Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Florida Keys Fun 2013

This was our third annual trip to the Keys (second actual trip as last year's excursion got cancelled due to a little surgery incident :-) and we had a blast!  We squeezed in all the pool splashing, torpedo diving, wave jumping, sand castle building, kayaking, boogy boarding, fishing, boating, island hopping, camp side cooking, yummy food eating, scuba diving, snorkeling, trolley riding and beach side park playing fun we possibly could in four days.

the obligatory family shot

Until next year......................

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Heart Prints

 This is our precious girl Meseret.  She is one of more then 200 kids served by the Trees of Glory care point in Ethiopia.  We got the sweetest surprise in the mail yesterday.  I opened the envelope and to my delight was her smiling face.

A couple of weeks ago, we received a letter from her.  We've received lots of letters from her over the past several years, but this one was special.  I wrote about how much she has changed from our first visit to our last here.  She's gone from super shy and reserved to glowing with joy and really opened up the last time we saw her.

I don't know if it is because Caleb was with us and she now saw that I was a mom, or if it is just a polite term of endearment, but for the first time in almost three years, she addressed me as "mom" in her letter.  "Mom, how are you doing?"  When I read that, my heart just leaped.  She lives with her grandmother, and I'm not sure where her mom is, if she is still living or not.....but to think that I can play a part in her life as her "mom from afar" is an honor.

We are always encouraged to hear from her. A few letters ago, praise Jesus, she told us that she had decided to follow him!  This time, she asked us, "how many hours do you pray in a day."  That jut got me....hours???  Well, I do find myself in conversation with God throughout the day, but Meseret, you have surely inspired us to pray more often.

 And then, I flipped her picture over to find her precious hand print.  I don't know what it is about hand prints, but I've always thought them to be precious as they capture those sweet little hands of our kids and lock them in time.  I also love thinking of her hand touching the very paper that I'm holding.

The funny thing about this hand print is that we were there when the kids were making these.  This was the project that Caleb helped out with while we were at Trees of Glory in November.  I was helping with care packages, so I didn't see these being made, but I knew they were making them.  Four months later and I totally forgot about them.  Tears filled my eyes when I saw this sweet card from her.

So, if you've ever thought about sponsoring a child or wondered how you could make a difference or if sponsorship was even a worthwhile thing to do, let me encourage you to take that step.  It's life changing for them, but also for you.  The transformation we've seen in Meseret is just remarkable and she continues to transform our hearts.

There are a few more kids at TOG that need sponsor families.  If you think that family might be you, head over to Karen Wistrom's blog (TOG sponsorship coordinator) to see pictures of those still waiting and to  learn more about TOG.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I guess that old saying is true.  After a great weekend away at Created for Care 2013, I couldn't have been more ready to pour love out on my 8 most favorite people in the world!

It was just what I needed to recharge and revive and inspire me to be the wife and mother that God wants me to be.

The parenting lessons I learned were huge, but the message of grace was even bigger.  I tend to end each day with an assessment of how well I parented, how the school day went, how patient I was (or wasn't), how the kids responded.....and usually, I end up thankful that "his mercies are new every morning." I never get it all right, and guess what?  I never will.  But, by the grace of God, I hope to get it better in the days to come.

So, like Philippians 3:13-14 reminds, I'm choosing not to dwell on all the things I wish I had done differently, but instead I'm pressing on toward the goal.

The theme of the weekend was "step out in faith, wait with hope and LOVE BIG."

It was an adoption retreat, so we adoptive mamas all know about the step out in faith part.  We surely all know about the waiting and hoping part. Those two stages though compose a relatively short part of the journey.  It's the LOVE BIG part that really makes a difference as we walk this path--and really, it's not so specific to adoption.  Almost everything I learned this weekend about how to raise up our kids that came to us through adoption applies just as much to our kids who didn't.  All kids need compassion, all kids need to be nurtured and all kids need to be LOVED BIG.

It's no easy task and like I described in a previous post, I'm usually up to my eyeballs.  But, I am so, so  grateful that God has called us to raise this big family.  How blessed we are by our marriage, our seven kids, our family and friends that he has surrounded us with.  As I rocked our sweet little Eli to sleep tonight, I just starred at him, an absolute gift, and thanked God for him and my other six tucked in their beds.  Truly, I am so lucky.

During an amazing prayer time this weekend, God reassured me through scripture, song and the words of others that I am right to think that mothering these children well and being the wife, daughter, sister, friend......that I'm called to be is WAY outside of my capabilities.

But he also reminded me that he doesn't expect me to do this in my own strength.  No, "It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:32 

Truly my soul finds rest in God alone, 
my salvation comes from him. 
Psalm 62:1

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In Other News

We welcomed Eli's good buddy Noah home on February 2nd.  Eli and Noah spent many month in Ethiopia together waiting to come home and his mommy Devin and I spent many months together praying for that day.

Devin and Noah, me and Eli and Heidi and Jonas (home April 2010).  Our three boys are all from the same region of Ethiopia and now they will grow up together here.  So awesome!

Jonas reintroducing the boys.
 We are blessed to have a growing Ethiopian adoptive family with several more friends expected to come home this year. Since we adopted the girls in 2010, the domino effect has been so cool to watch.

The airport welcome crew.
 The boys went island camping a couple of weekends ago with a great group of dads and sons out for a grand adventure of fishing, fun and food.  We camp in February when the weather is nice to avoid baking in our tents under the Florida sun of summer.

The little girls learned to ride their bikes without training wheels, one behind the other just like always (Caroline was first and don't you forget it :-).  Meron did get one of her front teeth in first, Caroline is still waiting.

Eli continues to charm his sisters!

Spring training is under way.

  And, I let the kids have ice cream sundaes for dinner.............I'm putting this on here for proof one day that I was a fun mom (on rare occasion ;-).

Birthday Blast

Between December 5th and February 4th, we celebrate 6 birthdays, Christmas, New Years, Ethiopian Christmas and our anniversary.  It's a whirlwind of fun crammed into 8 weeks.  A few years ago, we decided to start having family parties (it's always a party with our gang) and then we take the birthday child or the family to do something that we don't normally do.  

Nick is first up in the string of birthdays (he actually shares his birthday with my brother).

Then Colton turned 5 three days after Christmas and the day before our anniversary. We celebrated in Georgia with a family vacation with the grandparents.

Next up is Caleb who turned 9 on January 8th.  He had an army party complete with a battle ground cake and then the boys went to the monster truch show.

Just three short days later, Rahel celebrated her golden birthday turning 11 on the 11th!

 She chose a family trip to the movies--a special treat for a family of 9.

And one week later, we had cake AGAIN for my birthday.

 This also marked 3 years since we held Hermela and Meron in our arms for the first time (on my birthday-how cool is that?) and welcomed them into our family (back in the glory days of the one trip process).  Can't believe they've been home 3 years already.  They have both grown and changed so much and both bring joy to our family in their own special ways.

Then the grand finale to the birthday train is our little Eli who celebrated his 1st birthday on February 4th.
He is a delightful boy and brings so much happiness to our family.  We have truly been blessed with this child and we're so thankful for him!

Loving his birthday hat!

Like I said, it's always a party when our gangs all there.

Eli's favorite for birthday dinner.....injera and wat.  Thank you mama!

 Present time!

Yeah!!!!!!!!! Diapers, just what I wanted!
There's never a shortage of helpers or love when it comes to Eli.

 Cake Time!!!

And that's all folks......well until May!

Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us, happy birthday to Nick, Colton, Caleb, Rahel, me, and Eli, happy birthday to us.