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Friday, December 30, 2011

Beauty from Ashes

Exactly one year ago today, we were doing this:

Don't let the happy people in the video fool you... this year has been a rough one. Life "after the airport" was a stark reality check and a bit of a slap in the face for me. Make no mistake: adoption is hard. Adoption is expensive. Adoption is emotionally draining and exhausting.

And yet, I wouldn't trade this year and all of its experiences, lessons, blessings and provisions for anything in the world.

Some days were good.

Some days were bad.

Dan captured this beauty of a pic at the Fall Festival this October. That's my signature "oh Lord, help me" look. Our four big kids had just single-handedly caused a multi-body pile up at the tug-o-war station.

Some days were downright rotten (and I'm not sharing any pictures of those days).

But it's all been worth it. Every second. Every penny. Every tear. Every desperate prayer. And Dan and I are not the same people we were this time last year.

If you take anything away from this blog, ever, take this: The miracle here is so not that Dan and I stepped out in faith and did this thing. The miracle is that the Lord did it. And although he could've done it all by himself, He allowed us to participate.

Tonight, we're feeling so very blessed that He allowed us to be a part of his plan for Hannah and Joseph's lives. We're thankful for this life He's called us to. We're thankful that His plans for us are so much better than the ones we come up with on our own.

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
-- Matthew 10:39

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Grinchy Christmas

Last year, Dan, Hannah and Joseph spent Christmas in Africa. Madeline, Davis, Charlotte and I spent Christmas at my Dad's house in North Carolina. Some of you might remember this post -- the day we realized we wouldn't be getting the Christmas homecoming we'd hoped and prayed for.

Last year, with half our family in Uganda and half in North Carolina, we learned what Christmas is really about -- and it's so not about the stuff under the tree. For Heaven's sake, even the Grinch knows that...

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

Even with two more children added to our brood this year, we spent less money on Christmas than ever before. With five kids, we only spent $150 on presents for our immediate family -- and we had lots more to give away. We worked hard this year to make the season more about people, and less about the stuff that comes from a store. Thanks, Grinchy.

Some of our highlights from the Christmas season, 2011:

Serving a Christmas lunch, with our entire family, at an inner city church in Atlanta:

Madeline accompanying Dan for a business trip to Pennsylvania (surprisingly, Dan says this was the first time he's ever gone ice skating on a business trip):

Attending a Gingerbread House party which raised money for the SixtyFeet house-building fund:

Hosting a Christmas Nativity Play in our backyard for our neighbors:

Taking all five kids to an abbreviated, kid-length (and kid priced) version of the Nutcracker, at the Fox Theater:

Madeline's Christmas piano recital:

Attending a lunch n' learn at the Tellus Museum in Cartersville, GA where we learned about the science behind the Star of Bethlehem. Did you realize that most astronomers agree that Jesus was actually born on September 15, 5 B.C.? I love homeschool.

My kids and the Grauley crew, admiring the oversized dump truck at the Tellus, before the Planetarium show.

Christmas craft & cookie day with Grandad:

"Kidnapping" the kids after they'd already gone to bed, loading them up in the car, handing out candy canes and going to look at Christmas lights. Sorry, no pictures of this one -- it was a spur of the moment thing, but so, so fun. A new tradition, for sure.

Christmas Eve carols at a friend's house, Christmas morning services at our little church, Christmas lunch with friends, and Christmas dinner at home with 25 candles lit in honor of our Lord Jesus:

That's it. That's what Christmas is to us, in a nutshell. On Christmas Day, we gave each of the littles some very simple gifts -- books, notepads, candy and gift certificates for special time alone with Mommy & Daddy. Everyone was truly delighted and our hearts were full. Grinchy was right after all, Christmas just doesn't come from a store.

Much love to all of you and blessings for the new year. See you in 2012!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Favor for You and a Favor for Me

Seeing that it's Christmas and all, I thought you and me could do a little gift exchange. I have something for all of you -- my sweet and faithful blog readers -- who have tolerated me for nearly two years now. And, in the spirit of Christmas, I was hoping you might do a little something for me?

For your part, if you're willing, please hop over to the Cultivate Wines site and cast a vote for SixtyFeet to win the December grant they're giving away. We're not only in the running -- we're now in second place and could very easily win up to $10,000 at the end of the month!

Voting just takes a second and you can actually cast one vote per day until the end of December -- which is just over a week away. Please vote AND spread the word, via blogs, facebook and twitter. That is definitely the best present you could give me this season!

And now, a gift for you. I recently stumbled across something that I knew I had to shall with y'all. This blessed me immensely because I've been studying the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5, this month. Read and enjoy! Merry Christmas, friends.

The Beatitudes for Parents

Blessed are parents who listen to their children, for they in turn will be heard.

Blessed are parents who do not expect more of their children than is appropriate for their level of maturity, for they shall not be disappointed.

Blessed are parents who can laugh at themselves, for their children will laugh with them and not at them.

Blessed are the parents who may be called "old fashioned." They can be assured they are on the right track and that their children's opinions will change by the time they are old enough to pay taxes.

Blessed are parents who teach their children to understand and love each other, for they shall not get caught in the crossfire of a sibling war.

Blessed are parents who let their children do for themselves what they are capable of doing, for they shall not be merely unpaid servants.

Blessed are the parents who take their children with them often, for they shall see the world with fresh eyes.

Blessed are the parents who have found success-outlets for their energies, for they will not need their children as status symbols or as justification.

Blessed are parents who do not pretend to be perfect, for their children will not be disillusioned.

This gem was printed by the Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

May God richly bless you and your family during this special season and throughout 2012. Happy birthday, Jesus!
Thursday, December 15, 2011

What a Ride

Today I took all five kids to see a performance of the Nutcracker, at the incredible Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta.

It's at times like this that I have an especially hard time imagining Hannah and Joseph in their former circumstances.

Throughout the show, I kept glancing over at the two of them. They sat on the edge of their seats, enraptured. They loved every minute of the ballet. And I just kept shaking my head in wonder. I may have even cried a little bit...

Just two years ago, Hannah and Joseph were orphans, living at M -- scared, sick, lonely and seemingly forgotten. Today, they're like any other Atlanta kid, dressed up and enjoying the Nutcracker ballet at the Fox like it's the most natural thing in the world.

Make no mistake -- Dan and I didn't rescue Hannah and Joseph by adopting them. We didn't save them by bringing them to America. We haven't redeemed their past suffering by giving them a new life. But God did. And throughout their lives, He will continue to rescue, save and redeem them. Just as He's done for me.

Every now and then, these God moments sneak up on me and cause me to remember that I've been privleged to be part of something truly remarkable. I'm unworthy, I'm unqualified, I'm so unequal to the task set before me -- and that's exactly why I believe He was able to use me for this.

To God be all the glory -- I thank Him just for bringing me along for the ride.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011


My friend, Lovelyn, often blogs during mid-day and shares what she and her (7!!) kiddos are up to. I love hearing about her days and reading the comments that share what other mommies around the country are doing.

No matter your circumstances, I bet our days look more alike than we'd think.  And sometimes it's just fun to remember that we're all in this thing together.

I hardly ever have time to blog during the day. But today we're taking it easy and keeping school simple, so I thought I'd take my chances and see if anyone's out there.

Here's what we're doing...

Today, we're experiencing unseasonably warm weather in Atlanta. Between school lessons, the kids have been outside most of the day. We don't even have to wear coats!

I'm baking bread and two kinds of muffins.

Madeline is practicing for her Christmas piano recital on Sunday afternoon. I absolutely delight in hearing her play.

I'm picking up the house and prepping some actual adult food for dinner -- because we're having some friends over tonight.

The kids and I are reading on the couch -- we just finished a book on Dolley Madison.

What are y'all doing today??
Sunday, December 11, 2011

Convictions -- and What To Do With 'Em

This weekend involved some serious Christmas fun for our family.

On Saturday, the four big kids spent the day at a Christmas Camp hosted by our friends, the Jacksons. Each year their family hosts an all-day camp including crafts, stories, activities and a Christmas parade. The cost is $35 per child and they use 100% of the proceeds to pay the secondary school tuition (not cheap) for a handful of Kenyan teenagers. Our family pretty much wouldn't miss it for the world.

On Saturday evening, our family attended a gingerbread party. This was hosted by the Grauley family, who I love dearly. If y'all think I'm crazy, you should meet the Grauleys. These people open their home every year for 9 hours, to hundreds of people, for a gingerbread-house-building party. This year, they used their house-building party to raise money for another house -- namely, the SixtyFeet home in Uganda.

(Side note: We've raised almost $40,000 to date for the SixtyFeet match for the land purchase/building fund. If we can raise the last $20,000 before December 31, it will all be eligible for the match! Please spread the word if you can).

And on Sunday, we hosted a little soiree of our own for our neighbors -- a backyard Nativity play, complete with handsome wise men:

Yes, poor Joseph is wearing his sister's flower robe and Davis is wearing an Asian princess gown. This was a rather low-budget production, ok? Trust me, the girly outfits did not affect the manly quality of their performance.

Breathtaking angels:

And a truly star studded cast:

Thank you, Chick-fil-a Cows, for helping us celebrate the birth of Christ.

The activities of this weekend represent everything that I think Christmas should be about. Sweet times with friends, family, neighbors and even strangers, gathering in Jesus' name and with the intention of doing His work and sharing His message. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.

I know y'all are probably growing tired of my anti-Christmas posts, but my heart is convicted -- and I hope yours is too. I can't stop thinking that the American version of Christmas must grieve the heart of Christ.

For really fabulous Christmas ideas and thought provoking reading, read this. It has totally blessed me this season and made me look forward to many, many changes and new traditions for next year.

Merry CHRISTmas, y'all!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Beauty of Being Cheap

Yesterday, my tiny baby girl...

turned 2. I cannot believe it. She's out of babyhood and officially a toddler.

This year has absolutely flown by. Some of you might remember this photo from Charlotte's first birthday party, last year. Admittedly, it was a little sad:

Dan was in Uganda completing Hannah and Joseph's adoptions. The guy in the picture is not my husband -- but our family friend and pediatrician, David. He's holding my laptop and skyping with Dan so, while in Africa, he could watch his fifth baby eat her first birthday cake.

So this year, we resolved to do Charlotte's birthday right. I mean, just check out her gift. It's a vintage spring rocking horse. A genuine Mr. Clip Clop.

Anyone want to make a guess at how much this beauty cost us?? Well, if you know me at all, you must know it didn't cost much. In fact, it was free. Many years ago, it used to be mine. Told you it was vintage.

But there's more...

Do you know that Dan and I have actually given this Same. Stinkin'. Horse. to ALL of our children on their second birthdays? Not a similar horse. The exact same one. When a second birthday rolls around, we drag it out of the attic, wipe off the dust and present it to the honored recipient.

So far, Mr. Clip Clop has a perfect track record -- every two-year-old we've gifted it to has been absolutely delighted with the thing. And never once have we been questioned by any of our toddlers as to why they are receiving a used rocking horse as a gift.

Each one of them has loved it, riden it tirelessly and then grown bored with it after about 6 weeks. (The average shelf life of any toy around this place). So Dan and I pack it up, stuff it in the attic and leave it there for the next babe.

And do I feel guilty for this? Not a bit. Because there's not a two-year-old in the world who needs, cares about or even understands elaborate birthday parties and extravagant gifts -- it's just more money that we don't need to spend on ourselves.

Earlier this week, a fellow adoptive mom wrote a post on a similar topic that's been floating all over the internet. I'm linking to it below and would encourage you to read it in it's entirety if you haven't already. It's long, it's opinionated and I will warn you in advance -- it may be the most offensive thing you've ever read. But she really gets at the heart of what I'm talking about here.

No matter your family traditions, your personal belief system, your idea of a good time... truth is truth. Read the Christmas Condundrum here, by Jen Hatmaker.