My husband LOVES surprises!  Me,...not so much!  I'm just not wild about the idea of someone knowing something before I do!  This morning I climbed out of bed to face a trashed kitchen...  My kitchen is tiny!  (Did I mention how small my kitchen is?)  Counter space is limited, to say the least...Certainly not enough to contain the disaster Memorial Day's cook out made (Wait a minute... How can cooking outside possibly create this mess inside???).  Back to my point--  Somewhere buried beneath the piles was an unpacked bag of goodies!  It seems that the "surprises" my husband picked up during his quick trip to the grocery store got lost there...  I sneaked a peak!

There I found a "surprise" for every one of us... chosen carefully according to each of our likes and dislikes!  The Mound's- that was for me!  How do I know?  Because Doug knows that I love them!  And the little M&M's- Those are for Kate and Ellie!  Doug knows they love the containers and the candy inside... Each "gift" chosen specifically for every one of us!... even our new "daughter-in-love"!  (No wonder he was gone for so long!)  It warmed my heart to picture him at the check out counter choosing his "surprises" so carefully and it reminded me again just why I fell in love with this guy!  It thrills his heart to deliver joy to the people he loves!  And when I think of it that way... I've decided that maybe I like surprises after all!

     Since we're being so honest, I'm going to admit something else about myself in addition to the fact that I love Mounds Bars!  This "something else" is another one of those things that Doug has always known about me!  As much as I loved my first born boy---  I wanted a GIRL!  (I can't believe I really just typed that!)  I'd dreamed my entire life of long hair and ponytails, frilly dresses and dancing lessons.  I don't deserve anything- that is clear- but for a little girl, I BEGGED the Lord!  Doug and I "tried" to get pregnant for months and months, with no success.  We prayed together--- We dreamed together--- We even named her together.  (did you catch that?.... her!)  Late one night Doug woke me up and announced that tonight was THE night!  Sounds suspicious, doesn't it?  That's what I thought too!  But He said that he felt that God had woken him up and I should follow his lead...  So I did!... What can I say?  I was desperate!

     Doug was a Marine Harrier instructor pilot in those days and every morning he passed the base hospital on his way to work.  Two weeks after the fateful night that he claimed to have "heard from God", he collected my urine specimen and dropped it off at the clinic for our long awaited (it had been a long two weeks!) pregnancy test.  The clinic informed him that we (more specifically - me - the owner of the specimen) could call at 2 PM that afternoon for the results.  I would simply need to provide my social security number and the results would be mine!  But, my surprise loving husband had other ideas...

     Doug called home before he took off to tell me that we could call the clinic at 4PM for the results. I should wait until he got home and we could call "together"!  (right!)  He searched the "ready room" for a friendly female Marine and somehow convinced her to call the clinic at 2PM (in the middle of his flight!), "pose" as Lori McCary, supply my social security number, and get the coveted results we were waiting for.  She went along with this covert activity and after calling the clinic as instructed, she radioed Doug in his jet.... "Congratulations Captain McCary," she said.  "You're pregnant!"   I honestly don't know how Doug landed his jet that day!  He did, of course, and he hurried home before 4 PM to announce the happy news!

     I was pregnant!...  Doug had been right after all!  And yet, I feel that I must add, for all of my female friends out there.... I was sure to tell my "man" that this would not work a second time!  :-)

     The military healthcare system performed an ultrasound on me at 16 weeks, but their policy did not allow them to reveal the sex of the baby.  By the time I was given a second ultrasound by a civilian doctor just a few weeks before delivery, I opted to not know.  I'd waited this long...  I'd save that for another SURPRISE!...

Immeasurably more love...

     October 16, 1987 - The day I discovered immeasurably more love than I could ask or imagine! It was also the day I gave birth to my firstborn son, Russell Douglas McCary!  Never had I known love like that!  How I treasure the moments after his birth when I was left alone with him for the first time.  I propped myself up on my elbow and stared down at my beautiful newborn baby lying by my side.  It was all like a dream and I didn't ever want to wake up!  This was a moment I had wondered about for so many years... Would there be shame and guilt instead of joy?  Would this be a moment of regret or hope?  The answer to my wondering overwhelmed me...  I cried like a baby!  But they weren't tears of shame... or guilt... or regret.  They were tears of absolute joy!  God's love had been expressed to me in the very place of my failure.  When I looked at my son for the first time... I saw forgiveness.  And I felt love!... for the gift of new life God had given-- not only in the form of my son, but more importantly in the form of HIS!  What kind of love gives so lavishly to the least deserving?  What kind of love meets us at our point of desperate need and gives EVERYTHING for us?  Jesus paid the price for my terrible choices and now offers me life instead of what I truly deserve!

     I could hardly wrap my arms around such a truth!  But a few months later, the Lord gave me another beautiful illustration of the depths of His love...  Russ was just 8 weeks old the day Doug and I went out to shop for a few last minute Christmas gifts.  I saw an old man in a wheel chair near the entrance of the store. He didn't have any legs, but tucked in his lap was a can where he held the money he collected from begging.  He was filthy!  His overgrown beard covered his dirty face and his hands and fingernails... (well, I think you get the picture!)    I was repulsed!  I was carrying my precious, 8 week old bundle, wrapped in a crisp white blanket...  I took the long way around to the entrance of the store, simply to avoid him.  In all honesty... I was also trying to avoid the voice inside of me that was prompting me to go talk to him.  There was no way I was taking my baby anywhere near that nasty old man!  God would have to ask someone else...

     I had a miserable shopping experience that day!  It seemed that little voice followed me all over the store!  "But Lord... my baby is so young; so vulnerable... that man is filthy!... no telling what kind of diseases he might be carrying... and besides, I don't have any money to give him... you know how we're hurting financially this year... "   I hoped beyond hope that he would be gone by the time we left the store!  He wasn't!  Now what?  I fixed my eyes straight ahead and walked right past him toward our car.  But by the time I got there, I was so miserable, I couldn't stand it anymore!  Just as I reached the car, I did an "about-face" and headed back toward him.  Doug looked at me like I was crazy!  I blurted out something like..."I don't know why, but I have to go talk to that old man!"  So with baby wrapped tightly (very tightly!) in my arms, I headed back across the parking lot toward him.

     I think he saw me coming from across the parking lot!  He started calling out to me before I was even close enough to hear...  "Please, Ma'am!" he said, "I don't want your money! But could I please just hold your baby?"  Excuse me?  WHAT did you say?  You want to hold my baby???  I don't think so!  I'd give you a million dollars before I'd let you hold my baby!... But that same voice whispered in my ear.  "Let him hold your baby..."  
     Before I even realized what I was doing, I lowered my precious baby boy into his outstretched arms.  And as I did, the old man began to cry.  He pulled my baby in close to his chest and hunched his body over him to gaze into his little eyes.  His tears fell from his own face onto Russ' and as he wiped them away with his filthy hands, he began to pray.  He thanked God for his precious life and he begged the Lord to protect him and use him mightily for the Kingdom....  Then slowly, with a most tender look on his face, he lifted Russ back into my arms and said "Thank you!"

     As I stood there and looked at that old man holding my precious son... I saw myself!  Yes, I am a lot like the Velveteen Rabbit, and I am even more like my Baby Drowsy, but I am EXACTLY like that old man!  I am torn and broken, filthy with sin, and as repulsive as I'd found this man to be.  I wondered then, and a million times since then, if God felt just a little the way I felt that day--- the day He decided to lay his own, precious, innocent son into my filthy arms as a gift!?  And suddenly I realized, like only a new mother could, what an incredible gift He had given for me!  I can't begin to find a fitting response... so I simply lift my face to Him and seek to humbly say "Thank you" with my life...

Immeasurably more grace...

     ...Now I, of all people, should have understood this kind of love!  I have my very own "Velveteen Rabbit"!  Her name is Baby Drowsy.  I'll never forget the night she came into my life!  It was my third birthday.  I don't remember much about that year, but I remember that night as if it were last night!  I especially remember my Daddy that night.  My father is not an extremely tender man, but he was so tender toward me as he tucked me in.  I was crying, because I had taken Baby Drowsy to bed with me and her bow had fallen out of her hair.  My Dad searched through my sheets, found her bow, and put it right back where it belonged!  I was in love!!!
   I want you to know that I'm not crazy --- I know she's ugly!  I tell everyone that every day is "a bad hair day" for Baby Drowsy!  But every day would be a bad hair day for you too, if you had fallen head first into a potty chair full of urine!  She is ugly... she is torn and dirty... but she is mine and she is loved!!!  She is irreplaceable to me!
     Several years ago I was in my Mother's basement and I found my little sister, Jennifer's Baby Drowsy. She was just like mine, except she was perfect!  Her pajamas were still a beautiful pink, and her hair was the perfect shade of blonde.  When you pulled her string, she would say "I love you, Mommy!"... She still even had the coveted pink bow in her hair!  She was perfect!  But I didn't feel anything for her!  She was not mine!  I realized that as torn and dirty as my Baby Drowsy is, she is mine and I wouldn't trade her for anything!

     I guess I love her so much because when I look at her I see myself!  I tried to be perfect... I tried to have my act together like Jennifer's Baby Drowsy, but instead, I am torn and dirty,... stained by things that have happened to me along the way... things that other people have done to me that have hurt deeply.  And then there are the stains and tears caused by my own poor choices!
     I met Doug when I was only 16 years old.  I was a sophomore in high school, he a sophomore in college.  He was straight out of my dreams and I fell madly in love with him!  We shared so much in common.  We had both been raised in Christian homes and were active in our churches.  I knew almost instantly that I would marry Doug!  We promised one another to remain pure until our marriage, but I'm sorry to say that we didn't keep that promise and at 17 years old, I discovered that I was pregnant.  All I had ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother, but certainly not right then!  I was a cheerleader, an honor student, a leader in my church youth group, the "perfect" daughter... a really "good" girl! What in the world was I going to do?
     Doug borrowed $140.00 from a friend and drove me to a doctor's office 90 miles from my hometown.  I wish I could tell you that it was a terrible place, but it wasn't.  The people there were incredibly kind and encouraging.  They even showed me videos telling me why this was not a "convenient" time to have a baby and why I should go ahead and have an abortion.  After telling me exactly what I wanted to hear, they kindly held my hand, as I laid on a table, and they took the life of my baby... I know that it sounds cold and callused, but I got up, got dressed and walked out of that clinic relieved!  I would move on and forget that this had ever happened!  No one would ever have to know!
     But I knew what I had done ...and God knew!  I was torn beyond repair and became convinced from that day forward that God could never love me again... that He could never forgive me for what I had done.  I felt so unlovable!
     Until that night, 3 years later, when God placed me in the middle of a service where the pastor was preaching on "forgiving yourself"-- accepting God's forgiveness and love for YOU!  It was one of those moments in life---I remember exactly where I was sitting and it seemed as if God was talking directly to me!  I couldn't wait to get home that night to be alone with the Lord.  I went into my dark bedroom and climbed onto my queen size bed, as if I were climbing right into God's lap.  I poured everything out to Him!  I verbalized everything I had been trying to forget for three years!
     I had never experienced His incredible forgiveness the way I did that night!  It was as if He scooped me up in His arms and held me close and whispered in my ear..."Lori, I do love you!!!  I always have --nothing you could ever do could change that!"
     I'll never forget that embrace...the way His love felt! Beyond any love I had ever known!  Even though I was torn and broken --- He loved me!!!  His love and forgiveness have changed my life!  God offered me "real" life and a love like none I'd ever known before!
     And finally I see!  God's desire is not for my perfection. God's desire if for my affection! He knew all along that I couldn't be good enough.  That's why He sent His perfect Son to live and die in my place... He made a way for me to come back to Him!
     The Bible says in Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this... While we were still sinners Christ died for us." ---- Not when we got our act together, not when we were perfect... but while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

The "velveteen" me...

     The Lord often has a funny way of revealing Himself to us.  As a young mom, He used a children's book to teach me an incredible truth...  I "stumbled" across a beautifully illustrated copy of "The Velveteen Rabbit" when my oldest son was only a few years old.  Since then I've shared "Velvy's" story more times than I can count,  I have a copy on display in my home, and I've purchased as many as I could get my hands on to give away...
     I guess I love the velveteen rabbit because he reminds me so much of myself!...  
     The story begins on Christmas morning... that magical day of the year.  Little Tommy was just 3 years old.  A little bunny named "Velvy" was nestled in the top of his stocking, waiting expectantly to meet him.  Tommy saw him as soon as he came down the stairs.  He ran over and scooped him up... hugging him close to his warm cheek and whispering in his ear..."I love you!"
     "So this is how it feels to be loved!" Velvy thought.  He had waited for this moment for so long!  Velvy knew that there was nothing particularly special about him... He wasn't even real velvet... he was velveteen!  And he didn't even have real hind legs like some of the other bunnies, but he longed to be loved- to be really loved!  The little boy's love did feel wonderful, better than he had ever imagined!  But sadly, other toys and Christmas surprises captured Tommy's attention and after just a few incredibly wonderful moments, Velvy was put aside and later placed on the nursery shelf with all of the other toys.  Now that he had finally experienced this thing called "love", he felt lonelier than ever...waiting there!  There was a wise old skin horse who had been there for a long time.  Velvy had so many questions... so many longings! He just had to ask---
       "What is real?"  asked the rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"  Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
     "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
     "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
     "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
     "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to the people who don't understand."

     Like Velvy, I long to be "real" too!  I long to be cherished for who I am... loved just the way I am... in spite of myself!  But, I too, have discovered that I am not very special or unique either.  I'm not near as perfect, or pretty, as I'd like to be.  And I've wondered so many times... how in the world could anyone ever love me just the way I am?
     I finally realized that, in the end, what made the Velveteen Rabbit special was not what HE had to offer!... Instead, what made him special, (what made him real) was the love of the little boy!
     I grew up and eventually discovered a love like that too!  And I found out what it meant to be real!  And like Velvy, I also found out that I was special, not because of anything I had to offer.  I was made special by the man who loved me.... That man was Jesus Christ--- the love of my life!


"Real" Life...

      My "real" life seems more like a Merry-Go-Round than a journey most of the time!  I go around and around, then fall off in the same place again, and must "relearn" lessons I'm certain I should have learned by now.  This was especially true in those early years of mothering!  What a disappointment!  I thought that by the time I reached motherhood, I'd have a few more things figured out!  I had all of these great expectations, and felt constantly disappointed in myself!  Somewhere in my "fairy-tale" world was the perfect mom-- that had perfect children-- and the perfect husband-- (you get the picture).  My first born was as strong-willed as God could have possibly made him.  He reminded me on a daily basis that Cinderella didn't live at our house... And to my dismay, neither did Prince Charming!  Motherhood was a rude awakening to the reality that life was not all about me!
     This new reality, though healthy and more "normal" than I would have liked, left me feeling somehow forgotten... as if the world had gone on without me.  I didn't like the "new" me as well...  I just couldn't seem to hold it all together the way I had done so brilliantly growing up...  I was no longer "pleased" with me.  Certainly the Lord wasn't either!  I had been convinced since I was a little girl that love and acceptance was based upon who I was - how perfect I could be...  I thought that God would love me more if I could do enough good things; be a good mom; teach my children to behave; be a good wife; go to church; pray more; read my Bible....  (I think you know where I'm going with this!)  I even hung around "perfect" people -- even though I had absolutely nothing in common with them!  I thought that maybe they could "rub off" on me somehow.  I was a miserable failure at perfection and that made me... well... miserable!!!

In the beginning...

     I was the kind of girl adults loved (especially the parent kind) and kids hated (especially the sibling kind)! As the 4th of 5 children, I was the one that made my parents look good-- Girl Scouts, Bible drill, dancing, singing, straight A's, God seeking and a little bit better than average on the pretty scale.
     One of my earliest memories as a little girl is the taunting words of my brother and sisters... "You're a tattle tale!" as I mounted the stairs again to "turn them in" for their latest misdeeds.  I enjoyed this "favored" status and would pretend that I didn't hear when Mom's friends pointed out the obvious or whispered how wonderful I appeared to be.  Mom would never admit to any such thing, but we did, in truth, have a much closer relationship than the rest.  I considered her my very best friend and spent hours at the laundry room door talking about everything from parenting, to boys, to friends, to marriage... You name it--- nothing was off limits between me and my mom.
     The resentment from my siblings grew as I did.  I was certain that this was their problem... not mine!  To add insult to injury, family "pow-wows" during my teen years often became "Why can't you be more like Lori?" sessions.  Little did I know that such favored status had repercussions that would not only affect my long-term relationship with my brother and sisters, but with my husband, my own children, and worst of God.
     I grew up with a keen sense of God's love.... and oh, how I loved Him...even as a little girl!  But deep within was the misunderstanding that His love worked the same way my parents had!  My "favored" status was completely dependent on my behavior, my choices, my achievements... and when I failed, all was in jeopardy!  Growing up in the denominational church where I spent several days a week didn't do much to discourage such thinking.  I liked it that way though, because I was pretty good at measuring up.  At least I thought I was....

Our adoption story...

God has done immeasurably more than I ever expected through the gift of adoption!  If someone had told me 7 years ago, that I would be bringing our third daughter home from China to become a family of eight, I'd have laughed!  I was myself from a family of seven, and even while in the midst of it, wondered how my mother held it all together.  One of my closest friends had three children very close in age to my own three, but for several years after I thought that I was "finished having babies", she delivered 3 more!  I can't count the times that I declared that God had somehow made her "different" than He had made me-  I couldn't handle such a family!  How God must have laughted from heaven at such declarations, ...knowing what He had in store for ME in the years ahead!

In times like these, I am so grateful that God's plan includes things so much greater and eternally fulfilling than my own plans ever could... I shutter to think what I'd have missed, if I'd chosen my own way and forsaken His!  This journey of adoption has been absolutely wonderful and yet so scary, exhilarating and yet so difficult at times, but without a doubt- one of the most incredible experiences of my life!  Through it all, I've caught a glimpse into the heart of God that I am convinced I would have missed otherwise.  And in the end, when my life is measured, I want more than anything else, for it to be measured by the number of people I have loved, the sacrifices I have made for His Glory, and the servant's heart I displayed most evidently within the walls of my own home!  I have other hopes and dreams, of course, but none so great as the living out of my dreams through the beautiful family I have been so blessed to be the mother of!

"Only those who risk going too far, can find out how far one can go!"  
T.S. Elliot 

My story...

Blogging is something I've put off for so long because, honestly... how do you begin?  This is a place where I want to share my story- God's story as seen through my life.  He is the main actor-- woven in and through every "scene" and season of my life.  My prayer is that the countless words I type here will lead you to HIM!