Monday, December 24, 2012

Here with us...

It never gets old. 

The story that I've heard and read over and over and over. The birth of Jesus, God's son, in a humble stable to two unlikely parents, lying in straw. The story is sweet and yet bitter. Born to die - and then to live again. Hard to even comprehend the sacrifice, love, and poetry. 

Photo credit
I love all the Christmas carols - so hard to pick a fave. They are the background of our Decembers and so much a part of our yearly traditions. A few wonderful new ones have come out as Christian music has become more contemporary. I love so many of them - Mary, Did You Know might be my all time fave. I think what I love is the sweet and bitter. The innocent and peaceful baby - the creator, healer, and controversial teacher - the innocent man who suffered a brutal death on the cross to pay the price for us - and the risen Christ - triumphant - all wrapped up in a little baby. The nativity story isn't just about his birth - it is about his death and eternal life.  

Oh Jesus, be born in us so that we, despite the trials and sufferings of this life, will one day rise to live again.

 Here's another current fave. It depicts the bitter with the sweet and I will warn that there are a few difficult scenes from The Passion of Christ movie. The song is just beautiful. Take time to listen to the beautiful words and thank God for his precious gift.

Wishing all of my friends and family a peaceful and special Christmas.  Continue to pray for the families of Newton, CT on this very difficult Christmas - may they feel the outpouring of love from this country and most importantly, the loving arms of Jesus' comfort wrapped around them.

Merry Christmas!

It's still a mystery to me
That the hands of God could be so small,
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
Were the very hands that measured the sky

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King,
You're here with us
You're here with us

It's still a mystery to me, oh,
How His infant eyes have seen the dawn of time
How His ears have heard an angel's symphony,
But still Mary had to rock her Savior to sleep

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
Here with us
You're here with us
(Ohh, mmm, here with us)

Jesus the Christ, born in Bethlehem
A baby born to save, to save the souls of man

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Son of God, Servant King
You're here with us
You're here with us

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why Adoption??

I viewed this video for the first time earlier this week and posted it to Facebook (I find people rarely view the videos I have posted there). It so beautifully tells a Biblical perspective of adoption. I just love it. What an awesome family. Following that is a great music video that echoes the same theme. Enjoy!

New Film Premiere - I Like Adoption. from on Vimeo.

Children Of God"

Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God

Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God

A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God

We are the saints
We are the children
We've been redeemed
We've been forgiven
We are the sons and daughters of our God

Adoption Link-up - families getting ready to travel

A blog that I follow (found here) is hosting a link up for families who are in the process of adoption - nearing travel to adopt one child - and still needing funds. Linny and her family are just amazing and have such hearts for orphans and adoption. They are planning to share links to families who are still fundraising for the final fees to bring their children home forever. She has asked that to participate, we answer the following questions: (I apologize for all the different style print in this post - all due to lots of copying/pasting to put the questionnaire on here)

1.   Tell us a bit about the child you are adopting - including this treasure's age and name {Please post a picture if allowed.}

Our homestudy and placement agencies do not allow us to post any pictures or share her name yet (until we are in China!). She is "T" and turned 5 years old this past summer. We found her through a waiting child listing and we were instantly drawn to her. She is in foster care and very attached to her mom (good news!), and loves to dance, and help around her house.

 2.  Is the child you are adopting considered "Special Needs"?  

Yes, T is listed as having mild CP and a speech delay. She appears to have had hydrocephalus at one time (unknown cause).

3.  What country or geographic area are you adopting from?

China (Hubei province)

4.   Have you adopted before?

Yes. We adopted two siblings (sisters) from Ethiopia in 2009. The blessing of adoption goes both ways. It is very hard to not want to do it again once you see what having a family and love and can do for a child. It has changed our perspective on life. Adoption is such a pictures of God's adoption and redemption of us. We feel so blessed He let us in on this special life and journey.

5.   How close to travel are you?

We just got our Letter Seeking Confirmation. We are told we should expect to travel in three months.

6.   Do you attend church regularly?   If so, what type of church is it?

We regularly attend and are active in Maple Grove Christian Church - which is an evangelical, Bible-believing church (no specific affiliation).

7.    Do you tithe with each pay {at least the scriptural standard of 10%}?

Yes, we truly believe that the Lord asks this of his followers. 

8.  This week, did you participate in any way with the day of Praise, Prayer by giving praise on the link and then posting your request?

I did not participate this week but have on previous prayer days.

9.  Have you read the entire Deadbeat Dad series?  {Yes or No}  Please read it in full, so you can better understand the heart of God for stewarding the money He has graciously gifted us with. 
It is a four part series and can be found here:  Part 1Part 2, Part 3Part 4

Yes - all but part 4 but am off to read that now! Update: just finished Part 4!

10. How did you hear about this Link up we are having?

I am a regular reader of Linny's blog. (A Place Called Simplicity).

11.  Is there anything, briefly, that you would like to share with our orphan-lovin', God-honorin', Jesus worshippin' bloggy friends reading this?

During our first adoption, we worked very hard to pay for everything ourselves. We had no idea that others would come along and assist us financially and when it seemed we wouldn't be able to do it - we leaned on God - and it all came together. This time,  we said "yes" knowing that we really didn't have the funds to do this, but trusted that if it was God's will and calling for our family, that He would provide.  We have worked so hard to sell so many of our personal things, hold several fundraisers, and sacrifice and save wherever we can. God has blessed us constantly - even on the days when we were so discouraged or even questioning if we were doing the right thing. We have even been able to bless others who are also adopting during this time. In faith, we know He will provide and bring our little girl home.

Finally, understanding that each gift received through this "Response Time" has been entrusted generously for our use from our loving Father, we promise, in the unlikely event that we would be unable to or decide not to adopt the children we are advocating for, we promise to return all of the money gifted to us as a result of this link to International Voice of the Orphan so they can, at their discretion, give to other families currently adopting.      

{Please place your initials on the line.} 
Yes, I will submit___JFS___             No, I am unable to submit to this ________

Advent festivities and decor

Well, I am almost done with our Christmas prep. The presents are bought and in piles and bags and boxes in our closet. Lots of sorting and wrapping to do still (and one more homemade project for me) but it's coming together. The house needs a major cleaning (top to bottom) and then I will feel ready. My parents are making an unexpected visit this year (I asked them sorta last minute) and we couldn't be happier. We are so excited to have them with us for our loud and crazy Christmas morning. They are in for some fun - and lots of laughter and screaming (we are a loud bunch). Shh...don't tell the kids but there will be lots of games under the tree this lots of gaming will be going on here.

The elf on our shelf has been busy - not in creative ways like one sees all over the internet - but I actually haven't missed a day of hiding him in a new ("Mom, these aren't so hard") spots. My secret? My phone alarms at 6:15 each day to remind me in case I forgot the night before. I need to do tooth fairy alarms next time she's needed. I stink at tooth fairy-ing.

The Christmas cards are out. This has been a tradition that I have been slowly giving up. We get so few cards anymore and most years it is just a stress to get the right picture, pick the right card, and get them all addressed and out.

I do enjoy seeing my friends' pictures each year and watching their families grow and grow up, so I am torn about giving up the whole card thing.

We have always just sent long distance cards, and now with Facebook, I feel less motivated to do the whole card thing. Most years I use coupons to get a deal on the cards but end up spending my savings on expedited shipping since I have procrastinated so long and am so late...haha. Last year we took off from doing cards to save the money. This year we sent the cards to announce our adoption.

The Santas are out...

The Nutcrackers are out...

The tree is up with all our sweet handmade-by-our-kids ornaments and all the others that are so sentimental...

sorry for the blurry effect

Jesus is prominent - I hope. Each year I put less and less decorations out and more and more out that point to  "Jesus." This year a friend even gave us an extra sign she had (I had commented on hers). For years I have wanted a sign or something outside that just said "Jesus." After all, wreaths and greenery, and lights and all the colorful outdoor decor - really don't directly celebrate the reason we even have Christmas. They are pretty and wintery, but not about Jesus.

So this year we have a Jesus sign in the yard (even spotlighted - John's idea)! I am so happy about it. We live at the front of a large circle so everyone drives by our house. Praying that it will give neighbors (and myself each day) a gentle reminder to remember the reason we celebrate, decorate, and give our gifts.

Christmas music is playing here all day and school is sorta out for my homeschooled kids. College classes and exams are over for Drew (he rocks - his hard work paid off!). We had planned to do school all week but the little girls were home sick on Monday so we lounged around with them. We will do a few schooling items as the week draws to a close but mostly I will get all the wrapping and cleaning done so we can enjoy being together doing some of the family traditions - a drive through town to look at lights, making yummy Christmas cookies and sharing some with neighbors, and making a gingerbread house.
Last year's cookies

Last year's gingerbread house

We had a Christmas party here last Sunday with our lifegroup and, luckily, we haven't been inundated with lots of holiday gatherings and parties this year to fill up the schedule. It is a more peaceful December than ever before (last year we had Nutcracker practices and performances all through December). I'm loving it. We have even had the chance this year to do a weekly advent candle lighting during our family night - reading parts of the first Christmas story from the Bible, and watching pieces of The Nativity Story movie. Lovin' that too...

As the year draws closer to a close, I realize that through the stress of parenting and schooling, the exhaustion of days of teaching and driving all over and what seems like non-stop disciplining, that I am living my dream. I am blessed and in love with my life. I am "expecting" another blessing in the next year and can hardly believe the exciting path that the Lord has led our family to. Lest you think things are perfect around here (and I realize that some of my writing might lead you to think that), please know that things here are never perfect. Days are often chaotic and messy and noisy and hard. Our kids are normal kids (if Santa really did the coal thing, some might find that on Christmas morning). We fail miserably at times around here - both the parents and the kids. We need to be constantly reminded how to love each other - and how we need a Savior. There are disappointments, tears, and trials, but through it all, I still see the blessing that this life is.

Merry CHRISTmas to all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Twenty years and counting...

 Twenty years ago, two young and in love kids (ok, so we weren't exactly kids),  took the "plunge" and pledged their love in front of family and friends. It was John's 26th birthday. It was a magical day/weekend and far surpassed anything I had every imagined as a girl. I can remember standing up there feeling so excited to be joining my life to John's, to be Julie and John, not just Julie.

 It's even sweeter now. Looking back at these pictures I see the promise in our faces. The excitement to start our life together as partners in every way. We look so young, so innocent really.
We had no idea the journey God was planning for us. Amazing.

We were blessed to find each other, blessed to get along so well. We are blessed that we can still make each other laugh, and smile, and blush. I still can't get over how cute my husband is - he really is. Still.

I am blessed. We are blessed. I can't believe I found the man of my dreams. John is a renaissance man, he can do and make anything. He is smart and witty and compassionate and loyal. He is musical and talented in many things. He is knowledgable and strong and generous and selfless. He is a man of God and has taught me so much. He puts up with me and has given me the most precious children. He is my knight and my hero. Ok, sorta sappy...but true. I just love and adore this guy. He is God's most special gift to me. I waited a long time to find him.
We have had so much fun over these 20 years. We have grown together and grown our family (that's for sure) and have cried and laughed (mostly laughed). It's been a fun 20 years!
I'm excited about the years to come. 
Love you John...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh my heart...

photo credit
I have tried to sit down several times to write but haven't been able to find the words. Yes, I had several posts all lined up in my mind. One was going to be photos of some of our favorite tree ornaments - sweet and humorous stories about them. Another was going to be one of all the signs of Christmas going on around here - the happy excitement of Advent and family traditions. Yet another was to be an ode to my wonderful husband as we hit our 20th wedding anniversary on his birthday (yes, the same day), December 13th. 

But those posts didn't get written. December 14th happened and quite honestly, I have cried and been unable to write about what seems absolutely trivial, unimportant, and sorta flimsy in light of the heartbreak and sheer nightmare that families in Connecticut are living and breathing right now. Like all of you, I sat glued to my tv or computer most of Friday and the weekend (unless my little girls were around), just trying to wrap my mind around what had happened and putting myself in those families' place (just can't help myself). I felt destroyed. I have prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. It's really all one can do.

Monday's news of funerals and burials left me teary all throughout the day. How can it be that parents are having to bury their precious young children at Christmas time? Why, Lord? Why?

I have a six year old - I have had 6 six year olds. My heart hurts. This age is pure delight (well, ok, most of the time...). Oh God help us.

Amid the talk of stricter gun laws (ps - I hate guns) and improved care for those with mental illness (which I do agree needs to be addressed), and even all the talk about God not being allowed in our schools (which, although He lives in the hearts of students and teachers who are true believers, is altogether true), there are a couple of basic truths that are not being discussed.

Evil is real and here and seeks to destroy. No one really wants to say it.

This world is broken. God made it perfect and was WITH us until we, with our free will, decided to destroy the relationship with God by our greed and selfishness and sin. Ever since then, God was planning a way to redeem the relationship and bring us back into relationship with Him. His promise was fulfilled in a broken and messy world by the birth of a baby. The dark world that He sent His only son into, was a time, much like ours. There was hatred and violence, poverty and need.  Jesus came into a poor, messy, violent, and dark world. The world needed Jesus then. We need him now. Oh Lord Jesus.

(note the nativity set amid the "messy" dining table covered in my teenagers' school papers, etc)

And so, my posts will resume, probably in a day or two. I will probably end up doing a few Christmas posts (complete with ornaments, decorations, and traditions). I will also share some wedding photos. But for now,  I continue to pray and thank God for the baby Jesus who came down into our dark and messy world.

Amid the darkness there is still hope. Amid the darkness there is still Joy.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


64 days ago our adoption dossier (the huge pack of papers covering every detail about us) was logged in to the People's Republic of China's adoption affairs offices. We knew the wait at that point could run anywhere from 30-90 days. 

Today marked day 64 and I had stopped even expecting the phone call from Seattle. So today when I least expected it, the call came and the phone said Seattle, and well, tears slid down my face.

You see I had just had a pretty emotional last 24 hours with some kid "stuff" here at the homestead. I had no sleep stressing over the situation that was going on and was not feeling too well on top of that. Today found me teary and defeated. To get the call today that our Letter Seeking Confirmation for our adoption had arrived to our agency from China...well, it was a gift from God today. He gave me a wink. 

So what does this mean? Well, this is a huge turning point because at this point, we know, that barring any problems, we will be traveling in three months!!! YAY and EEK! That means mid-March! 

It also means that we are able to send off a care package to OUR little girl (well, she's not technically OURS yet, but it is as tho' she is "promised" at this point). To receive permission from the agency now, telling us how to go about sending a package, is huge. Back when we were in the process of adopting our girls from Ethiopia, rules were much more relaxed there and we were able to send several packages - even some before the girls were told about us. With the sending of those packages, we received back words about how the girls had reacted to gifts, pictures, even video. Precious, precious gifts when you are waiting so far away with so little info about your children.

This will be our first and probably only care package to our little girl in China. My guess is that this will be when her foster family will officially tell her about us and explaining that she will be leaving at some point to her forever home in America. As excited as I am, my heart breaks a bit too. This little girl can hardly be expected to know what this all will mean for her. It will be a bit frightening and overwhelming. I am excited to finally make the connection to her, but sad as well. Her foster family could never really be the long term solution for her, we know that. But she is young and has only her memory of them as her family. 

Tomorrow I will be contacting the organization in China who sends out the care packages (yes, there are actually several groups who do this as a job!). We will be ordering a group of items - probably a doll/stuffed animal, blanket, food, and a photo album of our family (gonna have to choose a bunch of great photos of all of us and life here). Often a disposable camera can be sent with the package for the family to take pictures of everyday life in the foster home. This camera will be saved to come home with her for us to develop and save for her - precious memories of her days in China. The care package deliverers will take pictures and get an update on our daughter for us. I can hardly wait!

So at this point, we are now in about a month-long process of immigration approvals, then on to visa applications for all of us and T, then awaiting travel approvals and plans. Can't believe we are actually to this point!


I had mentioned before, that the puzzle is completed (we will be putting that together over the Christmas break). Thank you to all who donated a piece(s).

The numbers are in on the Holiday Market fundraiser - we made just over $1,000!! That was our goal and despite such odds the week before the event, God was faithful. Thank you to all my friends and family who ordered, and came to shop that day. 

We are sending off grant applications and will be awaiting, with hope, some help with travel expenses.

Our "Cha-ching for Ting" banks are not in yet. A few have come in and we are hopeful to raise a good bit from this fundraiser. If you missed out on getting a bank, you can still help by saving your spare change for us in a jar. Drop it off when it's full. Every little bit helps. We are putting everyone's change into a large jug that we have (and it's getting full!). When all the banks are in, we will have a coin rolling party and figure out our grand total. Bless all of you who are participating with this project.

And, our "Chip-in" is still located in the right side-bar. If you are still wanting to donate toward our costs, you can give a Pay-pal donation that way (or by mail or in person). We aren't too proud to say that we can't do this without the Lord moving in hearts to help us.

All our precious donors' names are at the bottom of the blog (scroll down). If you have helped in some way but don't see your name, please let me know. I don't want a single one of you left off. All your names represent answered prayers as well as proof that God is able to bring a little girl all the way across the globe to the family He picked out for her before time began. What an amazing thing. Can't even believe we get to play a part. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

It makes a difference to this one...

One of my first friends at our homeschool co-op, was Julia. We met when my son poked her son in the eye (can't recall if it was an accident or on purpose!). We were on a field trip with them and kept bumping into each other on future field trips. We joked that we obviously needed to get out of the house as we took advantage of any and every field trip...

Years have passed and Julia and I have known each other a long time now. She and I share being homeschool moms of sons and - a shared passion for orphans. She traveled to India with a friend who was adopting not long before we announced we were adopting our girls from Ethiopia. Her family adopted a precious little boy from Ukraine following our return home with our girls. She has been incredibly supportive of us now, as we embark on the journey again.

Aaron - he has the cutest dimples ever!
Julia's story of her adoption, on her blog, was so beautifully told. Julia has a real gift of writing from her heart. A true calling slowly grew throughout her adoption process. Aaron, her son, had a physical special need (arthrogryposis) and in his country, if you are not adopted by age 4 and have a need that is obvious like his, you are then sent on to an institution. There you will live out your days with severely mentally handicapped men (in his case), with no toys, no stimulation, no love, and no hope of ever being adopted. 

Julia's family was the first to adopt a child out of Aaron's institute and it was an unbelievable story of their perseverance and of God's faithfulness to Aaron and to her family for rescuing him from a future that was not a future. Her little boy is home now and is a delight and an amazing young boy. Praise God.

But Julia was forever changed by what she saw and what she knows goes on behind the gates of institutions like Aaron's. She has a passion like you have never seen, to advocate for the special needs children around the world who face futures of institutions, boring days without stimulation/touch/educaiton, no visitors, no family coming for them to care and love on them, and no one to share with them about the love of Christ.

Julia has become an amazing advocate and encourager to families seeking to answer God's call to care for the orphan. She has kept up her blog which has a huge following now and regularly fundraises for families or for the adoption accounts of children on Reeces Rainbow (an amazing ministry that promotes Downs Syndrome adoption and other special needs by keeping adoption accounts for waiting children to defray some of the huge costs for the families that step forward to adopt). Hundreds of Reeces Rainbow children will be celebrating Christmas this year in their own home with their own family because of the work of the Reeces Rainbow group - of which Julia has become one of the loudest voices!

Today on Julia's blog, she has announced a wonderful giveaway she is running to assist in increasing the adoption funds of 5 special children in particular - but also, of all the little ones listed with the Reeces Rainbow ministry. There are so many precious children who long for a mommy and daddy, siblings, family, tradition, their own bed, their own teddy bear to hug at night, for Christmas mornings, cousins, grandparents, storytimes, and learning to read (the list could go on and on - all the many things we, who have always had family, take for granted). By adding to their accounts, families who are being called to these children get a little bit of a break in fees. It is a blessing. Our little girl in China had a similar account through another organization and for that we were incredibly grateful.

So please, hop over to Julia's blog and read about her huge giveaway, the gifts you can win by participating, and the children she is trying to save. She will have you link over to Reeces Rainbow's angel tree where you can choose children to give to. You don't have to give a can be very little. One year (and this was also Julia's suggestion), we gave each of our kids a 5 dollar bill. We told them to choose a child on the angel tree and we would mail off their donation to the child of their choice. My kids had not even seen kids with some of the needs pictured. It was a great thing for them to take a minute to ponder what life must be like to have a special need and no mommy. Pretty powerful...

Here is Julia's blog:

Here is Reeces Rainbow:

All donations to Reeces Rainbow are tax deductible. If you have time, go back to read about Julia's adoption story and her descriptions of what she saw. It is painful at times to see and read - but might serve to give you an idea of something you could do to help. God bless!
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