Dec 122014
 

Beauty and Hope

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.

It was the first Christmas our broken family would be spending in two homes instead of one. We were in pain from the separation, but desperately determined to fake holiday cheer for the children. That’s why my husband, Craig, showed up one night carrying a tree.

It was the ugliest Christmas tree I’d ever seen—half dead, droopy, with brittle needles that hit our tile floor like a steady rain. I wondered if he’d chosen what had to be the worst tree in the lot on purpose. Still, Craig made hopeful noises while arranging the frail branches and I allowed my silence to speak for itself. Then I left the room because witnessing this awkward scene hurt too much. Even the Christmas music playing in the background sounded hollow and desperate.

As I kissed the kids good night, there was a crash. I ran back to the living room to find the tree had fallen and Craig standing there frozen, sweat streaming down his face. Ornaments were scattered and shattered. I melted into the wreckage, picking up the smashed keepsakes I’d assumed would be passed down to my grandchildren. I begged Craig to find the superglue while I desperately tried to piece random glass shards into something recognizable. My 10-year-old son, Chase, walked in and his eyes widened and filled with tears. I wiped my own tears, plastered on a smile and said, “Everything’s fine! Everything’s just fine!”

And with that—with that “everything’s just fine”—something shifted and I was able to see clearly what I was doing on the floor and to my family. I was trying to un-break broken things. I was trying to force my family and my life backward. Back into the “perfect family” box that I’d built of Christmas Card Families and holiday commercial homes. But we couldn’t move backward and we didn’t fit in that box anymore. Instead we were stuck. And the only way to get us unstuck was for me to let us be what we were: a little busted-up but still a family.

People change and relationships change and that means that families change, homes change and holidays change. When we hold tight to what once was, when we refuse to make new traditions and instead try to un-break broken things, we miss out on both the beauty of what is and the hope of what might one day be.

I handed a broom to Craig and a dustpan to Chase and we swept up the shards. Then Chase and I drove to the drugstore to buy boxed cookies and two-dollar tinsel. We giggled on the way, a little bit thrilled to be out past bedtime in our jammies. When we got home, Craig and the girls were waiting—sleepy, curious and snuggling on the couch. We turned up the music and redecorated our ugly tree together. Everyone seemed happy.

After we were done, we curled up on the couch and let our tree be lovely in its own way. And I decided to let my far-from-perfect family be lovely in its own way too. Maybe my kids didn’t need perfect. Maybe they just needed Craig and me to keep showing up and proving to them that there is always beauty to be found in the messes of family and home.

This holiday we will be under one roof again. We’ve been pieced back together with the superglue of hope and stubbornness and luck. But though we’re reunited, nothing will be perfect. We’ll admire our tree and family with different burdens on our shoulders. And this is more than okay. That year taught us that there is no Perfect Christmas. It also taught us that middle-of-the-night cookies and ugly-tree decorating might be a tradition worth keeping—forever.

Click here to read the full article on the Family Circle magazine website.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 112014
 

Me and JonAll Jon wants for Christmas is me.

So. Amy and Sister and I had an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the buzz that in January, Facebook will be making changes that may make it difficult for you to see Momastery posts — they may begin requiring people like me to pay to get content and messages out to you.

After an hour of discussion, we came to these conclusions:  1. Who knows if all that’s true? 2. It is a PROBLEM for Momastery and Together Rising that we depend so entirely on Facebook to get our content to you. All Facebook has to do is change a few policies, and this community could be disbanded just like that. To say that this stresses me out is to say that I have always found Jon Bon Jovi to be “mildly attractive.” MASSIVE understatements.

Right now I feel like I have this best friend on whom I depend every single day to make me laugh and cry and feel and I don’t even know her phone number. I have these amazing people I am DOING LIFE with- and I’m basically asking Facebook’s permission to speak with them each day. This is making me slightly nuts. I am sure Mr. Zuckerberg is just lovely – but I still don’t want him to come between us.

Help me with this situation, please. Would you do these simple things? They will take you TEN SECONDS.

  1. PLEASE SIGN UP to have G-LOVE delivered to your inbox by putting your email address in the box below. I am so excited about this newsletter. This platform has gotten so BIG and I’m craving the intimate family feel of the past.  I’ll write the G-Love Family letters filled with never-before-seen stories and pictures and I’ll tell you what shows, books, ideas and quotes are making me think, laugh, and cry. And there will be plenty of GIVEWAYS, like free books and Love Wins T-shirts and other fancy things I can’t tell you about here. And any information about future Love Flash Mobs and Momastery events will go out to the G-LOVE Family before it goes out to anyone else.  Sign up NOW and get your first G-Love email NOW.

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  1. PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM. You guys need to come join our little IG family. We are having a BLAST over there. Last weekend we spent hours discussing every scene and every character from Almost Famous. It was epic. It’s ALL HAPPENING over there. And our IG family is one TENTH the size of our FB family- so it’s super easy to ask me questions and interact with each other and get personal. There’s a lot of beautiful intimacy and a lot of FUNNY going on over there. IG is simple, clean, and easy with about %49 million fewer posts about politics. I LOVE IG and plan to spend more of my online time there. I need you to come so I stop feeling like I’m cheating on my FB readers when I’m sharing there. COME OVER!
  1. PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER I don’t know what to say about Twitter. I honestly haven’t figured it out yet. I keep re-tweeting my own tweets and accidentally tagging deodorant companies when I mean to tag my Sister. I make no promises about what I can offer you there. Comic Relief? I don’t know- just come follow me, ok? Be merciful. Tweet Tweet!

Okay. Those three things. Can you do them? Can you help me sleep better at night by giving me ways to connect with you other than through Facebook? The show and the Love must go on. Right?

LOVE YOU.

G

*If anyone can help me think of another name for our newsletter family other than G-Love PLEASE DO SO. But also know that it could have been worse: My high school newspaper column was called, “Nothin’ But a G-Thing.” I know. I cannot even.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


Dec 092014
 

Originally published in 2009 & excerpted from the New York Times Bestseller Carry On, Warrior.

lwlong

2007 was a tough year for the Meltons. Chase and Tish were 4 and 1, and Craig and I spent our days and evenings on the phone, interweb, and each others’ nerves trying to realize our adoption dream. We were trying to adopt internationally and each time we got close, the dreaded background check would come, and agency after agency would reject us because . . . well, by now you know I choose to describe my past as festive.

Side note- in the past decade- I have been diagnosed with addictive personality, incompetent cervix, and suspicious blood.  So negative. I think words are important, so I have made some minor semantics adjustments. I now describe myself to doctors as having an “excited” personality, “laid-back cervix” and “creative” blood. Additionally- I am not “depressed,” I am extra- feely. And I am not “anxious” I am just PAYING ATTENTION. There are things, REAL THINGS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT, PEOPLE. And it is not “paranoia” if everyone is ACTUALLY AFTER YOU. And on and on like this. 

Anyway, I laugh now, but I wasn’t laughing back in 2007. I cried myself to sleep lots of nights, while Craig squeezed me tight and prayed that God would either open an adoption door or take away the desperation in my heart. Then I’d wake up early and start the whole obsessive process over. During one interview, as the social worker asked us questions about the past and we answered them honestly, we could actually hear her voice becoming more distant and cold. When we got off the phone I said “I don’t think she’s going to give us a baby, do you?” Craig responded by admitting that he wanted to stop doing interviews altogether because he was afraid they’d decide to take away the two kids we already had.

In August of 2007, we found some hope at an agency that facilitated adoptions from Guatemala. The social worker told us that they would find a way to bring a baby home to us, from their orphanage where toddlers and babies were abandoned because their parents couldn’t feed them. They sent us packets and pictures of the orphanage and the orphans and I fell in love. Hard.

While our paperwork was being processed, I spent my days mentally planning and preparing and daydreaming. I knew our baby would be a little girl, and I knew her name would be Maria. I have no idea where this information originated, so I assumed it was from God. I never told anyone that I knew she would be Maria, because people can only be expected to take so much. But I knew it. There was a country song out at the time called “My Maria” and I would drive around, belting out the lyrics and fantasizing about how Craig, Chase, Tish, Maria, and I would dance to “My Maria” in front of our family and friends at Maria’s coming home party. I am quite sure I planned my outfit. These daydreams are probably why I get lost almost every single time I get in my car. I never really had an explanation for that frustrating phenomenon until this moment.

At the end of September, we got a phone call from the agency. Craig took the call and then he told me gently that the agency had decided we were too much of a risk. The door to Guatemala was officially closed. I sat on the couch and cried and cried, because how can you feel something so certainly and then turn around and accept that it wasn’t meant to be? I remember hearing Chase walk in while I was crying and asking Craig “Why?” and Craig said, “She’s just sad, honey. Mommy’s just sad.”

Two months passed and I pulled myself together reasonably enough. You can read about what happened during those two months here. It was a magical and painful time.

Christmas morning came, and after the flurry of excitement and gifts everybody got tired, as people do on Christmas morning. We all rested into the day. Bubba fell asleep on the couch, and Sister and Tisha slid into the kitchen to start breakfast for the kids. I sat on the couch and congratulated myself for pulling off another Christmas. Craig snuggled next to me on the couch and handed me one last gift that he had hidden away. I smiled and opened it, and when all of the paper was removed: this is what I saw in my lap.

My Maria

I mean, he made this. With stickers. STICKERS.

After we found out we wouldn’t be allowed to bring a baby home from Guatemala, Craig called the agency and asked if he could “sponsor” a child there, in honor of me and of our dream. The woman at the orphanage said they had just the little girl for us. Her name was Maria, she said. She sent Craig pictures of Maria and her orphanage home, and Craig put them together in a scrapbook for me. So on Christmas morning, I’d have something to hold.

I sat on the couch and cried until I couldn’t see. Bubba woke up and became alarmed. Everyone stared. I didn’t care. I have never in my life felt the presence of God more strongly than I did at that moment, sitting on the couch, with that scrapbook in my lap and my husband beside me. I actually felt God saying, “I was watching, and I was speaking. You were right, there is a Maria for you. Here she is.”

Since I couldn’t speak, I left my family and walked into my bedroom, found my journal and brought it back to the family room. I opened it to page after page where I’d doodled “Maria Melton” like a lovesick teenager. Craig was shocked, and he cried with me.

We fell more deeply in love with Maria during the next year. We sent her gifts and letters that Tisha translated into Spanish for us. We told her that God loved her very much and so did we and we explained that we prayed for her and for her friends every night. We asked Chase’s birthday party guests to donate money instead of gifts and we sent the money to Maria so that she could throw a birthday party for herself that year. The orphanage told us that the money went so far that Maria was able to invite another orphanage to her party too, and that they all played with piñatas and balloons for the first time in their lives. All I have to do to make myself cry, to this day, is to say to myself, “I hope she felt special that day.”

We got a letter last year announcing that Maria had finally been adopted by a family in the states. The odds had been against her. The previous year we had been told that the likelihood that Maria would find a forever home were slim to none.

But we know that with God, nothing is impossible.

 

Originally published in 2009 & excerpted from the New York Times Bestseller Carry On, Warrior.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


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