A Life Well-Lived, Part 1

Our plans are good ones. We will become foster parents. And before we do that, in the Spring, we will visit Africa. We will love it so much that we have to move there.

All our work will be to point us in that direction. We’ll no longer be trying to have a baby. We’ll just be open to what baby God gives – through a foster-to-adopt program in Arkansas maybe.

We are open, but we have direction, excited about all the possibilities.

In Alabama for Thanksgiving, we take family photos. My boys and their cousins play hard, get along well, have made it to the age that I don’t worry they’ll eat a battery or any other small thing off the floor. They enjoy family like I remember doing when I was small. They think it will always look this way – Mama making them a plate-full and gutlaughing with aunts and uncles, Daddy in gracious conversation with BawBaw, MeMaw holding the youngest on her hip. Every day is a secure adventure.

We left Alabama. The usual tears welled up for me, how grateful I am that things do change. I am married to a man that I really love, and for some reason being with either of our families makes my bond with him magnify. I’m glad it’s just us and our boys in that little apartment. We’re on our way home to enjoy the tradition of putting up the Christmas tree, listening to Christmas music, and drinking hot drinks, eggnog, or Merry Gluvine.

When we get home, I run to the store for supplies, and I buy the habituals. After being so open, yet being protective with our plans, I don’t know why I bought a pregnancy test. I had absolutely zero expectations, so I only guess that I took the test out of habit before having a grownup drink.

And it was positive.

It was positive.

Back to the bathroom again. Seth! It’s still postive! Three tests later: it’s still positive!

“I cannot believe it” – what I still repeat two weeks later with permanant green grin on my face.

When I call my Daddy to tell him, I don’t get what I expect. When I used to talk about having a fourth child, he would respond with worry, furrow-browed worry. But this time, he laughed. He was overjoyed, and then he continued on to explain to me how it would all work – a blessing of sort. He said, “Amber, you and Seth are where you’re supposed to be. You are young. You have so many bridges to cross. Stop trying so hard to be great. You are great where you are. Serve where you are. Be grateful where you are.”

He went on to explain that when he was young, he had dreams, and they weren’t the kind that said, “I hope to one day do this.” They were the kind that said, “When I do this.”

And now he looks back at those dreams, and this is what he sees instead: A family who gathers like a great unexpected crescendo, the seasons dry or flooded as they may be. His recliner in the middle, we dance around him: babies crying, sisters piling, laundry mounding, Mama glowing, sons saying wisest things. The louder we get and the faster mine run, the closer we all seem. Spinning so quickly, this life (a head nearly knocked off at the fireplace), the gravity of goodness weighs in. We spin down to the truth about dreams.

A life is well-lived by gratitude in the unexpected, the dream departures. Living ecclesiastically, we take what we get. We find ourselves enjoying how it all boils down.

Five Grandsons and another little one on the way!

All photos by Amy Mitchell Photography.


  1. reading this at work. crying in front of my students as they watch their peers deliver morning announcements on the tv. i love love love your morning announcement. i love it.

  2. Simply put. Missed your words. Heartfelt congratulations to you and Seth on your unexpected crescendo of life.

  3. Oh me. I am boohooing. You have no idea how blessed I feel that I, and my work are part of your life. I can not WAIT to get my camera on this new little nugget. Congratulations. You made my heart explode. <3

  4. So much excitement in my heart for you.


  5. I love you!!
    I like God’s plan best.

  6. Love this. Love y’all.

  7. Wow. Just wow. Many congratulations and prayers of blessings upon you and your family. What a wonderful Christmas gift. :-)

  8. Me too, Kristen! Seriously, y’all, I’m so nauseated, and my response to it is WOW. I can’t believe I get to feel this again. I’m so happy.

    But if I imagine having four boys, my knees buckle up. Ahhhhhhh! Anyway … back to the point where I take what I get and call it BEST!

  9. Amber, I am crying. I have no idea why, but there are tears in my eyes and I have chills, and I just figured so much out, and I am so, so deeply happy for you guys! I want to give you the biggest hug ever!

  10. This is a beautiful post. And I am so glad for you guys, and for the good plans God has for your good family– wherever or whatever they may be.

  11. how fantastic. those unexpected plans are the best of all:)

  12. Squeal of delight for you… for all of you.
    As someone who once looked at a very unexpected post procedure positive line… I get you in some way.
    Squealing and tears!!!!

  13. what an awesome way to start a monday! thank you for sharing your well-wrapped excitement with us!


  14. yay! I am soooo excited!
    Eat a lot of Clementines baby, they help with the nausea. (At least, in my experience they do).

  15. ha, laughing joy with you, amber!!!
    His ways surprise, yes?! congratulations!

  16. Loved reading this! I’m so excited for you all. I don’t know what I was expecting to read. I guess your title threw me off. This is joyful news!

  17. Congratulations!!! :) So very happy for you!!

  18. My face is wearing a grin so big, it’s reflecting off the piles off snow in our backyard.

    Such happy news, Amber. So much grace. Congratulations!

  19. God’s plan is always best. Enjoy living in it…and carrying it in the form of a babe. Congratulations!

  20. My eyes feel the sting of tears. SO HAPPY for y’all! I mean, wow, what an incredible, beautiful, unexected gift. Congratulations!

  21. Crying with utter joy. Happy Christmas to you!!

  22. Positive?!! *squeal!* God’s plan IS best. I’m so thankful to God for His ways, reading your words. Touched my heart to hear our Heavenly Father speak through your Daddy: “Amber, you and Seth are where you’re supposed to be. You are young. Stop trying so hard to be great. You are great where you are.” You are. You are. You are.

    Congratulations, Amber & Seth!!!!

  23. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! Congrats to you, Seth, and the little wee-watts, too! Merry Christmas!

  24. you can’t see, but i’m doing a little jig of happiness right now.

    love this.

  25. How thrilling! I am so happy for you and your little family!

  26. Thalia Madewell says:

    Congrats, Amber and family. Number 4 changed everything for us. Praise be.

  27. Erica Stewart says:

    Congratulations for blessings in abundance!

  28. Amber, I feel such a kinship with you and haven’t ever even met you! I love that you’re life is unexpected and great…it affirms in me that mine can be the same…maybe march to a different beat, but still be great!
    I’m excited for you and praying you through this fourth pregnancy!!

  29. So delighted for all of you Amber. I am at an age where there is far more behind me than ahead, but I have learned that what your father said is absolute wisdom. For so long I searched for the big thing – I believe the big thing is all the little things He has guided me through along the way.

  30. Woohoo!! So, so, SOOO excited for you, girl!

  31. So so excited with you :) Love you guys so much – you were made to do this. It seems so right. Can’t wait to see your beautiful self with a beautiful, baby-filled belly!

  32. Woo-hoo! Congratulations :) Another little Haines light in the world!

  33. This makes me happy!! :) :)

  34. goldengirls59 says:

    Congratulations on your wonderful news! May the Lord bless you both with this pregnancy and your growing family!

  35. So happy for you!

  36. Congrats, congrats, congrats! Blessing upon blessing to you as you journey through this pregnancy.

    “Living ecclesiastically, we take what we get.” <—— I loved this line and I'm stealing it to hide away in my heart.

  37. Congratulations! Praying for you and your family :) Aren’t God’s plans always the best?

  38. wow… maybe a litle girl will be your wonderful blessing to be?

  39. Oh, my, this is beautiful storytelling, inviting us into the hushed moment when you realized your new reality and revealed it to Seth and then others. Thank you for letting us get to know all these people in your life and share the joy!

  40. oh, you and your beautiful words!! I’m so happy for you – friend! Your Daddy’s words have brought me tears and your news, even more so.

  41. I’m thrilled for you sweet Amber. And I secretly (or not so secretly?) hope it’s another boy :) The Lord has entrusted you with much friend…and He smiles on you as He gives another eternal soul the breath of life. A little piece of me feels like I know a little piece of you. Like if we met we might hug and even though we don’t know each other, we might then. :) Congrats in the deepest way friend.

  42. I just keep thinking of that Jon Mark McMillan lyrics, “Oh how He loves us” – I feel it in your words, Amber. So delighted for you!!

  43. So happy for you and your adorable family!! What a blessing! When I was your age (eh hem, 11 years ago) we were expecting a third baby to join our family, after a long break with only two. I’m sure some thought we were a little bit crazy and yet, we were wanting our home to be filled with FAMILY! Congratulations!

  44. Amber,
    So much wisdom in this post…God’s sovereignty, reveling in the journey! Congratulations to you and Seth. It is truly a privilege to know you both.

  45. Wow. That is an amazing post. I’m so happy to have found my way here, and to become a witness to your experience.

  46. Beautifully said. Congratulations – and prayers on this journey.

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