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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Year In Review: Instead of a Christmas Card

I can’t believe it’s been almost an entire year since this:

Or since this post on my first full day with five children.


For once, I actually feel thankful that I’ve taken the time to blog – because it’s caused me to document and remember this crazy year in all its glory. And what a year 2011 has been.

If Dan and I had to sum up this year with one statement, I think we’d say this: “We’ve learned A LOT.”

We started this year with a first grader, a preschooler, a 12 month old baby and two newly adopted African children who formerly lived in a prison.

We ended this year with a second grader, a kindergartener, a 2 year old and our 4 & 5 year old son and daughter who happen to have been born on the other side of the world.

We’ve come a long way. But I’ll say it again… we’ve learned a lot. And to summarize the year, here’s a bit of what we’ve learned:

Practical Lessons:

Having two boys is exponentially crazier than only having one boy. It's not double trouble... more like quadruple trouble. I mean, just look at these two. They are so not as innocent as they look:
Davis and Joseph, first soccer game. September 2011

Homeschooling makes for some busy, crazy days. But it's also rather practical and fun for large families. Especially on Johnny Appleseed Day.

If Momma up and goes to Uganda to serve on the mission field for one week out of the year, everyone will survive. In fact, Daddy might even handle it better. Even Mommies of five should take the time to go and serve.
Shelly and Colleen, Kampala, Uganda, October 2011

Good Lessons:

Our capacity to love and the available space in our hearts is far bigger than we realized.

Forcing five children to share one small bathroom is actually a really good thing.

Stretching yourself thin and going the extra mile, for the sake of letting a child know they are loved and cherished, is totally worth it.

Madeline's 8th birthday. Out for breakfast, alone, with Mommy and Daddy.
It’s totally possibly for older adopted children with developmental delays and learning disabilities to master the English language, learn their ABC’s and count 1-50… if they have a dedicated group of cheerleaders (aka siblings) to encourage them. We've come so far, even since this post, that it blows me away.

Fixing African-American hair can be completely fun and theraputic. Although I still have no idea what I’m doing. Poor Hannah.

God can use teeny, tiny people to do big work. In so many ways, Baby Charlotte has been the glue that's bonded our family together this year. A baby changes everything -- even if she's your 5th baby.

Hard Lessons:
We’ve learned that the feelings of hurt and loss, for an orphaned child, run far deeper than we ever realized.

We’ve learned that formerly malnourished children will steal food, lie about food and eat out of your garbage can – even when they’re well fed and cared for.

We’ve learned to swallow our pride and to accept help. This year we've gratefully accepted gifts of time, money and service -- something we've never needed before. Cheerful giving is easy. Cheerful receiving is hard and humbling -- but the lesson is worth it.

We’ve learned how to treat worms, parasites, fungus and all sort of other conditions that stem from unclean drinking water, malnutrition and lack of basic, regular healthcare.

We’ve come face-to-face with our own feelings of entitlement, selfishness, laziness, favoritism, anger, impatience and full-on, unadulterated sin. We have some black hearts. We’ve seen em’ this year like never before. We need Jesus.

We’re so thankful to the many, many friends, family members and even strangers who have stood with us this year and supported us in our desire to live out the gospel in all our craziness. We can’t imagine 2011 without you.

This year has crushed us, shattered our pride, broken us down and opened our eyes like nothing we’ve ever experienced. And for all of it, we’re so grateful. Because the last 12 months have caused us to need Christ and to really, truly know Him like never before.

In retrospect, if we had it to do over again, knowing everything that we know now... we'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Because the Lord's plans for our lives are so much better than anything we could ever come up with on our own. As King David once said... "Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere." -- Psalm 84:10

And right now, we're exactly where we're supposed to be. And loving it.
With Love,
The Owens Family


Joy Portis said...

So much better than a Christmas card! Love your beautiful family and can't wait to see you again in January! ( you will be there, right ???) Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to more learning....

Nancy said...

Thanks for teaching all of us so many of the lessons we all still need to learn. Your family is a joy and an inspiration, even though I know you can't feel like that all the time. The fact that you're real about it, makes you even more wonderful! Merry Christmas!!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog - it encourages me to think bigger and be bolder. Merry Christmas to your family.

Crystal @ New Creation said...

So inspired by your honesty and your family. God Bless you!

Christy said...

Love this! Merry Christmas!!!!

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

Merry Christmas! Such a journey...love hearing about yours.,

Anonymous said...

Oh, Shelly...just beautiful!

Colleen said...

Love walking through all the crazy right beside you!
Love you, sister...

seashoreknits said...

The heart of Jesus. Right there - in your beautiful family.
You are such an inspiration - you will never know (this side of Heaven.)
Merry Christms to you, Shelly - to your husband, and to your magnificent children. May God continue to bless you with such abundance!!

Melissa said...

Much better than a Christmas card! Loved it and love you guys. You are all such a blessing to me.

hnjgregory@gmail.com said...

love this. love ya'll. SO thankful to have you :)

The Haws House said...

Pre adoption to our five children I felt like I had my act together...post adoption I feel on the verge of a melt down often. I've come to undstand too how much, "We need Jesus."

Becca said...

i love this!!! :-) Your family is so beautiful!

jstromli said...

I am from East Grand Forks, Mn and helped with the planning of Garry and Scott's visit in October and cried each time we watched Bereaved. Our family just returned from Ethiopia with our 2 year old son. I praise God for using you through this blog. I praise God for giving you the courage to be vulnerable and real. I praise God for these words that fed my soul...thank you so so so so much!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post and so glad to see u making the effort with Hannah's hair! It looks good! As a black woman, hair is such a part of our identity, so when she gets old enough to care,make sure to take her to a black hair salon to learn the products and techniques to use :)