Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours........

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Oh my sweet Lulu.......

Lulu is quite the character. And Lulu plays very well by herself...imaginary friends with dialogue and all. It is quite entertaining to listen to. Today as I was putting tonite's dinner in the crock pot she was playing with the Fisher Price Little People. We have the van and when a button is pushed in the baby seat a baby "cries". She pushed the button and said, "Mommy did you hear that? Did you hear that baby cry?" To which I replied, "I sure did. Poor baby." She then proceeds to tell me this:

"Mommy that baby cry cause she live in Beijing. She need a family. We need to get her cause we no have any babies. I a sister now not a baby and she need a sister. Mommy, we need go get her. She so sad she not have a family. I have a family right Mommy? Mommy, you hear her cry? We need go get her now! What she name Mommy? We so sad too cause we have to wait long time for her and we no have any baby now."

Oh my

To which I replied: "Yes, sweetheart you do have a family forever and ever and 2 sisters and 2 brothers and a Mommy and a Daddy. Do you like your family?"

Lulu: "All peoples need family or they so sad. She in Beijing and we need go get her Mommy! That baby need sisters and brothers and Mommy and Daddy. We need go get her or she be so sad. I be her sister and Sissy and Mei Mei too. And Gu Gu and Xin be the brothers and you be the Mommy and Daddy be she Daddy."

Oh my...what goes on in that precious little head of hers? Makes me teary and hurts my heart. How I wish I could give all the babies a family sweet Lulu! Sigh...............

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Holiday Season

It is that time of year! How can it be? Weren't we just in costumes knocking on doors begging for candy???? Thanksgiving came and went. My favorite holiday. It is just so simple. Eating, thankful hearts and people you love. What could be better than that? Then Christmas comes fast on the heels of that simple holiday with all it's glitz. I feel like we as Americans rush through that simple lovely holiday to get to the next...we even had stores open Thursday, Thanksgiving day, this year! REALLY???? Weren't we supposed to be giving thanks for what we have instead of out shopping for more of what we really don't need? I tried hard to hold on to that 4 day weekend but alas with Thanksgiving being so late this year, I had to jump right into the hoopla. And I wasn't really in "the mood" if you want to know the truth. I drug all the boxes and bags out of the attic Saturday and began the decorating while removing any traces of fall decor still up. I was hoping that getting our favorite things up would lighten my mood. I just wasn't ready to dive in full force to all the Christmas "stuff" we have on our list. I was still eating turkey and gravy leftovers for crying out loud! I managed to get it all up. Then Sunday we rushed out to get a tree and decorate it as a family as it was THE ONLY DAY we all had together over the next few weeks....crazy!

So now my house is adorned in all its Christmas finery. We have begun our traditions..the candy countdown chain, the advent calendar, Coco the elf has returned, the lights are twinkling, the candles are lit and the house smells wonderful, we are reading all of our favorite Christmas stories, the shopping is in full force, the parties, the events, and yes, the sports that stop for nothing. I do feel more festive. And I do like the way it looks and makes me feel when it is all up.I love looking at the "stuff" and all the memories it brings to mind. But I truly long for simplicity. Stillness. Reflection on the meaning of this great day. More family time, less distraction. I know I sound like a scrooge. But life is so chaotic and busy through out the year. Why do we add more to that during this time? Why don't we slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures? Sometimes I wish I were Laura Ingalls. Now that was a simple Christmas!

We had Thanksgiving at my brother's house this year in Atlanta

My Family

Our Thankful Tree Nov 1st

And our Thankful Tree at the end of the month! LOVE this tradition and each year I remove it all and put them in a bag labeled with the year. Maybe one day someone will go back and read them and reminisce and feel very blessed!

On to the next set of decorations......

 All my little elves

Lulu's unique style of decorating..."the clump"

All my "gifts"...crazy bunch that makes my heart smile!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Celebrating Life and a Red Thread

November 7th our sweet little Charlotte celebrated her 1st birthday! This precious child has had quite the life so far. She was given up at 6 months of age. No doubt her family felt they could not give her the much needed heart surgery she had to have to survive. So they left her at the orphanage. Maybe they thought the orphanage could help. I can't even imagine having that sweet baby in my arms for 6 months and then leaving her "in hopes" she might get surgery and might live. I pass no judgement here. I will never truly know the real "whys" of her story  but I do know God impressed upon my heart to fight for her, to be her voice, to give her a chance at life. I truly felt I owed it to her and her birth mother. Enter the Red Thread....there is a Chinese proverb that states:

An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break.

So "our Red Thread" began when we decided to adopt again, God led us to Lulu at Chenzhou CWI, through Lulu we met the Team Chenzhou gang, through that we fell in love with this group and this orphanage, we then decided to go on a mission trip with them to Chenzhou, while there little Charlotte had been left just weeks before our arrival, Julia fell in love with her, another amazing team member, Megan, already had some "fight" in her and wanted to get help for "her baby" Sarah, Megan contacted some friends, said friends made some calls, God moved mountains, Charlotte and Sarah were sent to New Hope in Beijing for some much needed care and surgery, Charlotte had emergency heart surgery and is recovering and doing very well according to the doctor!

So we couldn't let this momentous occasion of turning 1 go by. I contacted New Hope and asked if we could send a birthday party. They said that they usually have 1 party a month for all the kids celebrating their birthdays in that month and they were due for one! So we got to help with this special day and they sent pictures for us to see.

 What a FABULOUS place! Praise be to God these girls are there! As I looked at Charlotte's non-blue face, tears welled up in my eyes. I don't know what the future holds for this beautiful child but she has a future now. The orphanage told us she had a " very bad heart" and it couldn't be repaired. They did the best they could for her but they had no hope. She would have died had she stayed there. But God had different plans for this child. He saw hope! My verse for the mission trip was Jer 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I had know idea just how appropriate this would be....but He did!

I pray daily for Charlotte. I pray she heals. I pray she gets a family. I do ask God if we are to pursue her...I haven't heard yet on that :) Wherever she ends up will be the perfect place for her because He has written her story and He has connected the Red Threads that make up her life. Happy 1st Birthday sweet Charlotte! We love you!

Our Charlotte

Sarah who celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago! She has made AMAZING progress!!!!

Their cake

They even had goody bags!!!

They had dress up play and face painting, parachute play and this tunnel too!! I love this place! And the staff seems amazing too! They seem to love their jobs and the kids. So thankful there are people and places like this!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween 2013

1st shift of carving

Lulu refused to stick her hand in the pumpkin and pull the gunk out.

2nd shift of carving

Halloween morning about 6:50 am!

A Halloween breakfast

Oh these girls and their love of princesses and all things pretty and sparkly!

Goof balls!!!!

Zombie girl...yuk! The sad thing is she got a big black eye in her soccer game Saturday and all the kids at school  today joked that she forgot to take her zombie make-up off! Actually the make-up was less frightening looking than the real thing!!!! Poor baby!

The neighborhood gang all ready to set out!

I love this "holiday"! The kids love this "holiday"! So much fun and so simple really. This year was a little different as my 15 year old was not present for the pumpkin carving or trick or treating because she had basketball tryouts. Oh my heart! I guess I should rejoice in the fact that it lasted as long as it did. Those are just the "bumps" you have in a family with a large age span. We carved in shifts and Sam was sweet enough to carve Lulu's pumpkin and then wait and carve with Julia later that night. And Julia did catch up with us trick or treating and took the little girls to the doors. She got to dress up the next day at school where the sophomore class dressed as zombies. I even had to take a Halloween picture of all 5 in the wee hours of the morning before school in order to get all 5 together! Whew...didn't I say simple "holiday"? 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mountain tops, valleys, and Martha and Mary

Ever since returning from China in July, I have struggled. I have struggled with what to do next, or now, or because of, etc. People talk about a "high" after a mission trip. I don't know if I would call it a "high" or a "low" or what I would call it really. How about "stumped"? After a life changing experience it is hard to stay status quo, yet life around you goes on status quo. So what does one do with the experience? I tried several times to put into words here some of my experiences because I truly wanted everyone to experience what I had experienced...all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly! Why did I want everyone to experience this? Because it is life altering. Just like when you put a delicious piece of moist, sweet, velvety smooth chocolate cake into your mouth and you say, "Oh, you have got to try this!!!!" Your taste buds will never be the same! That is what I am talking about! You want to share the "goodness" so others can join you in your place of bliss! Then together you can experience this awesomeness! I want to share in the "Ok, God, what now? What do you want me/us to do now?" There is so much to be done! So I have prayed. And waited. And tried to listen for His next directive. There has to be something to do with all "this stuff" I now know and feel and dream about?

Add to that experience, the year long, marathon deep soul searching I experienced due to the job loss. (He does have a temporary to hopeful permanent job as of now). What a doozy that was! I am wiped out! A whole lotta stuff there...deep stuff, deep places He took me. Good in the end, but a long hard road to travel. Again, the ultimate place he brought me to was life altering. So what do I do with that??? A side note....if you ever need counseling due to job loss, I am your free certified counselor!!!! Again, I have prayed for direction here too. The only thing I have felt Him saying is "Rest". Rest???? Really??? If you know me, I don't rest well...at all! In fact, that is quite torturous for me really. With all this new found knowledge, experience, love, etc you want me to "rest"??? Surely you have other plans for me now?

 Yet He brings Martha and Mary to my mind and heart. Martha, bless her heart, was so busy "doing" and got annoyed with her sister Mary for just sitting at Jesus feet.
 "But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me?" Ok, just call me Martha. "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:40-42  Deep inside, I think I do just want/need to sit at His feet with my head in His lap experiencing Him, and His love and His grace. I envision myself there with Him stroking my hair and I am at peace...and it is ok.... to just be there without "doing". It goes against my make-up, but it sounds so very good!

Then I read  some really great devotions by Oswald Chambers lately that sum up my experience.

We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley (see Mark 9:14-18). We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop. Those times of exaltation are exceptional and they have their meaning in our life with God, but we must beware to prevent our spiritual selfishness from wanting to make them the only time.
We are inclined to think that everything that happens is to be turned into useful teaching. In actual fact, it is to be turned into something even better than teaching, namely, character. The mountaintop is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something. There is a terrible trap in always asking, “What’s the use of this experience?” We can never measure spiritual matters in that way. The moments on the mountaintop are rare moments, and they are meant for something in God’s purpose.
I think I had some real "mountaintop" experiences over the last year and I truly did not want to leave those mountaintops where He was! But it looks like I must:
After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God— that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him.
So for now I will sit at my Savior's feet...in the valley. Quietly. With gratitude. And rest. Like Mary. I will try to put my "Martha" tendencies aside. I will try to curb my desire to "do more". I will come down off the mountaintops of last year and just rest. And be refreshed. I would imagine there is something I will do with these experiences, but I will let Him lead me there in His time. After all, Jesus gave us permission to stop doing when He said, "Mary has chosen what is better..." Music to my weary ears and humbled heart!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Perfect Day

Yesterday the kids all had a day off from school so I decided we needed to do something fun! With our weekends always so packed with soccer and social engagements it leaves very little time to explore other options. Fall is my favorite time of year so I checked into some "fall activities". The kids and I loaded up the minivan and took off for the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where we enjoyed a beautiful drive, picked apples at an orchard, enjoyed a picnic lunch, explored waterfalls and streams, and old train tunnels and stopped at a favorite bakery. The weather was perfect, the leaves had a touch of color, and the time together was memorable. All five of them told me numerous times how much fun they had. To make the day even better everyone behaved, shared, didn't whine, controlled their "attitudes" and got along. I don't know about your house but at ours....this is a rarity! On any given day someone has a "tude", someone is crabby, someone whines uncontrollably, someone is hormonal and getting along.... well, "I'm telling!" rings out way too many times! But this day, well, it was pretty darn perfect and I am going to treasure it and hold it close to my heart! What a fabulous time we all had!