Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye, 2011

In keeping with my going-on-three-years tradition of recapping the year, let me wish 2011 adieu with the following. In 2011...

:: we finally brought Laina home! On the night of May 19th, for the first time, we had all three of our children under one roof.

:: Jeremy became an elder at our church

:: Iain became a full-fledged reader

:: we went to FL five times, TN twice, PA once, and AL several times

:: we had or were guests for 25 of the 52 weeks.

:: Iain turned five, Cory turned three, and Laina turned one

:: I was on a panel with other elders' wives, about marriage. Fun!

:: We started homeschooling

:: Laina learned to walk (and sit, and crawl, and speak...)

:: We camped out three times. Well, once we stayed at a hotel and spent the days at the campsite. Can you blame us? We had been home with Laina for a week!

:: I went to the Created for Care adoption retreat and loved it

:: we got fingerprinted, what, four times?

:: we continued (and are continuing) our work with Kids' Church. I got to meet with the director of Northland Church's kids program--what a blessing!

:: we updated our home study and did two post placement reports (and the adoption paperwork just keeps coming!)

:: we spent time in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Uganda!

:: I wrote. Not as much as I wanted to.

:: Jeremy played drums. Way less than he wanted to.

:: I passed off the moms' play group, along with other church-related responsibilities, and took on a very few extra

:: Jeremy did several shows with OakTree

:: we were away from our boys for 23 long days

:: and I was away from all three kids for eight more

:: our church threw a baby shower for Laina :)

:: we led a small group

:: I spoke at our women's group

:: we had a baby celebration in Orlando with the Access218 Band

:: the boys started going to Timothy (co-op thing)

:: we haven't slept nearly enough

:: I fell in love with the music of Sara Groves

:: we felt the massive relief of not waiting anymore

:: Jeremy worked a lot :)

:: we did a lot of the work that comes after you come home and the adoption is over. The journey is just beginning.

:: after almost two years of waiting, we held our baby girl in our arms for the first time on April 28

:: we celebrated our seven-year anniversary with a trip to Starbucks, though neither of us likes coffee, because we didn't want to leave Laina and it was just down the road

:: speaking of Starbucks, I learned how to make a darn good chai tea latte

:: we spent our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family of five!

:: I went to Africa. Twice. Still unreal to me.

:: we dedicated Laina to Jesus

:: Jeremy and the boys camped out in the living room for two nights

:: Laina and I visited Alison and Avivah (and family) in Pennsylvania

:: we saw our baby girl's face for the first time, on the evening of April 14 (will never forget that night!)

:: we waited. For the first three and a half months of the year, we waited for news from Rwanda. Then we rejoiced for the rest of the months!

:: Jeremy discovered Fanta Fiesta in Rwanda. Uganda doesn't have it. Sad.

:: we learned a lot about attachment as we worked to help Laina learn what family means

:: we grew a lot as parents

:: Cory learned to write his name

:: The best moment of 2011? See below.

Welcome, 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Uganda--M1 and Sixty Feet

Real prisons. Real bars. Real cement floors, cold from the rain and slick from the mud.
Real children, loved by God and known by name.

Sixty Feet is doing amazing things for the imprisoned children of Uganda. When I went to Uganda, I knew I believed in the vision of Sixty Feet and wanted to see and be a part of it. But after meeting the children at the M facilities, after seeing their beds--behind bars, some without blankets--after holding them on my lap and trying to sing the Zacchaeus song in Luganda (much to their great amusement), I not only believe in the vision of Sixty Feet. I love it.

Sixty Feet currently works in three "remand facilities," known for the protection of the children as M1, M2, and M3. These facilities are prisons for children. Some of the children were picked up for offenses such as begging, or because they were found on the streets. Some have been accused of crimes, but not yet tried (and when will they be? Unknown.). Some are there for "care and protection," because their families put them there, or because they had nowhere else to go. The M facilities are not places children should be. Sixty Feet has been able to bring medical care, fix faulty water pumps, bring food, etc. Twice a week, they visit each facility and share the love of Jesus through songs and preaching.

Sixty Feet also has a child sponsorship program to get eligible children out of the M facilities and into school or foster care. And there are plans in the works--plans that I love--to buy land and build a home where the most vulnerable children can go and live, be loved, and cared for.

Right now Sixty Feet is raising money for the land, and has been given a matching grant--up to $60,000!--for any money donated by the end of the year. During this season, we celebrate the One who came to set the captives free. Let's be His hands and feet and literally help set free these captive children. Click here to give. These are real children whose lives will be drastically changed.

The pictures above are from M1, during my visit. It was rainy when we were there, so their breakfast (which some of the older children cook for the whole group) was late. Porridge--flour and water--was breakfast. Posho--another kind of flour and water, thicker--and beans was lunch. There was a time of fellowship, led by Sixty Feet and one of the older children at M1, where we sang songs to Jesus and heard a message. We worshipped in a room with no electricity or furniture. Off that room were the boys' dorms, behind real bars, which they lock at night.

The work that Sixty Feet is doing is so important. Jesus loves these children, and we, His Church, should love them too. By the world's standards, they are the least of these. By the standards of the Kingdom, they are more valuable than words can say.

Trimming the Tree

Our Christmas decorating was kept to a minimum this year. The tree, some lights, our nativity, stockings, and the Jesse Tree, and that's about it. I try, but I am just not much of a holiday decorator. But the kids were happy with what we did, so I'm good with that. Darn Pinterest. :)

The boys and I put up the tree while Laina was napping, but she got up just in time to help decorate it. After watching us for a few minutes ("What are these crazy people doing??"), she jumped in. She'd walk across the room to where I was unwrapping the ornaments, and when I'd hand her one, she'd toddle back over to the tree and put it in the same place. Each ornament. In one pile. Adorable. :)

The boys had a great time remembering the ornaments from last year, and talking about their favorites. I just kept remembering putting up last year's tree and being sad that my daughter was still on the other side of the ocean, when we thought she'd be home. Now she's here and smiley, enjoying her first taste of family Christmas fun.

Side note to the families still waiting: you are on my heart during this season. I know how hard it is. May the peace of Christ fill your heart.

We started another fun tradition this year. We got the kids in their pjs (I'll be so sad when they outgrow footies--so cute!), loaded into the car, and went to see Christmas lights. Jeremy and I actually got some uninterrupted time to talk while we drove. And everyone was happy.
(silly kids before we went to see the lights)
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


...but not in a bad way. Thanksgiving--with all three of my children. Uganda. Advent now, waiting for the blessing of the One who came. Christmas--Laina's first with us. Changes coming for us--good ones. So much to think about, process, be thankful for. Where do I start?

Two years ago, we spent Thanksgiving with my family in the mountains of Tennessee. I wrote about it here. It was the first holiday after we started our adoption journey, and I spent the time very aware that someone was missing from our holiday celebration (little did I know that she hadn't even been born yet). We were still thinking we'd be home with our baby by the next summertime. Over that Thanksgiving, many families were in Rwanda bringing home their babies, and I took my laptop to the one room with internet once a day or so to read their stories and cry at their pictures. That will be us soon. It wasn't soon. But this Thanksgiving, it was us. I was aware of it as we drove to Jeremy's aunt and uncle's houseboat (yes, we had Thanksgiving dinner on a houseboat. How cool is that?), and I thought about it as I fed Laina her first bites of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. (She liked it all!)
So this Thanksgiving, my gratitude overflowed. I am so thankful for Jeremy, Iain, Cory, and Laina. I'm thankful for this life we're building as we try to follow Jesus wherever He leads. I'm thankful that following Him led us to Rwanda and back. I'm thankful that Laina's birth mother chose life for her. I'm thankful for how having a little sister, an answer to their prayers, has changed my boys for the better. I'm thankful that God's plan for our family included these three, precious children. And I'm thankful that I get to do family, life, and love with my best friend. This year, Laina had a family to celebrate with. And we had her, and each other. It was a good Thanksgiving.

And, the boys got to drive the boat. I mean, how can you beat that?

Grammy and Papa stayed with us for Thanksgiving. Iain read a book to Papa for the first time. So proud of him!