Family picture

Family picture

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas time 2013

This Christmas has been a new normal for my family and me.  With my mom's illness and passing in the summer, our hearts have been heavy with grief.  Then I became ill around Thanksgiving and just couldn't shake it for weeks which made preparing for the season even more difficult.
But God . . .
He makes all things new . . .
All four of our children were in a beautiful CHRISTmas musical at our church.  Even our littlest got in on the action and practiced his songs for all he was worth!  In the last few weeks leading up to the production, we spent a great deal of time and energy on the musical.  It was exhausting, but in a good way.  We were extremely busy, but ALL of the practices and preparation were centered on Christ.
That turned out to be an amazingly awesome thing!  Suddenly we found that JOY began to find a spot in our hearts where only deep sadness had been living.  Christ's birth, life, and resurrection certainly takes on new meaning whenever you lose a loved one.  Suddenly we could once again begin to experience that JOY and peace that really does pass all understanding.  
In fact, one morning Kevin and I realized that our children hadn't seen a smiling face from us in a long, long time.  Too long.  We were missing the treasure that they are to us and only focusing on our deep sadness over Mom's illness and death.  We stopped right then and there and prayed that God would return JOY to our hearts despite our immense grief. 
He did just that as we moved toward celebrating the Christmas holiday.  The musical began our change of heart, and it continued throughout the holiday.  Now, I am not saying our intense grief is gone.  There were moments in the past week where our grief brought us to our knees as we would remember all that we have lost (three of our four beloved parents/grandparents are no longer on earth).  But I am saying that JOY in Christ has come again, and we can rejoice in that even in the times of great sorrow. 
And looking back on all of the festivities of the last few weeks, our hearts can smile with the JOY that we experienced. 
The Christmas musical was truly breathtakingly beautiful in presenting the CHRISTmas story
Spending Christmas Eve at my brother's home has begun a new family tradition.  My brother, sister-in-law, and nephew worked so hard to make this a special time, incorporating so many special touches of Mom throughout the evening.  Even though each of our hearts was deeply longing to have Mom and Dad once again be with us for that special night, we were able to find JOY and happiness in the celebration of Christ and our love for each other.
Christmas morning came, and our little family of six (plus cute puppy) thoroughly enJOYED our time of celebration with reading the CHRISTmas story and opening the special gifts we had picked out for each other.  We all are looking forward to Grace being a part of our Christmas next year!  There was even a gift for her that morning.
Christmas evening was spent with our neighbor Dottie (who adopted us long ago as part of her family and vice versa for us) and Gram (Kevin's mom).  They came for dinner and for the annual decorating of the gingerbread houses with our family. 
Kevin and I have had our parents over for a special dinner for Christmas (not always on the day but close to it) since our early years of marriage.  The decorating of the gingerbread houses began four years ago.  We were so very blessed to once again have Carolyn (Gram) and Dottie join us. 
And lastly, we joined Kevin's family for another Christmas celebration the day after Christmas.  It was a sweet night and great way to end our Christmas holiday surrounded by so many people we love.
Before we knew it, Christmas had come and gone.  The holiday we had all been dreading going through without my mom had actually turned out to be filled with so much JOY that it left our hearts smiling long after the last bite of food, the last gift opened, the last Christmas song sung, and the last hug from our loved ones.  God was surely in the details of this season of REJOICING.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Just another day of cuteness in our home!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Closer and closer

Below are two pictures of our family that have been taken recently.  The first one was the picture we took last summer to be used in our China dossier.
The other picture was taken on Thanksgiving day.  It is kind of funny because the way Ted is standing makes him look  like he has a funny hair style and a star upon his head!  See for yourself.
But, do you notice anything else about the pictures?  Something kind of sweet and charming?? 
Grace is in both of them!  Our brother-in-law  photo-shopped her into the pictures so we can send it to her to let her know she belongs to our family!
  We love the way they both turned out - she just fits right in with the rest of us!  We pray she will think so, too!!
Ok, prayer warriors - we would love to have your prayers about the details still to be worked out in Grace's adoption process as we get closer and closer to bringing her home.  They are details that can only be worked out by our amazing God!  We are trusting in Him for the outcomes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New pictures of our girl!

Gracie knows she has a family! 
And she is thrilled!
She tells everyone she knows that she will soon see her mom and dad!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


L O A!
Three little letters that mean a whole lot!
We will be receiving our LOA tomorrow by mail.  LOA stands for "Letter of Acceptance"
for Grace!
We file our I-800 with Citizen and Immigration
We wait for our Article 5
We wait for our TA (Travel Approval)
We fly to China! 
It may fall on Chinese New Year, so that means we wait until after that.
But, even though it seems far away,
we are really, really close to bringing our Gracie home!  January/February! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October's bright blue weather

One of the things I miss most about my mom are the little things she would say.  I think October is the most beautiful month of the year, and it is my favorite.
My mom would frequently call me and say, "Janet, do you know what kind of day this is?"  I would respond, "It's October's bright blue weather, Mom." 
I have thought of her so often this month as we have enjoyed one bright blue beautiful day after another.
Now I have another reason to love October.  Both Sophia and Elijah celebrate birthdays this month!  It was seven short years ago this month that Kevin and I witnessed two of the most exquisite double rainbows we had ever seen, and all without any rain in sight.  Those rainbows held great significance to us, and we even marked them on our calendar.  Later we would realize that all three of our littles had something going on then, only we didn't know it at the time.
Philip's paperwork and medicals were readied during that time.  Both Sophia's and Elijah's birthdays were between those two rainbow sightings with Elijah's actual recorded birth being on the very day we saw the last one!
So "Happy wonderful birthday" to two of our five treasures!  We love you both so!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Eli's new face

Mr. Elijah got something funny in his kid's meal from Wendy's today.
It's hilarious! 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Amazing Grace

All four of our children, from our littlest to our biggest, sang in the Praise and Worship team yesterday at our church.  We were very excited, especially our youngest one.  This was going to be Elijah's first time to sing on Family Sunday.  He was very eager to do it, and it made him feel so much like a big boy to be part of the service.

On the way to church, this small, deep voice from the second seat said, "But Grandma won't be there to see me sing for the first time up in front.  She always came to see us at church."  That's true.  My mom, who seemed very uncomfortable with regular church attendance, would be the first one to arrive whenever Ted or one of our little children would be singing.  In fact, our senior minister once chuckled and said that he knew Ted must be singing because he has just seen his grandma! 

The thought that Elijah wouldn't have his grandma there, the one who had been a regular advocate for him when she thought we were too strict or not fair (which by her estimation was often!) brought tears to our eyes and a heaviness to our hearts as we drove on.  We decided to pray at that moment that somehow when our children were up on the altar singing praises to the One who made us, He would open up Heaven a little for their grandma, who was newly in Heaven, to take a peek and rejoice! 

We arrived at church, got settled, and the service began.  It was such a tender thing to my heart to watch my children (all four already home, that is) being a part of the service.  It made me a little teary, and I remembered the prayer we had whispered on the way that morning.  I wondered if it was possible my mom could see them.  Before I knew it, the service was almost over, and we were singing the last song.  But boy what a choice of song it was!  "Amazing Grace", the Chris Tomlin version, suddenly came up on our screen.  I've got to tell you, my heart leapt with joy, and the tears really flowed. 

You see, that song has such an amazing significance to me.  First of all, Ted recorded the original version of "Amazing Grace" onto a tape long ago for his grandma.  She would pull it out regularly for visitors and family alike to play, much to the embarrassment of Ted!  She loved to hear him sing that song.  To say Mom was resistant to attending church would be putting it mildly.  When Mom and Dad were first married, they had had some kind of toxic church experience, and from that time on, she felt judged when going to any type of church.  The only time she truly felt comfortable was when Ted would sing or on special holidays like Christmas and Easter. 

Mom also was very reluctant to talk about her faith in God.  When I first accepted Christ way back in college, it just made her nervous.  We laughed about it later, but when I was baptized in our present church, she was so nervous that she wore two different types of earrings!  After Dad passed away, she frequently would express her fear of never seeing him again.  We shared often that she would indeed see Dad again as long as she had accepted Jesus.  That's all she had to do.  It did make us fearful, knowing that since Dad was a believer, Mom would say often she wasn't ever going to see him again.  So we doubted at times that Mom truly knew what it was to be saved.  We weren't judging, just very fearful for someone we loved dearly.

Within the last year, Mom would become angry at us, but at others times she would talk and ask questions about Christ and what God said in his word.  She had a small ray of belief but somehow felt she wasn't good enough or worthy enough for God to spend time answering her prayers.  That broke our hearts.  My brother and I talked frequently with her about faith in the months preceding her death.  Sometimes she would just say, "Stop preaching to me."  That would effectively end our faith conversation.  We just weren't sure where Mom stood on her faith.  As Mom became increasingly more ill and in pain the last few months of her life though, she began to let me pray out loud over her as we went to yet another doctor's appointment.  She even began to let us talk more freely about faith in Christ.  We felt she was beginning to open up about accepting Christ, and that gave us hope. 

The two weeks that Mom lay in hospice dying were excruciating for her, even though she was kept as comfortable as she could be in the dying process, and for us.  However, there was a silver lining in that cloud of grief.  My aunts, brother, husband, and I did have a captive audience in Mom during that time.  She lay mostly unresponsive, so we could pray and read the Bible aloud as much as we wanted, and we prayed she was taking it in and pondering it in her heart.  We could even sing to her as much as we liked, and the one song that I sang over and over and over to her was Chris Tomlin's version of "Amazing Grace".  Ted sang it a few times to her as well.  Whenever I got to the part  that said, "My chains are gone.  I've been set free.  My God, my Savior has ransomed me,"  it would thrill my heart to think that if Mom let Christ in, she could be set free from fear, pain, feelings of unworthiness, and free to go to Heaven forever. 

She died peacefully one night while we slept at her bedside.  We felt she was probably free and in Heaven joyfully being in the presence of God (and Dad), but honestly, we didn't know since Mom would alternately reject or embrace Christ in her living. 

So yesterday morning, after praying that God would let her take a peek as her grandchildren were singing praises to Him, imagine my utter joy when I heard "her" song!  Not only did I feel she was getting to rejoice with our children in praise, but I also felt deep in my soul that she truly was in Heaven.  She made it!  Oh, she made it!

The funny thing about that song was when I mentioned it to Amanda, our children's worship leader, she shared that she hadn't even had a communion song chosen that morning, so Ted suggested "Amazing Grace" (the Chris Tomlin version)!  They chose that song after we prayed in the van.  Ted and Amanda had no way of knowing about our prayer.  To a Christian who loves our God so dearly, that is no coincidence!    God showed up big yesterday.  Mom is home!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Catching Up

Our school is in full swing now.  All of the kids are doing great and have really settled into a nice routine.  Even the teacher is finally in the swing of things!  We do miss my mom during the school day though.  She would often come and help teach the kids last winter. 

We have gotten in a fair amount of academics and then thrown in several field trips already!  We are having a blast with the study of American History.  We are also really enjoying our side trips around the city.
Our trip to the art museum with friends
A rocket blast at church
Going with Ted to his inspection of his soon-to-be purchased condo
With friends at the zoo
A new "do" for Miss S
Surgery for Wendy.  BTW, she is doing fine now.  She only had to wear her "cone" for a week.
A field trip to a creamery with yummy treats afterwards
After so much activity, a fella needs to catch a few winks now and then! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Art Day at the museum

One of the "perks" of homeschooling
is all of the amazing (and educational) field trips we can take.
Some are with our homeschool co-op,
and some of with close friends.
Today we spent a lovely day with dear friends at the art museum.
We toured the grounds before going into the museum and found many colorful gardens.  Some even matched the kids!
The orange garden
(These two sweet littles came home from Ch*na on the same trip.  We met her family half way around the world in 2008 only to find out they live just across town!)
The white garden
The pink one
Another pink garden
After walking the gardens, we spent fun time inside the museum in the American gallery.  I love art, and it tickled me to be able to explain the art pieces to my children who really soaked up the information and enjoyed their time.
Then it was outside again for a picnic lunch and some creative art time of their own.  The kids had packed their art supplies and kept busy sketching, coloring, and painting.
Everyone had a delightful time and can hardly wait to go back soon!