Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Christmas card... just a little late

For those of you on my mailing list, your card should arrive today. For those of you who'd like to be, just send me an e-mail with your address. And for the rest of you, here's our Christmas card:

We don’t usually wait until New Year’s to send our Christmas letter, but this has been the most unusual of holiday seasons. Danny and I left Thanksgiving weekend for Malawi to adopt a little boy. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we discovered we had been thoroughly deceived and determined it would not be wise to complete the adoption. Needless to say, we are heartbroken, but God has been incredibly gracious to us. Through this experience we have learned to depend on Him more, love each other more, and cherish more the gifts we have in Alyssa, Parker and Reagan. Every day they make us smile – Alyssa with her sweet and gentle spirit, Parker with his never-ending antics, and Reagan with her silly songs and stories. It is my joy to stay home with them, watching them grow in knowledge and character. Danny still enjoys his job and his second job of being “the best daddy and husband he knows how to be.” We are especially grateful this year for you, our dear friends and family, and our Savior, Who is faithful through every season of life. We hope your 2011 brings you closer to Him!

God's grace even extended to my little printer this year, and it produced both the labels and the letter for me with minimal wrestling required. Everyone but Parker cooperated for the picture, and our dear friend Kwacha chipped in to snap the shot and stuff the envelopes. (We really know how to be good hosts!)

I am grateful for all of you too, my bloggy friends, and I hope that your new year is full of the joy that can only come from knowing the source of all joy and peace, Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We have so many reasons to rejoice this Christmas, despite the heartache of the last several weeks. We have a warm, cozy home, three precious children, dozens of gifts under a beautiful tree, yummy fudge on the kitchen counter, sunshine, and friends and family to share it all with. But most importantly, we know a God Who loves and cares for us through times of celebration and times of tears. He sent His only Son to earth; Jesus was born to die that we might have life forever with Him.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to sit down at the piano with my hymnal and my children, who are now old enough to read and follow along as we sing through the familiar Christmas hymns, and the not so familiar ones. This year Alyssa introduced me to a new gem in the old carol "O Sing a Song of Bethlehem." I hope it's words bless you as they have me, and that you and your family enjoy celebrating the Baby who is my Lord.

O sing a song of Bethlehem,
of shepherds watching there,
and of the news that came to them
from angels in the air.
The light that shone on Bethlehem
fills all the world today;
of Jesus' birth and peace on earth
the angels sing away.

O sing a song of Nazareth,
of sunny days of joy;
O sing of fragrant flowers' breath,
and of the sinless Boy.
For now the flowers of Nazareth
in every heart may grow;
now spreads the fame of his dear name
on all the winds that blow.

O sing a song of Galilee,
of lake and woods and hill,
of him who walked upon the sea
and bade the waves be still.
For though like waves on Galilee,
dark seas of trouble roll,
when faith has heard the Master's work,
falls peace upon the soul.

O sing a song of Calvary,
its glory and dismay,
of him who hung upon the tree,
and took our sins away.
For he who died on Calvary
is risen from the grave,
and Christ, our Lord, by heaven adored,
is mighty now to save.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Home

After weeks of testing, 40 hours of travelling, 2 nearly-missed connections, foot races through the Johannesburg and Washington Dulles airports, and an LA traffic jam, I'm finally home. Danny and my parents will follow on Monday, but my husband graciously paid the change fee so that I could have my babies in my arms just a few days sooner. It was every bit as wonderful as I had dreamed, and we had a slumber party in my bed last night so that I wouldn't have to let them go. God has been so good to all of us as we've been apart, and given me a new appreciation for these three precious gifts. Ernest will never be far from our thoughts and prayers, but I will forever be grateful for these most special of children that I get to love and hold each day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We have great friends... like you!

Thank you all for your kind words and prayers for our family! Our hearts still hurt, but we're actually doing really well. We were unable to change our return flights as much as we had hoped so we've tried to make the most of our time here. Last night we got back "home" to Malawi after an incredible adventure in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana. We were alternately terrified (by a harrowing 25-hour bus ride) and elated (by unbelievable amounts of game and Victoria Falls), but thrilled that we went. While we've had some of our hardest days ever here in Africa, we've also had some of our very best. God has been gracious to give us safety, comfort, and happy memories to go along with the sad ones. We're starting to count down the days ‘til we get on a plane, and are looking forward to the comforts of home and family. Please continue to pray that our flights will go smoothly and that we'll be able to get home without any further delays. Thanks!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Broken hearts but not a broken God

We asked you to pray for us that God's will would be done regarding the adoption of a little boy from Malawi (yep, Malawi. No need now to keep it a secret). We know with confidence that God has heard and answered our prayers. We made our plans but it is now clear that God has redirected our paths.
Wednesday morning we had the privilege of visiting and playing with Ernest, the boy we intended to adopt. Though he was sweet and affectionate, it quickly became clear to us, as well as my parents who had accompanied us, that Ernest has significant mental disabilities. After consulting with his nannies and school teacher, and my dad, Chris, who was a physician, we came to the conclusion that Ernest likely has Cerebral Palsy, and is likely older than the 3 years of age we had been told. He does not speak, does not engage with his peers and would likely require lifelong personal care. Though we were prepared for the normal challenges of bringing home an institutionalized child, and even open to parenting a host of special needs, neurological disabilities were not something we feel comfortable choosing for our family. The director of Ernest’s orphanage had represented him over the course of the entire adoption process to be a very healthy normal boy – a “leader” in his school. Needless to say, we were then shocked by the challenges we faced upon meeting him, and came to question other details we had been told, including his HIV status. Through much prayer and counsel, we decided Ernest and our family would be best served by leaving him in his current loving home and expert care.
The Judge who sits on His throne in heaven has ordained before the beginning of the world that we would travel to Malawi, but apparently not that we would adopt a little boy. We don't know why God would have us travel and have our hearts broken, but we hold tightly to the truth that God has caused ALL things to work together for His good. We are reminded that our time on earth is intended to bring glory to His name.
The past 48 hours has been the longest of our entire lives, but as we were lying in bed last night thinking of all of the events that had occurred, we noticed a consistent theme: God provided the perfect amount of grace for each moment. We left Blantyre yesterday and traveled 400km to the home of our dear friends, the Biedebachs, in Lilongwe where we are being loved on. This morning we attended African Bible College chapel service where we sang "Blessed be the name of the Lord." We have sung that song numerous times at home, but we were all in tears as we were reminded of the truth that the Lord gives and takes away. We are blessed to be able to trust in His plans and His ways.
Please pray for our children that they will be comforted as they learn that Ernest isn't coming home. Pray that we will be able to arrange to travel home earlier than planned without significant extra cost. Pray that God will continue to comfort our broken hearts. Praise God that Danny and I are united in this trial. Praise God for his goodness to provide a multitude of graces at the perfect moment to assist us in this trial. Thanks friends!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Was that only 72 hours ago?

Since we received notice of our court date we have purchased plane tickets, packed three weeks worth of clothes, meds and snacks, coordinated the details of our trip, celebrated Thanksgiving (but didn't have to cook - Thanks Mom and Mom T!), finished up Christmas shopping, fought a cold, enjoyed three kids, decorated the interior of the house, hung outdoor lights, put up the tree, and spent a few hours sleeping. Needless to say, we'll be ready to crash when we do get on that plane Sunday night. God has just been so good to sustain us and provide the time and energy to accomplish all that needed to be done. Perhaps even more miraculously, Alyssa, Parker and Reagan think all this running around has been really fun! I think they're for us to move on out so that their grandparents can move on in for a little while. Our plan for now is to return with "brother" on December 2oth so that we can celebrate Christ's birth as a family of six. We hope that's God's plan too! Thanks for all of your prayers on our behalf!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Travel Approval!

An hour ago we were told to hop on a plane to get our son!!! We are still working on travel arrangements (couldn't have picked a busier week), but we hope to leave early next week. Crazy! I'm still shaking. Please pray for us as we're running around over the next few days, and as we prepare to say good-bye to Alyssa, Parker and Reagan, who will be staying with their grandparents for a few weeks. Please also pray for the heart of our new little guy, whose world will be upended here very soon. You can follow along on our journey at http://fourtimesamom.wordpress.com/ - just e-mail me at momwholoveschrist@hotmail.com for the password.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

S is for Snake

We're not fans of conventional pets. Danny had dogs growing up and I had a cat, but for many reasons, neither one of us is especially excited about the idea of bringing furry creatures into our home. As a result we've adopted fish (including 2 which have lived over a year - we do take good care of our pets), a frog, and currently, a perpetually-egg-laying cockatiel. Our friend and pastor Rick Holland didn't think that was quite enough however, and volunteered his boys' snake to take up residence in Parker's room. This mama wasn't too sure about that idea, but agreed to a trial run. So Ned (or Pumpkin or Candy...) the corn snake is here on loan, with the option to adopt. The kids are having a ball, and even Reagan (the most timid of the bunch) has been willing to hold it. We'll just see if we all still like the thing when it's ready for its mouse dinner next week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just odd


This remnant of Reagan's birthday party floated around here for 8 days. 8 days people! Anyone else ever had a regular old latex balloon float for more than a day?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What once was lost has now been found!

Eight years ago I lost track of one of my favorite Bibles. It wasn't my everyday copy so I didn't notice it was gone right away. I looked everywhere I could think to look, but eventually gave up the search and gave up hope. Until a few weeks ago, when I received a facebook message from a girl I went to college with. She noticed my Bible on the lampstand of a friend in Kansas, of all places, and recognized my name. Turns out that this girl in Kansas used to work at our church was given my Bible in the course of her duties there. Since both my name and phone number had changed between the time I received the volume and the time I lost it, and our church has about 10,000 regular attendees, no one was able to find me. Over the years the girl in Kansas had tried to figure out who I was, but eventually gave up and just enjoyed the Bible. Until today, when she was finally able to reunite me with my beloved Book. It arrived in the mail with a sweet letter detailing its journey over the past 8 years. I'm thrilled to have it back, and grateful to the guardian who both cared for it and graciously returned it so many years later.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My baby (for now) turned 4 today! Reagan is the bittiest little thing you'll ever see, and will probably still be the smallest member of our family even when she's a "big" sister, but she's most definitely growing up. She loves to sing, tell jokes, pray, and care for her dollies - especially "Lucy," a sad little dollar-store find that she inexplicably adores. Her deep-throated giggle is sweet enough to make anyone want to join in, yet her petite frame conceals plenty of backbone and fire. Watching her personality unfold is truly one of our greatest joys, and it is a privilege to be her mama. I don't take for granted that our gain is the result of another's loss, and I'm grateful to both my God and a woman I may never meet for the life that we celebrated today. Happy Birthday Reagan!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Guess what the mailman brought me today?

Our I-171H!!! I know, you're all jumping up and down with excitement. Especially the 99% of you who, like my husband, have no idea what an I-171H is. But a few of you out there have also stalked your mailman for that precious piece of paper indicating that US Citizenship and Immigration Services thinks you're fit to be a parent. I know I can count on you to share my joy =). Now we're just waiting on the travel call. It might come next week, it might come next year, but now we're really ready.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

MIA

I'm still here, but my online time and tasks lately have been significantly limited by a sick computer. The kids' lapbook works fine for e-mail and school games but much too slow for anything else. Thanks to a good friend with far more technical knowledge than me or my favorite man, it's back to full strength and no longer mysteriously redirecting me from benign searches for country music lyrics and bird nail clippers to sites much more graphic and less godly in character. A few of the things that have been keeping us busy around here include....
A three-day cousin/grandparent trip up to a cabin in the Sierras, complete with customized camper tees. Needless to say, the kids came home elated and exhausted, welcomed by a refreshed but lonely mama.
A milestone for Parker. He has learned to tie a bow, first perfected on the apron he uses when "helping" mama in the kitchen.
A little chat with Tinkerbell, who will provide the theme for a much-anticipated approaching birthday party. Rainy days at Disneyland make for blessedly short character-greeting lines.
A little extra proof that the girl is indeed Asian. I thought the socks with sandals thing was cultural, but perhaps it's in the blood.
A particularly fun field trip full of touchable reptiles - one of many activities we've enjoyed with our new homeschool group (which is, in itself, a huge answer to prayer).
And a birthday celebration at the Happiest Place on Earth for a brother who is still a half an earth away (yes, we have a referral!). Though it was strange and sad to be apart from him, we have every confidence that he is being loved and well-cared for in our absence. We hope and pray that we may have him home for Christmas. (More about our new adoption story is here... send me an e-mail at momwholoveschrist@hotmail.com if you'd like the password).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Me, a soccer mom. Who would have thought?

I can't say that I've ever dreamed of being a soccer mom, primarily because I grew up in the Land of Perpetual Drizzle. Soccer in the Seattle area generally amounts to little more than a group of children sliding around in mud, providing less-than-sufficient entertainment for the shivering spectators huddled together under super-sized umbrellas. Not that I was ever unfortunate enough to participate in either role. I do, however, have vivid memories of the pity I felt upon viewing such spectacles from the comfort of my family's heated Suburban on the way to real entertainment... like shopping. An athlete I am not.

However, I happened to marry a firm believer in the value of team sports. I've been reluctant to join in due to the demanding schedules of some leagues, but we were able to locate one in our area that has a rather gentle, family-oriented approach to that little black and white ball. So we decided to give it a try. Alyssa and Parker get to practice in the same place on the same day at the same time, and their games are back to back most Saturday mornings for just 8 weeks. Their coaches are pretty laid back, and I'm not sure Parker has even noticed that his team has lost every game.

Not surprisingly, the personalities of our two athletes are abundantly evident on the field. Alyssa works hard, but her sweetness makes her reluctant to try to take the ball away from anyone. I'm quite sure she enjoys chatting with the goalie even more than following the game. The goalie has become a good friend and she's getting good exercise. Her team has even won a few, so we'll call this season a success.
Parker on the other hand thinks the ball should be at his feet at all times. He's quickly learning the game and his enthusiasm makes us all laugh. For all the time he spends on the ground, he could sub in for the ball if his defensive role doesn't work out. Just because I'm such a proud mama I have to share a bit of the e-mail Parker's coach sent to all of the players after last week's game:
"We all enjoyed Parker intercepting the ball from (it seemed) every Fireballs player. What a heart and great timing, today we discovered our best Defender. Thanks to Parker the Fireballs did not scored a goal in the second half, he really helped out our goalie at the half."

Then this week he said:

"I could mention Parker in every game summary, he is by far, the player who is evolving the quickest; and one of the few players who plays the whole game. That is how good he is!"

We're grateful that each of the kids have great coaches: non-yellers who care more about the kids than about winning. We're grateful that they're having fun, learning a new game, and entertaining all of us while they're at it. And I'm especially grateful that through all of that we've encountered no rain and no mud. Being a soccer mom really isn't so bad.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Pooltime!

Over the past couple of months our pool has been putting in a lot of overtime. We've had some dear friends on hand to share it with, and they've helped us get creative in our use of the water. This night we decided to add a little soap to the spa...

Another night, Danny and the children somehow all ended up in the pool with their clothes on...

I can't imagine why Alyssa, Parker and Reagan weren't anxious for school to get started again!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Which one is not like the other?

Danny and Parker spent last weekend in the dirt and mud camping with the guys. Alyssa, Reagan and I got dressed up and enjoyed an afternoon at the theater. Each group was convinced that the other missed out, proving once again that boys are just different.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Part II

Part II of our new adoption story is over here. Send me an e-mail if you still need the password.

Friday, August 06, 2010

A new journey, a new blog

We're changing countries and I'm changing formats. As much as I love Three Times a MOM, I've determined that as long as we're in the midst of the adoption process to become a mom of four, my adoption-related posts will need to reside elsewhere. There are a lot of unknowns facing us in the months ahead, and one of those unknowns is how much my bloggy ramblings might influence the authorities we're placing ourselves under. I intend to continue blogging here with our normal family stuff. Anytime I post at my new site I'll give you the heads-up here. However, we want to err on the side of caution and password-protect any posts relating to our new son. Since Blogger doesn't allow me to do that, you'll need to find me here: http://fourtimesamom.wordpress.com/. If I know you in real life, or know your blog, or know you from a forum, I'd be happy to give you the password. So just ask! Leave a comment here with your e-mail address or send an e-mail to momwholoveschrist@hotmail.com. See you there! And here too!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

In the meantime...

we ride sheep and bulls! It was $1 day at our favorite local fair yesterday so we brought along some of our favorite friends and cousins to enjoy the funnel cakes, livestock, pig races, mechanical bulls, and the highlight of the day - a sheep riding competition. Ironically, we don't let our kids on the rides at fairs due to this mama's fear for their safety (don't feel too sorry for them - we do have Disneyland passes), but somehow it never crossed our minds to worry about them being thrown under a racing sheep. They had a blast, escaping with only a little dirt, well... everywhere. Parker took 2nd place, and both Alyssa and our friend Abigail were interviewed and photographed for our local paper. Tells you how much is going on around here when Mutton Bustin' makes the front page!

Danny looks pretty handsome, and tough too don't you think?