2 (y'all, I'm a homeschool teacher now!), so do the problems of most of our new friends.  Once you think the problem might have a solution, there is always something remaining to work through.  And learning that messy isn't wrong has served us very well in this part of our move.  Because there are many people who desperately need someone to say you will be willing to enter into the messiness of their lives.  That despite all of the remaining factors they might have, that doesn't matter to you.  It can't matter....because the truth is, I have a lot of remaining factors too.  And it has revealed to me that people aren't equations to be solved.  Especially "poor people" or "under privileged" people.  And I am not the ultimate genius because I am a middle class white girl educated in the Blue Valley School District here to bring order to the chaos......I might have thought that about myself.....but that girl didn't last out very long.  The only one who came to bring order to chaos was Jesus.  And He came to the chaos of my life and desired to reconcile me back to Himself.  He didn't do that by swooping in and solving all of the yuck that was in me.....he did it by inviting me into a relationship with himself.  And He commissioned me....and you to do the same.  To be a friend.  To walk alongside.  For the long haul.  Solving equations are quick.  It is measurable.  You can make it fit into a compartment that you choose to open and close when it's convenient.  But convenient is not something that describes our days anymore.  And I am conveniently beginning to appreciate this new normal.  This mess.  My days and weeks that are unpredictable.  The tears shed with people who seem to have so many remaining factors and yet feel hope when you wonder where that hope could possibly be.  And, thankfully, I am also just swerving right on by the bus without a wave or a smile. 
I think I'm gonna like it here.
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Momma's Got a Brand New Bag

It was a normal morning.  I was packing lunches and making breakfast.  Dave was reading a devotional and having his bowl of cereal.  As usual, the first to arrive downstairs was Maren.  Looking adorable in her school uniform plaid skirt, maroon polo, and pig tail swinging as she walked.  She headed to the pantry to pick out the perfect snack for school and as she is eye balling her choices she says facing the pantry, "Mom and Dad, God has given me a calling for my life.  He wants me to build a school for kids who don't have one and teach at it."  She then slips her bag of popcorn in her backpack, turns to me to say, "can I have cereal for breakfast?"
Yep. Totally normal.  
I get the bowl of cereal ready as Dave and I pass a glance to each other as if to say, "what in the world do we do with this?"  To be honest, I think we basically told her that was amazing and that we should seek the Lord more in prayer.  And that was that.  The morning craze continued.  The days turned to weeks to months.  And to be honest, we never really spoke more about that morning.  
We got matched with Thabi and all the world changed.  We went to Africa.  And we came home. We had no idea when that plane landed, when we began our new little family of five, that change wasn't going to stop for us.  And that school thing....that was gonna circle back...for more of us then just Maren.
I should take you back a few years.  I know that if I would step back in time to when we said yes to adoption in 2010 I would barely recognize myself.  Recognize my marriage.  My family.  My heart.  We were so different in so many ways.  It was before God wrecked us.  Before He came in and did a clean sweep....at least, He began the sweeping.  That tiny little yes to something we thought was so simple, so cut and dry, would be the hinge of the unfolding.  And if you've been around this blog enough you have heard about that unfolding.  The way God has ruined us for the average, the mundane, the fringes, or as Jesus likes to say...the least.  And I have to admit, there just isn't any other place I would rather be.  Living in the tension of God's plan and His unfolding has left a mark on me forever.  
About two years ago we began seeing that our lives were going to change physically.  We weren't exactly sure how or what or when, but we knew.  We also knew that untying some of our life here was important so that we would be ready to go.  We pursued full time missions in Africa.  We pursued Dave working in full time ministry.  Willing hearts wide open for whatever it is that would be our next place.  Never would I have dreamt that our next place would not be full time missions or full time ministry. 
When we got back from Africa, the girls started back at school after a few jet lagged days of not knowing what time it really was.  One day, at pick up, Maren hopped in the car and told me that her school Heritage was doing a school supply drive and we needed to get some stuff for them to bring the next day.  In my fog of being a new mom and home and unpacking and laundry and tired, I told Maren that we were just going to have to trust Jesus with this one school supply drive to provide for all of the needs for whoever it was that needed it without our family.  Poor girl.  It was a parenting win for me I know.  The next day, an email came through from the school and I clicked on it.  With Thabi taking her nap by my side I opened the link and video to the school Heritage was collecting supplies for, Urban Christian Academy.  I watched the video.  And in that moment, I remembered that not so normal morning a few months prior.  I was watching 2 young girls who saw a need for a school....a Christian school.....for kids who needed it....and they were teaching at it...right here in our city!  As soon as Maren hopped in the car that afternoon I told her that I learned about the school.  I also noticed it was two young girls living out the same dream God had given her......I then asked if she wanted to meet them...interview them...share with them her dream.  She agreed.  
I sent an email to Kalie and Meredith and they agreed.
We met over pizza.
Maren had 8 sweet interview questions and they spent the dinner encouraging and pouring into her.
It meant so much to this Momma.
I left that pizza party knowing we needed to pay attention to what the Lord is doing at UCA.  And selfishly, I wanted to be around them more.  I wanted to be in on what God was doing there.  I told Dave that night when we got home that I wanted him to meet them, Meredith and Kalie.  There was no explaining....you had to hear them pour out their vision.
And so we did.
They came for dinner.
We visited the school.
It became clear.
This was our unfolding.
It was time.
This was not a place we were going to give money to, volunteer at weekly, or commit to praying.
It was a place we were going to call our school.  Our community.  Our people.  
So things will look a little different for us.
We've got a new school: 
Urban Christian Academy

Savanah will have a new uniform next year and she looks so cute in it
Maren will also wear a new uniform...PJ's if you want, and I will add a title to my name!
That's right.  PJ's.  And I am not sure there could be a happier girl.  You see, UCA grows a grade level a year and they are just one year behind where Maren is in school.  So, I will also have a new title next year....3rd grade teacher!  You read that right, Suzanne is homeschooling!  The exciting thing about educating Maren more uniquely is what it will gain her.  She will get to be apart of UCA in such a unique way.  The Kindergarten teacher Meredith has offered her an internship in her classroom.  Maren will get to work hands on with the students there.  She will have a school community, it will just be different.  When Meredith made this offer to me, I was so humbled and blown away.  To think that someone would want to pour into my child and family in this way was amazing to me!  
We began the house hunt really focused on where we wanted to land.  And just as He does, God had a very different plan.  Some of our very favorite people live in the Northeast.  Pouring into that community and involved in a new church plant.  When a house in that area hit the market we decided to maybe change our parameters of where we were looking and check it out.  
We loved it.  
We loved the community.  
The diversity.
We love being minutes from dear friends.  
We put in an offer.  
We got it.
We are so excited!
The house feels like a complete gift!
Today I will sign Thabi up for preschool at a school just down the street from the new house!  
This unfolding has been fast, scary, and amazing.  Our current house is on the market and we are praying boldly that it will sell soon!  We know there are no contingency plans with Jesus.  We trust that the right family will come at just the right time.  
So here we go on a whole new adventure.  
We can't wait!
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Then we became the Campbell5

We were told that we would probably not bring Thabi with us that first day meeting her.  Because she had such an attachment to her home, they weren't sure if she would go with us.  
When we arrived, Maren held my hand that whole walk up to the children's home.  My stomach was in knots.  This day was one I had dreamt of so many times.  I had watched countless adoption videos dreaming of what our day would look like.  We walked into the home and were greeted with smiling faces.  It was quiet.  The women there said, "Oh! Maren and Savanah!"  I smiled.  Nervous.  They explained that they had been going through our photo book with her and were excited to see we brought the girls.  We were taken to a small room.  We sat on a couch.  And our case worker said she would be back.  
I don't have much memory of that wait.  I was nervous.  I knew how much joy and anticipation laid in my heart...but I also knew that she probably didn't have the same in hers.  I knew that her heart was about to be confused.  I knew that she was about to feel grief.  And with the beautiful gain of a family for her also means deep grief.  And there was no life experience on my end that could ever begin to understand that tension.  
She came.  Our caseworker carried her over to me.  She looked at me.  She saw the girls and said "Savanah".  Then she came to me.  I hugged her.  She was quiet.  But slowly, in that small room, she started to play with us.  We read books.  We played with the toys there.  She loved hanging with her sisters.  She sat with her Daddy and read a book.  I got to meet one of the Momma's and ask questions like, "what makes her feel loved?  What does do when she is sad or upset?  What are her favorite things?"  But my head was spinning too.  I didn't want to miss anything that was around me.  
We walked through the beautiful children's home to see her bed.  We passed through one crib-lined room of sleeping babies into a second crib-lined room of more babies.  And there was her crib.  Her bed no more.  

We played outside and talked with more people who loved our girl so much!  We received many amazing gifts and cards.  One volunteer who loved our girl so very much made a beautiful scrapbook for her.  Full of photos of her time there.  It is more than a treasure for Thabi.  I am so thankful to have it and we look at it almost everyday. 
And then it was time to say goodbye and with that...she came.  I carried her out of the only home she had ever known.  She was so brave.  She was smiling.  She put her arms around me and her sisters.  And just like that...we became the Campbell 5!
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You guys.  This is embarrassing.  Seriously.  My last post here was in AUGUST.  Ha!  I mean, not much has changed.  We just went to AFRICA for like a month and came home with our THIRD DAUGHTER and our world has been rocked......but you know.  Not much to mention over here.  Ha!  I couldn't believe that I didn't even write a post about us going to Africa.  Alas.  Pregnancy brain cannot be my excuse anymore.  So I promise, dear readers who I am not sure are still reading or remember me or know that this blog still existed, I will write.  I will post pictures.  I will share.  My heart has had so much to share but I have had this little precious one that I have been pouring into each day.  Showing her my love is real and it can be counted on.  Thankfully, she was in an orphanage that displayed that love to her so truly, she has learned that easy.  But when you are loved big, you grieve big.  So my sweet girl misses her first home.  Misses her first Momma's.  Misses her friends.  I don't blame her......they loved well.  I cannot begin to say how thankful I am.  But seeing a country that is still so divided racially and coming home to see my country....truly, my city the same has done a number on my heart too.  I promise, I will write with as much honesty as I can muster.  So if anyone is still out there.....I am too. 
Me as a mom of two before becoming a mom of three!  We are waiting for our driver to come get us from our guesthouse
That moment
So happy with her Daddy.  His first moment with her
She is such a happy brave girl
I will introduce you to this amazing staff, but this gal is pretty amazing.  She loved our girl big!
Big sisters.  Look at them both reading to her.  Which book should she look at?  This pretty much explains how it has been between the three of them.  The two bigs competing for her to look at them, play with them, be with them.  Ha!  So thankful for how they love her so big and so well!
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Reflections on Real

So we dove in feet first with real food. 
{enjoy these real photos}

We (me and the girls) took everything out of the pantry and laid it on the kitchen table (and floor).  I showed the girls what an ingredient list was on packaging.  I told them that whatever foods they could read every single ingredient they could keep.  And they tried.  But then they realized that they didn't even know what some of the things were in their food and they realized that fruit snacks doesn't really have fruit and mac and cheese doesn't really have cheese.  One girl exclaimed, "my life is over!!"  And I sort of thought the same in my head as I was panicking inside over what I will actually feed my family!  But I then explained that eating real food is not depriving ourselves of the things we love, it is making the food in a different way. 
I called my best friend and offered her all the food that we were not going to be keeping from the pantry and being a mom of four she gladly took me up on the offer!  Cleaned off the shelves and sat down with the cookbook. 
We walked through the recipes and pictures.  I asked the girls what they wanted on the list for the week and we headed to the store for our first adventure. 
This week has been crazy schedule wise.  So I knew that planning ahead was important.  But I was surprised at how simple all of it really is.  I made homemade granola for our cereal.  The prep for that was 5 minutes, then stick it in the oven, then let cool and store.  Pretty much the easiest and yummiest thing ever.  Homemade pizza was fun and simple as well.  The crust is like 4 ingredients.  Pancakes.  Salmon with fresh veggies and a fresh salad.  It's not rocket science.  And the best part?  Being in the kitchen with my girls. 
Maren loves to cook with me and has been all in with us!  She saw the recipe for the carrot cake and that was what she wanted to make most.  So we did.  And one of my favorite summer staffers from church came over and joined us in the kitchen fun as well.  It brought people together in my kitchen.  We made a big mess, talked, laughed, and made something together. 
This real food thing made me begin to think about real in general.  I was so surprised by how non-inconvenient it really was and how much we enjoyed it.  How much it brought us together.  How much time we had.  How we really knew how to stretch our food because we had most everything we needed right on hand since our pantry was longer full of food but of ingredients to make things. 
Then I thought about how convenient we have become in general.  I was challenged on how I lean into convenience with most things rather than the real.  And as I look at my facebook feed these last few weeks I began to wonder how necessary real is for our society now. 
I wonder as opposed to posting a facebook status with an attached article regarding  marriage equality or planned parenthood or politics or.....what if we sat down for a real conversation.  What if we took into consideration that reading that status on the other side of the screen is a real person.  With real feelings.  With a real past.  With real tenderness.  With real wrestling.  And what if we decided that we would have a real conversation and hold those feelings, those tender places with integrity and love all while wrestling together?  Knowing that in the end we may not see it the same way, and that that doesn't need to be our goal.  But maybe the goal might be to actually see each other.  See each other as....well.....real. 
I want to live more authentically in this life and the truth is, I don't really think being vulnerable on social media is the same thing as authentic.  I think we are just fooling ourselves into community.  Because community is lived out.  It is messy.  It is not simple.  And it is not convenient.  And I have seen myself desire simple and convenient far too often while in the end missing the richness of community.  I also realize that I say all of this all while writing a blog post. Haha.   Rest assured, that this post that I am writing, I have fleshed out with a real person first. 
So this first week of real food obviously brought more to the table then food for our tummies but food for our souls.  It was a rounding to the table our people.  Who do you need to round to your table?  Join me in the fight for real! Make a phone call.   Round people to your table.  Cook. Talk. Laugh. I'm wanting more real in my life.
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This is about the millionth time I have come to my computer today.  I have convinced myself that every time I walk away from my kitchen that has everything out of it's cupboards and drawers might secretly organize itself the longer I stare at facebook or check my email.  But alas, it has not happened.  So maybe if I write a little it will happen. 
We are going to begin changing a lot in our kitchen and I am a lot afraid about it.  I have danced around the eating organic and real food world for a while and it is just time that we dive in or don't dive in at all.  So today I sat the girls down and talked to them about the difference between food and real food.  Pretty sad to think that you actually have to do that.  We went through our pantry and I told them if they could read the words on the ingredient list with no problem we can keep it.  It was interesting to watch them actually get a little grossed out by the ingredients in some of their favorite "foods".  So begins our new adventure.  And that just began to get me going gang busters on the rest of my kitchen.  Cleaning every cabinet and getting rid of things from our wedding that we have never used, and some things I am not actually sure what it is for in the kitchen.  So we are starting something pretty big around here for our family.  I am an all or nothing girl.  I can't ease into anything honestly.  So if I don't just do it then it won't get done.  My favorite break in the day was to eat Harris pizza my Aunt and Uncle brought back from Rock Island.  You know, just to kick off real food :) 
If you want to learn more about what we are embarking on then check out this website, www.100daysofrealfood.com 
I ordered her cookbook and it is great.  I was nervous it was going to be just like her blog but honestly there is so much more and it is well organized and user friendly.  I will keep you posted on this journey!  With #3 on the way we are putting nutrition on the top of our list to help fuel her and get her body growing strong!  I guess that begins with all of us too!  I'll keep you posted on how all of this keeps going! 
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The Best Entry Yet: We have a little girl

A month after my last post everything in our world shifted.
Tuesday (important to note)
May 5th (important to note)
We received an email from our agency telling us of a little girl waiting.  There was one medical need in her file that we had not originally checked as being open to, but if we wanted to go ahead and look at the file we could.  My heart fell.  It was a Tuesday.  It was the 5th.  I called Dave.  His heart said the same answer mine was screaming, "yes!!!".  I called our case worker as Dave was frantically driving home from work. 
Could this be it?  Could she be our daughter?
We set the girls up with a movie and the two of us gathered around our computer.  We prayed.  We called our case worker and he began to speak.  I have no memory of anything he said.  It was the basic information.  Age, 3.  Birthdate, February 20.  Location, Johannesburg.  Then he began to speak into her need that we had not originally "checked" on our medical check list form. 
Very premature
28 weeks in fact
Two pounds at birth
Sweet baby girl
Dave took the lead because I think he knew my heart was off to the races. 
"We want to see her file, but no pictures yet."
He is so wise.
We got off the phone and didn't really know what to say or how to process.  The other part is that Dave was leaving.  Headed to Boston for a business trip and then from there to Haiti until late Monday night.  So we prayed and said goodbye.
This file and I became the best of friends.  I read it at least three (hundred) times a day.  Googling words I saw.  Names I read.  We emailed it off to the International Pediatrician at Children's Mercy for review.  And prayed.  My anthem song was Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli.  Every single time I was in the car that song came on.  I invited His presence to surround me, to flood our home, that at the end of the day it was His glory and His path that I wanted more than anything.  Dave and I weren't able to talk because of his meeting schedule and our schedule here at home.  And then when he got to Haiti the chance for communication lessened. 
Sunday was Mother's Day.  Standing at church worshipping by myself, holding this sweet girl in my heart.  Crying out to Him as I had been for almost 4 years to bring to completion this call. 
Was this completion? 
Driving to the airport Monday night I repeated a phrase that I repeat very often in our marriage, "expectations are pre-meditated disappointments".  I said it over and over and over again.  Because I knew that the last 6 days for Dave were very different then the last 6 days for me.  I didn't know where his heart would be.  Or if it would be anywhere.  And I needed to let my heart know that and give permission for his heart to not be where mine was.  So I repeated it and repeated.  I knew that I was a resounding YES.  So many things over the last 6 days had confirmed that for me.  But I knew that I needed to stay calm and let Dave lead this one.  I pulled our car over to the side to pick him up.  The girls were so happy to see their Daddy again.  I was so happy to see their Daddy again.  He got in the car and the tears started for him.
"God completely took away my desire for a son.  Every orphanage we visited a three year old girl grabbed my hand and wouldn't let go.  All I can see in our family is three little girls."
There was more but I don't remember.
All I know is I was driving, crying, listening and repeating still, "expectations are pre-meditated disappointments". 
That Tuesday we heard back from the International Pediatrician
And that Wednesday, May 13th, we officially accepted her referral and saw her face for the very first time.  The four of us piled up by the computer and we opened the file all together.  We have this on video and I will post that sometime soon.  It was pretty sweet.  She is ours.
An orphan no more
A sister
A daughter
Why is Tuesday so important?
*Two years ago we got a referral for a little girl in Ethiopia.  She is blind.  I had just picked Maren up from school when I got the phone call.  We spent a day of big prayer and fasting.  We were going to say yes, but there was this deep ache in my heart.  Deep.  I knew that I could be a good Mom for this little girl, but I knew deep within me that I was not her Mommy.  Since that day I have been praying for God to redeem Tuesdays for me.  Not only that, but Tuesday school pick up.  Almost every Tuesday since that one, I prayed that prayer driving to school.  And wouldn't you know this email from our case worker came while I was waiting in the pick up line for Maren?  Tuesday redemption.
Why is the 5th so cool?
*We changed to South Africa in November.
December 5th our social worker came over to update our home study
January 5th we mailed our documents to immigration
February 5th our completed dossier was sent to South Africa
May 5th we were presented with our sweet girl
I poured over her file a zillion times over those 6 days.  Going to sleep was hard.  I read the Psalms when I feel anxious or can't sleep.  I was reading one of my favorites, Psalm 34, one night.  I came across verse 18 and the words that I wrote above it struck me.  I went and grabbed her file.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Tears rolled down and laughter came too. 
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;  He rescues those whose spirits are crushed."
Above this verse I wrote, "prayer for our baby and their family 10/2012"
Our baby girl was taken into care October 2012. 
God was so gracious to align all of our hearts in that moment.  While adoption is one of the most beautiful things, we have to remember that our gain comes at her loss.  There is deep loss before there is a deep gain.  So yes.  October 2012 is a month of great hearts that were broken and spirits that probably did feel crushed.  Because the weight of this world is great.  But in that moment, God aligned this Mommy in Kansas with a Mommy in South Africa.  Words fail me in even trying to grasp this mystery.  Even while reading Jen Hatmaker this morning, she nailed it exactly, "Their tragic circumstances didn't lessen their worth but raised them to the highest level of divine attention."  While the pain of this world, the loss in this world, the hard.....all of that seems to say that there is no God.  That He has forgotten.  That He isn't there.  Truly, it is those moments that raises us to the highest level of divine attention.  I had no idea that when I prayed that night in October that I was praying those words so precisely, so timely, so exactly.....but God knew.  He knew because He raised our baby girl and her family up to the highest level of divine attention.  I am eternally grateful.
So she is ours. 
What comes next?
We are currently waiting for our approval letter from the Central Authority.  As soon as we have this we will apply at Immigration.  As soon as we get immigration approval we wait on a court date.  As soon as we have a court date we travel.  As soon as we travel, we meet her and keep her forever!  Phew!
Big prayer right now is for that letter to come so we can get the ball rolling.  We would love to leave late July but that isn't looking like it could be.  But our timelines are not His timelines.  We would love your prayers!
I cannot share her picture or name publicly just because she is not legally our child.  So when you see us ask, we will tell you and show you!  Our girls are so excited for a new sister!  
We love sharing her with people and we love answering questions.  But also know that we won't answer all your questions.  Our baby girl's story is hers and hers alone.  Imagine if you had a file for your life, and I mean the most broken place of your life.  That is probably not something you want read by everyone or told to everyone.  It is your story.  It is hers and hers alone.  We hold it with such tenderness, dignity, and love.  And we will hold it for her.  I will write a little more on what coming home plans will look like for our family as we begin to knit each other to one another.  Why I won't be dropping her off at Sunday school or not having a big party when we get home or not hanging around a lot of people or not wanting you to hold her or not going places much at all.  So many have forged beautiful paths of this knitting together so I can share with you their insight.  I hope my words don't make you nervous to ask me questions or to draw near to our family.  That is not my hope.  My hope is that you wouldn't be offended and that we can all have permission to learn together.
Thank you for being on this journey with our family!  We are so grateful for you!
More to come!
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