When Peace Like a River, When Sea Billows Roll – a rock home companion

We live so much outside of the Rock House, outside of handheld and visual – in the realm of relationship, in the realm of faith and love, and in the realm of ideas, walking on water or sinking sometimes in dark places.

Though I got a huge peony beautifully tattooed on my shoulder on Saturday, though actual peonies from the yard inspired it, it’s the idea of home that makes one lie on a table for three hours of ten-thousand painful inky needles. It’s the idea of Unity and Diversity from the center star of the Ethiopian flag that I imagine in the center of our home, an idea I know will mature in time, especially as we become a transracial family, in our hearts first and then in tangible lived-out reality. 

For now, I can’t put my finger on so much of what we’re praying and learning, but I have it in art-form inside my skin, and not all love a tattoo, but I do. I love it. I feel like I’ve promised to go get my baby girl, and I feel like I’ve promised to make home for her here, and I’ve promised to let her go back to the home where she was born, if she desires it. I have promises for her and for my boys. I’ve written it on my skin.

Just like God, who says, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” He doesn’t forget us. He doodles about us. He has scars for us. He makes art for us and sets us in our places.

Just the love of God is good. 

We go about trying to imitate him, either for our own glory or for His. Oh, but we try so hard to let it be that we make art to see more of God, not more of ourselves. 

Saturday night, we  met with friends for dinner, all wore matching shirts, and then went to the airport to welcome dear friends home from Ethiopia with their baby girl. They came home tired and more complete and no doubt ruined by Africa and simultaneously saved, how it always seems to go. 

I imagined my face in the face of my girlfriend, a mommy breathing in little girl hair. It was amazing to see instant daughter and amazing to be part of the great family crowding in to adore her. 

The day was so perfect and paralleled to Sunday morning, when I shared my abortion story with well over 1,000 at church. I learned that I say “um” a lot when speaking publicly, but I also learned that when sharing the word of my testimony, I am infused with courage and increase in faith. It was healing once again to share it, and then to see recognition in so many hurt  eyes.

I was able to say how thankful I am that men are feeling more comfortable to confess their struggles, how they can confess Pornography and such and then be accepted and helped. I told women that our church is a safe place for them, too. 

A girlfriend came to me afterward and said that she believes she had her abortion because of the church, believes she wouldn’t have done it if her culture had not have been Christian, so scared to look like we don’t have it all together. I agreed with her that my reasoning had been the same. Things are changing, especially as we speak truth within our own stories.

Every night that I put the boys to bed, I sing hymns, so they will know them – the old ones. Last night, I ended with “It Is Well.”

And I didn’t cry, which is unusual. I sang it, repeated it, because this weekend, in this rock house, I’m feeling both the sea billows and the peace river, and I’m not thrown or sinking. Even though we have so much growing to do, it really is well with my soul.

About me


When There’s a Lion in Your Yard
November 18, 2016
What do you taste?
November 08, 2016
When The Church Doesn’t Fit Or Fix You: a Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Christie Purifoy
October 12, 2015
The Hurt and the Healing: A Wild in the Hollow Guest Post by Bonnie King
September 30, 2015
Will They Stay if You Change?
September 28, 2015
Wild in the Hollow Book Club Video: Chapters 1 and 2
September 14, 2015
On Abortion and When You Have Hidden Hollow Places
August 17, 2015
A Mud Stories Podcast on Sex, Shame, Unforgiveness, and the Church
August 06, 2015
Church couldn’t help me with it anymore.
August 03, 2015


Reply January 25, 2010

PS - I'll show a photo of the new tattoo when it's healed.

Jenny 867-5309
Reply January 25, 2010

Thank you. Those are the words I felt a month ago when I met my friend at the airport with her new baby girl from Ethiopia. That was it.

*I smiled so big when I read that you sing the old hymns to your boys. I rocked my oldest to sleep every night to those oldies but BESTies. It Is Well is hard to sing without the tears streaming....*

Reply January 25, 2010

"Just like God, who says, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” He doesn’t forget us. He doodles about us. He has scars for us. He makes art for us and sets us in our places."
I could just hug you for this. I'm humming a bit of It is Well myself. (Don't you just marvel at the story behind that hymn....if ever there was reason to scream that it was so NOT well with his soul, it was then. But instead, he penned one of my most favorite hymns. The Savior God has an amazing effect on people.)

Reply January 25, 2010

Obviously I had to come and check out the post after reading your comment. :) This resonates with me - so, so deeply. For so long I have felt promised to both Uganda and Haiti - just waiting on the quiet whisper of "now" before finding my precious son/daughter waiting for me. Until then, I wait and pray. And now, inspired by this post, possibly get another tattoo. ;) Beautiful post, Amber.

Reply January 25, 2010

I don't even know where to begin.

My heart was born in Africa as was my first born son. His teacher here, Stateside, is Ethiopian and she considers her little white four-year-old South African student true family. We could not be more grateful for her and the reflection of home she represents to him.

My little brother, my son's hero in all things, was adopted 6 years ago now and I am still awed by how I understand color through these two kids eyes. http://thegypsymama.com/2009/10/06/how-kids-see-color/

And finally, but also it is the beginning, "It is Well" was the song my mother chose for her own funeral. It was for us, she said. Those who stayed behind. Because it was her prayer that it would be our truth.

And it has become so. http://thegypsymama.com/2009/11/04/message-in-a-bottle/

I didn't mean to litter your in box with my posts, it's just that limited as I am by the veil of the Internet between us, I can't nod along and say, "yes" or respond to your telling with my own agreement. So I offer these snapshots to say, "I hear you. I see you. And I understand what you mean when you say you are 'well.'"

And I am so glad.


Reply January 25, 2010

We sang "It Is Well" at The Gathering before you guys got there... my very favorite verse of that song is:

"My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought. My sin, not in part, but the whole... is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, oh my soul!"

I cry even now just typing it on this page. Oh if we could all remember this truth.......we bear it no more.

Loved experiencing this skin commitment with you. So much in store...what a cool journey.

Ol' Seth
Reply January 25, 2010


I read your post this morning regarding "how kids see color." Wow, it was good. It is a thought we consider often around the Rock house. I would love to discuss that topic more, whether here or elsewhere. I'm really wanting some bloggers to collectively explore this idea.

Not to litter the comments with my petty requests. I understand that this is not TRL.

Reply January 25, 2010

You know, it's been nearly ten years since we stood in a circle in Mexico and you shared your story. I still remember it clearly, because I think that's one of the first times in my life where I was able to really recognize grace and mercy and redemption.

Also, did you know peonies are my favorite??

And, PLEASE, let's visit soon.

Adventures In Babywearing
Reply January 25, 2010

I had a great big conversation with my sister in law the other night, told her about your recent story telling and how the face of Christianity is changing for us in the online world. I do believe we are showing a different side than people are used to seeing. It's not about trying to pimp ourselves out to make others love us, THEN we can tell them about Jesus. We just be ourselves, show them our ugly parts, and they see Him and know Him and THEN they love us, too.


Reply January 25, 2010

Amber, I have been "lurking" on your blog for quite awhile, and I need to tell you how encouraging, talented, and beautiful I find your writing to be. It reaches in and points to the very things I am ashamed of, scared of, or hesitant about and brings them into the light. As a woman, these ways of connecting are so important. Before moving to Colorado, I was a Fellowship attendee myself--we have lots of mutual friends I am sure, and I'm sorry that we never met! Nevertheless, please feel encouraged on your journey, because you continue to greatly encourage me on mine.

Reply January 25, 2010

Amber, this was so moving. All of it. I am so thankful for you, and for how you share your life with us. Thank you.

Reply January 25, 2010

Beautifully shared. I'm sure so many were blessed by your testimony. And I too, sing to my boys the old hymns at night. Especially "Be Thou My Vision."

Reply January 25, 2010

Glad you gave us the story behind your tattoo, it's so sweet and real.

Your boys are precious. So is the Bride of Christ. I love seeing her in different areas, thank you for sharing.

Reply January 25, 2010

Let us continue to boldly step out with our stories so we are free to run the race He set before us... Isn't it amazing how we can be simultaneously filled with His truth while we reveal our truths!


Muthering Heights
Reply January 25, 2010

That is so beautiful...as always. :)

Stacey Guyse
Reply January 25, 2010

I cried.
I love you.
I miss you.


Reply January 26, 2010

I have been lurking on your blog for a while and just wanted to let you know that I think you write beautifully and I always look forward to your posts. I hope you are able to pursue adoption soon. Also, I sing "It is Well" to my littlest each night as we rock and it always makes me cry. I didn't know others did the same.

Kelly @ Love Well
Reply January 26, 2010

I love the idea of a tattoo being a permanent memorial. Some of our good friends are serving the people of Namibia this year, and since they were told not to bring any jewelery -- including their new wedding rings -- they got some rings tattooed on. Love that.

The picture you posted on Twitter is breathtaking. Does it look even better now?

Reply January 26, 2010

HA! i love that you said "transracial"! that's gooder than good.

just got me a new tattoo for christmas. the wife bought it for me, and it looks boss. saving up the next one. want another on my arm before short sleeve weather. the healing process is a female canine.

lotion, lotion, lotion, and DON'T SCRATCH!

i'm working on a poem for you. it's in the beginning stages. you will see it soon. and you and seth can read it at dinner, not as an incantation, but as a poem from the hamster, which is what i'm way better at than incantations.

the more amber haines writes about life the more people want to live it.

Boy Crazy @claritychaos
Reply January 26, 2010

I am at a loss for words here, but I couldn't leave without telling you how moved I was by this. I may have to re-read a few times before I can articulate my emotions around this.

Thank you, Amber.

(And yay for tattoos! Yours is gorgeous and I love the motivation and meaning behind it.)

To Think Is To Create
Reply January 27, 2010

I was going to comment the same thing as Steph...so, yeah. What she said. :)

I'm so glad I came back here today to read your account of Sunday. God is blessing you in these moments of sharing too, and I'm so so grateful for the healing for you.

Reply January 27, 2010


Flower Patch Farmgirl
Reply January 28, 2010

I love the promises you made. I have made similar promises in my heart, for my babies who traveled worlds away and made me a Mama.

Ann Kroeker
Reply February 6, 2010

God is using you, your words, your life, your story, your family...how glorious to share in the joy of that family's new addition and to look forward to the arrival of your own daughter--love these promises you've made her already!

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