Trust Grows at the Amusement Park

On Saturday, I took the kids to Lake Winnie, self-described as “The South’s Favorite Family Amusement Park!” (Their exclamation mark, not mine.) We went with several church friends and approximately one million strangers. I have to admit, amusement parks are not my first choice in entertainment. It’s hot. There are long lines. People are everywhere. And then there are the rides…
I used to love rides when I was growing up. I’m spinning so fast I have to squeeze my eyes shut? Super! I’m staring at the ground, looming a mile away? Great! I’m strapped to a creaky contraption and climbing a steel mountain until I’ll reach the top then I’ll drop quickly down a shaky slope all the while curving and swerving, upside down and screaming? Let’s get in line again! The Wabash Cannonball is awesome!
Now that I’m older and can get dizzy if I stand up too fast, I just can’t take the rides. The other problem is that I know too much. Being an adult, I’m over-exposed to news stories. In the summertime, you can’t turn on your television, radio, or computer without eventually hearing a story about a woman falling off the top seat of a Ferris wheel or a lap bar not working properly on a roller coaster. Then there’s those teen park employees. Yikes. Have they been adequately screened? Can I see some credentials first? Why did he jiggle everyone else’s harness but not mine?
I even included them in the Bingo card I’ve been working on for my next, inevitable trip to another amusement park. It looks a little something like this:

Other than the dizziness and the barfing and the heat stroke, the other tricky part about riding rides is trying to board them with an odd number of people—like seven, for instance. At one point on Saturday, we decided to ride the ski lift.  Everyone paired off, leaving me to ride alone. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was a little nervous. How can this be? It’s not even a real ride. If we were skiing the slopes, it would be a mode of transportation. I made sure I was in the exact center of the bucket. I sat back, never leaning forward as I rose up and over the man-made lake full of paddleboats below. As I rounded the end of the line and headed back to the ski lift dock, I began to relax. The ski lift had earned my trust. I hadn’t dropped to the depths below; even my purse remained with me.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with trusting something that’s bigger than myself and out of my grasp to control. That’s how the ride started off for me. No steering wheel. No brakes. I couldn’t stop the ride or make it go slower or faster. No control. Then it dawned on me: I’ve got to keep putting myself out there if I want to rely on God more and strengthen my trust in Him. It’s hard but it’s the only way to really know where I place my trust. If I always stay on the ground in the safe bubble of my comfort zone, I might as well be telling God He isn’t big enough or strong enough to carry me across whatever obstacle seems to be looming before me today. When He calls me to board the next roller coaster and I can’t see where it’s going and how many times I’ll be hanging upside down, I hope I’ll answer Him, “Yes, I’ll go, but only if You’ll go with me.” 

181 Days

I’ve always been an emotional person. It’s just part of who I am. So what’s the logical activity for an emotional cry baby like me who is waiting to hear news about an adoption which has been languishing interminably long as we approach an important “deadline” (if such a word exists in the adoption world)? Watching home movies, of course.
I recently took our videocassettes to a place where they can convert them to DVDs. I picked them up on Saturday and we spent the whole weekend watching them. I sat next to two 11-year olds and an 8-year old on the sofa while we saw babies and toddlers take first steps and blow out birthday candles. We listened to tiny, high-pitched voices sing the ABC song and “Jesus Loves Me.” I wept. The only thing missing from this tear-fest was some major hormones…oh, wait…I had that going on, too.
The one section we didn’t watch was the birth of our son. My husband did the videoing (I was too busy pushing a human out of my body). He didn’t start filming until after our son was out and in my arms, getting kisses. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize what was in the periphery of the shot. Let’s just say I wasn’t ready for that kind of close up. When I took that cassette to be converted, it came with a backstory, a plea, and some nervous giggling. We decided to put that one on its own separate disc so I could do some cropping later.
Other than that X-rated scene and the random 20 minutes of a dog show when someone from work borrowed our camera, it was priceless. It made it all the more difficult knowing how much we’ve already missed with our son who is in Africa. We’re sick of missing holidays and birthdays and regular days and EVERYdays with him. We’re sick of wondering if this will have a happy ending or any kind of ending at all.
Here’s the truth: we’ve been in this additional wait for 181 days. This doesn’t include the year we waited to be matched and the nine months after that before this wait began. But here’s another truth: it doesn’t matter how sick we get of waiting. It just doesn’t. We’ll wait. We’ll wait for the email or phone call, and we’ll live in expectation of it everyday. That the human heart is capable of processing this overwhelming amount of emotions without imploding is as miraculous as it is commonplace. Nevertheless, I’ll be grateful when I can feel this and so much more with our boy in my arms, getting kisses.  

Yours Truly, Abby

Growing up I was like most kids, flitting from one career path to another. I wanted to cut hair or bake pies or be an acrobat in the circus. My possible future professions were sometimes based on one afternoon’s experience: giving my cousin bangs (whoops!) or baking muffins without a mix or receiving a compliment on my monkey-bars prowess. The passion for this new skill came with a sudden and heady anticipation but it left almost as quickly. I still cut hair from time to time and I’ve been known to do some baking, but they don’t inspire me or give my life meaning. (I’m not much of a monkey-bar girl anymore. My husband does make me watch American Ninja Warrior, though.)
My real and lasting dream job—the one I would barely even admit to myself—was to be an author. In my private moments, I would imagine typing away (on a typewriter, “Murder She Wrote” style) in my writing cabin out in the woods. I would carefully script my interview on Oprah when she would introduce my book as the next “Oprah Book Club” pick. (“Thanks, Oprah! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. No, you’reamazing! I’m just a regular gal.”)
So that’s what makes the last few months so special for me. If getting your book published makes you an author, then I’ve accomplished a big chunk of my bucket list. Actually that may be my whole list. (It’s a very small bucket.)
The culmination of this dream-come-true experience has been my book signing events. My first one was at the home of my good friend, Melissa. It was open to anyone who wanted to stop by and pick up a signed book. There was definitely a baby shower atmosphere, with a few alterations. Here’s the formula:
Melissa’s party = (Baby Shower – Baby/Gifts) x (Book + Signature) + tiny pecan pies
It was amazing and a huge ego trip. Everyone who came already liked me and are sweet enough to congratulate me and buy a book even if I’d written one about mold spores.
The next event was at my Alma Mater, Lipscomb University, during their summer lectureship. One evening after the keynote address, I sat at a table and chatted with people next to where the manager from the bookstore sold my books. They were so gracious and encouraging, but this came as no surprise. I was a student at the elementary, middle, and high schools affiliated with the university. Both my parents worked there.  I was just a hometown girl who came home. I spoke to many people I didn’t know but my connection to the university bridged that gap.
The next stop on my book tour was at the Vanderbilt Barnes and Noble store. Here, I took a much larger step out of my comfort zone. Though some very good friends stopped by to visit, most of the people I met were total strangers. I was forced to sell my brand, something I’m not very good at. I knew it would be more difficult, so I came prepared. Since my book is set mostly in Tennessee in the 1920’s and 1930’s, I passed out mini Moon Pies to the people who came over to inquire about my book. (According to their website, “The Moon Pie brand was born in 1917” and created by the Chattanooga Bakery. Perfect!) I stamped little bags, slipped a Moon Pie in them with my business card, and Voila! Chocolate bribery!

The most difficult part of the book signing, other than the sweaty palms and awkward small talk, was deciding how to actually sign my books. Down to the final minutes before I left for my first event, I was still trying to decide what I would write. Would I go for something inspirational? “Reach for the stars!” or “Never, never, never give up on your dreams!” How about something a little more practical? “Final sale. No returns.” I wanted to have my own catch phrase like Ed McMahon or Fat Albert, but nothing came to me. I finally decided on something simple but true: God bless. It’s probably overused, especially in the South, but it’s no less true. For anyone who buys my book, even if they just want to use it as a coaster, I could wish for nothing better than God’s blessings. It’s also been a constant reminder to me that, yes, God blesses. He has blessed me more than I could ever deserve or acknowledge and it’s never been more true than with my book. So…God bless, ya’ll!