Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent - This Year

This year, I have debated doing a Christmas letter, a Christmas card, or working with the big kiddos to create a family newsletter as one of their end of the semester school projects. We may still do a newsletter in January, because it will be a great project for them. But it will be more focused on specific things they are learning and their observations on our family's life in 2011. As we continue to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through our family Advent worship and some fun and purposeful activities and events this season, I am reflecting upon this past year and some of the things we have learned as a family. So, in lieu of an official Christmas card or letter, I am going to share some of what we have learned in hopes of bringing you a little encouragement. At the end of the post, you will find some photo highlights of our year. Some of them are not the best quality. There would have been video and a slide show with more pictures, but alas, most of them were lost on either: A) my laptop hard drive that was fried in the summer OR B) my micro SD card contained in my mobile phone that was stolen 3 weeks ago! So, bear with me as the words will be much more abundant than the photos (which if you ever read my blog you know is typical of my posts, anyway).

In 2011...

We have learned that following God's plan for your life doesn't mean you will have a fairytale ending in all situations. In fact, following Christ means that we will experience suffering and hardship. This year, we have learned (and are still learning each day) to let go of our self-reliance, our self-righteousness, and our self-focus and cling desperately to God in realization of our need for His grace to make it through each moment of each day.
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11
We have learned to be more cheerful givers, more cheerful receivers, and to give out of need, not just out of abundance. We have accepted help and gifts of time, service, and money from others, when once we would never have thought of needing or accepting those things. We have seen the beauty of the Body of Christ in so many believers around us and in our brothers and sisters from around the world. We have experienced being at the receiving end of believers giving out of love for Christ, as well as have been a part of giving to others when God has called, even if it was the smallest of gifts.
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:3-13 
We have experienced a deeper understanding of loving a child from a hard place, and have known the wonder of experiencing life through the joyful attitude of our special needs sunshine. There are many perspectives on adoption, some very positive and some extremely negative, from adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, and others involved in the process. Our experience has been that adoption is a gift and parenting an adoptive child is both wonderful and hard.  Adoption is how our precious youngest child came into our lives. We love him as deeply and fully as we do our two biological children, and are beyond grateful for God's providence that allowed us to become his family. Adoption has also brought us to a deeper trust in and understanding of God's amazing love for us as shown by making us His daughters and sons. Adoption is about parenting and loving a child for life, and we are certainly blessed that God chose us to be Anderson's family.
The words of an adoptive mother with 7 children say it much better than I can:
 "Because let me tell you something: If you are intrigued by the idea of adoption, with the crescendoing storyline and happy airport pictures and the sigh-inducing family portrait with the different skin colors and the feely-feel good parts of the narrative, please find another way to see God's kingdom come.
You cannot just be into adoption to adopt; you have to be into
parenting. And it is hard, hard, intentional, laborious work. Children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected, given away, given up, and left alone are shaken so deeply, so intrinsically, they absolutely require parents who are willing to wholly invest in their healing; through the screaming, the fits, the anger, the shame, the entitlement, the bed-wetting, the spitting, the rejection, the bone-chilling fear. Parents who are willing to become the safe place, the Forever these children hope for but are too terrified to believe in just yet. But "yet" is a powerful word in the context of faith, if we are indeed to believe in the unseen and hope for what has not materialized.
I followed a God into this story who heals and redeems, who restores wasted years and mends broken places. This God specializes in the Destroyed. I've seen it. I've been a part of it. I have His ancient Word that tells of it. I love a Jesus who made reconciliation his whole mission. My children will not remain broken. They are loved by too good a Savior. I will not remain exhausted and spent. I am loved by too merciful a Father." -- Jen Hatmaker,
After the Airport

We have learned that even though we long to be a part of something "huge" for God's kingdom, sometimes the most radical choices we make are to be faithful and deny our selves in order to glorify God as we go about our moments and days. It takes surrender and trust in the smallest moments, too--not just surrender in the "big" decisions.  We are asking God for and learning by grace to have hearts of thankfulness, obedience, and surrender in the now, even as we wait for answers to some of our big questions for what is to come.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:25-34
We have experienced these truths in the midst of hardship:  God is faithful. God is good. God loves us. God is gracious. God is merciful. God provides. God is at work. God is Sovereign. He is real and He is who His word says He is. He works for our good in all things. No matter the circumstance, He does not change. Our feelings may tell us otherwise, our pain may shake our belief in these truths. But we choose to believe, because we know and have experienced deeply His father love and are forever changed by knowing and being loved by the One who created us, spoke the earth into existence, and formed the universe from nothing.
 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
 "Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'"Mark 9:24

 We have learned that laughter and joy can exist even in times of great difficulty. Here are some of our "fun" photos from this past year.  I don't know if we laughed more than usual, but we certainly took time to stop, to be grateful, and just to "take in" those moments of fun and joy.
Our first outside pic of 2011-this was the one of many hours spent outside throughout the year!
Anderson's Birthday Breakfast March 21 - Powdered Donuts

Alex having fun in the Vines' annual St. Patrick's Day Parade

Aerin's "eyeless" grin at the Biscuits game in May

Anderson and Daddy watch the St. Patrick's Day festivities

The big kiddos with their cousin at the park

Celebrating America's Birthday July 4th

This is one of those rare moments
(all 3 quiet and asleep) - I had to take a picture

One of our new family activities for this year - Letterbox hunting in September

Mommy and Anderson at VBS in July

Just let him eat cake (with chocolate icing)!

Alex with his 4th grade class at our church's W3 dress up night

Indian princess Aerin singing her first solo ever
at our CAP homeschool co-op feast December 2011

Our family with Judge Martin on Anderson's adoption finalization day.
It was National Adoption Day--November 18, 2011

If you have stayed this long (or you scrolled down just to see the photos), thank you! From our family to yours, we wish you a Christmas filled with the joy and wonder of celebrating God's love come down at Christmas - Jesus. And we hope for you and your family a 2012 filled with the presence of God as you live His purposes and will for your lives. We pray first that you would come to love and know your Creator by His grace demonstrated in Christ's life, death, and resurrection and your faith in Jesus Christ as our only way to have a relationship with a holy God. If you do not have assurance that you are a follower of Christ or you have any questions about what we believe and why, please email me at . We would love to talk with you further. 

Merry CHRISTmas,

1 comment:

  1. I love reading your posts and hearing you share from your heart. I'm so grateful for your testimony through the joys and trials of the year. I love you so much.


About Me

My photo
I love Jesus Christ, am a seeker of beauty, and am a grateful child of God who would be lost and hopeless were it not for His grace. I am learning to walk in love, see interruptions as divine appointments, and value people and relationships above agendas and results. I pray my life is grace-filled, and brings joy and encouragement to everyone I know and meet. We are a family of 6, built by God through love, birth, and adoption, living in the beauty and the struggle that accompanies parenting kids from hard places. Got questions? Email me at

Our Adoption Video


photo album

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
This digital scrapbook made with Smilebox

On my bookshelf