Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bread of Life for Today and Tomorrow and Forever

From Thanksgiving until Christmas day we rush, plan, pack, wrap, shop 'til we drop (which takes longer for some) and then... Christmas day comes and.....ahhhhhhhh...... sigh of relief..... we can slow down now. Today has been an emotional day of quiet for me. After being with family in SC last week and having lots of noise (the good kind!) and activity, this morning felt all too quiet. The quiet was bringing out an emotion in me that I've been trying to ignore during the busy-ness. It's the emotion of loss - only, I haven't lost anything - I just haven't received what I'm wanting - Lulu. 

It was a little over 2 years ago that God put it on my heart to adopt from Ethiopia. In the next day or so it will be one year since Billy said, "let's get a baby from Ethiopia." It then took us about 6 months to finish the paperwork and on June 13 our paperwork was shipped to Ethiopia and we began our "official" wait for an infant girl. At that time the expected wait for a referral (picture and medical info of chosen baby girl) was right at 9 months. Since then only a few baby girls have been referred and we are at least number 17 on the list. March is not going to be the month for a referral unless miracles happen. Then AWAA (our agency) sent an email out saying that the wait time for an infant girl has increased to 9-11 months. I received this news last week and was sad, but I had so much going on I don't think I let it completely sink in. 

The reality is - miracles will still have to happen in order for us to get a referral in 11 months. I don't know exactly how it all works, but unless more baby girls are referred soon the reality is we are still way down the waiting line and I need to expect a much longer time frame than I originally thought. I know that God has already chosen our baby girl so I do have much comfort in that and I trust His timing. But that doesn't make the wait easy. Today, in the quiet of our small family, it was obvious to me that someone is missing. Lulu is not missing in the eyes of Jesus. He is with her even now. But to me - she is not here and so part of me is not here either... If you haven't adopted this is impossible for me to explain...

On a happier note, however, we have had a delightful Christmas day. We originally planned on having a Burmese family over for lunch and a Happy Birthday Jesus Party, but we found out yesterday that they had other plans. So, here's what we did today:

Libby woke up and opened her presents -one of which is a huge and really cute dollhouse. We played with all her toys and rearranged her room to fit the dollhouse in there. Then we fixed breakfast and had a small but wonderful "Happy Birthday Jesus" party with cake, balloons and all! 

Afterwards, we got dressed and took 20 loaves of scrumptious gingerbread to each of the Somali families. I have not seen the Somalis in several weeks and I have missed them so much. I can't tell you how good it was for my heart to see them today. Their little faces lit up with excitement and they seemed kind of relieved that we haven't forgotten about them. We just hugged and loved on each family and let them know that we missed them and will see them again soon. It was probably more of a blessing to me than it was to them. I just needed to be around Africans today! I love them so much!

After that, we drove to Larry and Terry's house and were so excited to find Batula (one of the Somali moms with 8 children!) and all her children having Christmas lunch with the Singletary's. Larry and Terry bought each of the children Christmas presents. Terry prepared a fabulous meal and I walked in to see bright, happy African faces beaming with the knowledge that they are loved and not alone. It was all too overwhelmingly beautiful for me and I burst into tears. One of Batula's sons was wearing a black suit - jacket, pants and all. He was all dressed up for this special occasion. Batula's newest son was just born a few weeks ago. She named him Larry Ali after Larry Singletary. I got to hold Larry-Ali and Libby was so precious with him. And that's when it hit me  - this was God's Christmas present to me - I got to hold an African baby and see my daughter help feed him his bottle. God brought Africa to me when my heart longed to be in Africa getting my baby. How sweet is that!

Our trip to SC was wonderful. It took a grueling 2 1/2 days to drive there because we tried a new route that just took FORVER, unfortunately. Libby started the trip out sick and our first night after traveling the first full day was just AWFUL! It was a long night of crying and total tantrums... but everything got better after that.

My sister-in-law, Carissa and my brother, Kelly, sweetly allowed us to invade their home and stay there for the week. They are also pregnant and due on Feb 19 so my sister and I and Julie (a friend) threw a baby shower for her. It was a great turn out and a blast to do that for her. Libby enjoyed playing with Taylor and Camryn and even Kelly and Carissa's dog - Banjo. Libby flirted with my brother, Kelly, all week and loved opening presents. Billy went fly-fishing with Jason (my sister's husband) for 2 days so Libby and I spent the night with Becky that night and I loved sitting up in bed with my sister having a long, deep conversation. We shared a room growing up, but we haven't had the chance to sit up talking like that since we were young. It was so so good. 

I had the chance to catch up with a couple of old friends. One old high school friend, Will, met us for lunch. I love what God is doing in Will. When God allows the grit of life to humble us, He does such because He is standing by mercifully anticipating stepping right into that humbled heart. He is doing that in Will and I am so thankful for that! Will, lunch was a blast and I just love you, friend!

Betty Jean was in SC the same time we were so we met her and her entire sweet family for breakfast. They are all doing so well and, again, God hand is wonderfully working and has done a great healing in my sweet Betty Jean. I am so glad she is full of life and doing well. I love her and watching her be a mom to Bowen is so amazing. She is an awesome mom.

I also got to catch up with some family members who we never get to see (which is why I am in every picture with each family member - because I never get to see them and wanted to have some pictures of us together to remember). All of my dad's side of the family came in town and we had a big Christmas party with them. Then I got a chance to visit almost everyone on my mom's side of the family. On both sides it was so good to see that God is at work, changing hearts and lives. I was so encouraged by my Aunt Jenny who shared some words of comfort with me that my soul just needed to hear. God is so good. I am, even in the midst of grieving over longer wait times for Lulu, so in awe of and grateful for His never-ending, powerful, inspiring, surprising mercy and grace. 

I have so many pictures to share from our David Wilcox concert, SC trip and Christmas celebrations that I don't know where to start - or where to stop, I should say. Here goes:

Libby's class waited until December to celebrate all their birthdays on one day. Libby dressed up cute for the birthday bash! (She picked out the red wrist band herself!)

We attended a David Wilcox concert at Blue Rock View Ranch with David and Kimberly Guion. First, want to say - we LOVE the Guions. They are such a special family and I'm so glad Billy and I had the chance to spend this evening with them! Second - have to say - David Wilcox ROCKS! The Spirit of God was present at that concert and we witnessed one of the most beautiful God moments through song during that concert. Amazing night!

Billy and I had such a relaxing, awesome time at the concert!

Billy with David Wilcox. Wilcox has had more influence on Billy's writing style and depth than any other songwriter. I so wish we could have had coffee with this man. He is "other-worldly" in the best sort of way.

Libby and her cousin Taylor had a blast together all week. Aren't they so cute!?

Baby Camryn has the best, fun-loving personality. She is precious!

Jason with Taylor and Billy with Libby. The men hold their girls for the Christmas Light festival on James Island.

My hot sister (w/ her new awesome hair cut) with sweet Taylor.

Camryn, Becky, Kelly and Carissa roast marshmallows at the festival.

Libby thinks her Uncle Kelly is cute. She never said such with words, but she flirted with him all week. Kelly is in Thailand right now leading worship for some special people there. Be lifting him up if you think about it.


The Girls.

Family time in downtown Charleston.

My Pepa with Libby and me.

Carissa's shower. Here, we were praying over Carissa and Baby Hunter. Can't wait to meet that baby!

All the food at the shower - YUM!

Becky, Carissa and me.

Julie, Becky, Carissa and me.
Santa Clause... I mean, my dad! Love you, daddy!

 Aunt Barbara with the Foote family. (Libs was a little tired of taking pics at this point)

  Aunt Jenny and me. She was making me laugh!

   Libby and I with my grandma - affectionately called Mema by me and Great Mimi by Libby. She had a cold so her eyes were really red - but this is a great pic because usually she won't look at the camera at all. We were sneaky and got her to look this time! Gotcha!

Mom and me. Love you, mom.

         Aunt Judy and the Footes.

Uncle Ron, Beth, Aunt Kathy with us.

Uncle Tony and - you guessed it - the Foote fam.

Dad, with my cousins Mason (left) and Smith (right)

I Love these two cutie-pies.

Taylor and Libby. Libby ate fruit, fruit and more fruit on this trip. Such a healthy eater.

Libster and I with Sweet Betty Jean.

My little sister, my little brother and me.

         Libby with her tub stickers.

Christmas Eve - time to build a dollhouse!

We gave Libby several of these Chinese Barbie-type dolls. She loves them and they are so cute in her dollhouse.

Christmas morning - Libby meets the dollhouse!

Libby's Christmas Day Loot.

Aren't these Corolle dolls so cute! Lulu and Libby!

Happy Birthday Jesus Party/Breakfast. We had eggs, sausage, milk, oj, cake and even balloons and streamers! 
Libby blew out the candles for Jesus!

We stopped by the apartment complex to see our Somali friends. We took a loaf of Gingerbread and lots of candy canes to each family. Look close in the picture above - at the ceiling. These are not Christmas decorations - it's just the way they decorate. 

Larry and Terry's house was full of Somali's, food, fun and Jesus!

God's gift to me for today - the chance to hold an African baby.

By the way - after I first posted this I realized that the people group to be praying for today is the Afar of Ethiopia! How cool is that! Maybe Lulu is from the Afar people - you just never know!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Week of Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving week is very special in our family. Both Libby and Billy have birthdays during this week. Please note Libby's "I'm cool and laid back like my daddy" smile! Every year I thank God for these two. It is perfect that their birthdays are during such a special week of giving thanks to God because these 2 people are the biggest blessing of my life. And this year - I am also thankful for the family that God is expanding in our hearts. Next Thanksgiving will be even more full of blessings! To know how we celebrated this special week - read on:

Every year we flip flop between relatives and spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas with one or the other side of the family. This year we spent Thanksgiving in East TX with Billy's family and at Christmas we will be with my family in SC. 

We started our trip on Sunday Nov. 23 which was Libby's birthday. Here's a picture of her before we got on the road that morning:
 "I'm 3!"

About 6 hours later we arrived at Billy's parents house - They are known to Libby as Grammy and Papa Boots.  This year we were not going to give Libby a traditional birthday party and instead people donated to the Orphans Ticket Home Gala on Libby's behalf.  We were teaching her about giving to others who can not give in return and how this is a way to store up treasure in heaven. We presented her with a jar in which we will add buttons each time she gives to someone who can not give back or does something to obey that costs her something. She loves playing with the buttons and, for her age, is understanding the concept very well. We added 3 buttons for the number of orphans that she helped get "a ticket home" and 2 buttons for the soup cans she gave to her schools food drive. Here is a picture of the jar and buttons we gave her:

Billy's family greatly participated in donating to the Gala, but they also wanted Libby to have some cake and a few presents on her birthday. So when we arrived we had a mini-party to celebrate Libby's life. She was showered with some precious gifts and she had a blast blowing out candles and eating cake. Billy's family was so generous and thoughtful. Here are some pics of the celebration:

For several weeks before Libby's birthday she'd been asking to have a birthday crown. So we found one for her celebration.

Blowing out the candles on the cupcake birthday cake.

Libby's only young party guest - her cousin Brooke. They had so much fun together this week!
Grammy and Papa Boots bought Libby Candy Land and another board games, stickers, a jogging outfit and more. 

Wendy, Robbie and Brooke bought Libby some great books and a gift certificate to the Mud Hut and more! We -all the girls - went to the Mud Hut the next day and we each painted something special. We had a blast doing that together. Brooke and Libby both LOVE to paint. Grammy is going to have to ship us our final products because the Mud Hut needed more time to fire them up and give our items that final touch. So when we get them in the mail we will take photos and show you. We used the gift certificate at the Mud Hut and then Grammy surprised us and paid for the rest. So sweet!

The next day Grammy took Libby and I to IHOP for lunch and then the mall. She paid for Libby to have her picture taken with good old St. Nicholas. Libby did GREAT and took the most precious picture. When asked what she wanted for Christmas she softly told St. Nick that she wants a dollhouse! (good thing Costco has a cute one!) Grammy let Libby ride all the coin machine rides in the mall - a dream come true for any toddler. And she pushed Libby around in one of those car-shaped strollers that the mall rents out - making Libby laugh her head off as Grammy pretended she was going to crash into a wall and then would - at the last second - veer off to the right. 

Grammy, Papa Boots and Wendy and Robbie purchased a seriously awesome play system as part of Brooke's Christmas and had the help of Shane to put it all together. They worked extra hard to finish it before our arrival so Libby could enjoy it with her. They spent a good part of their time together playing out there and all the girls had a picnic together too. The weather was fantastic! Libby became quite the rock wall climber!

The 26th of Nov. was Billy's 42nd. birthday! We made a special present for him at the Mud Hut, but since it wasn't finished we also bought him a couple of his favorite movies and presented him with some special cards. Libby insisted on helping her daddy unwrap his gift.

BC and Winky bought a big Cookie Company birthday cookie for us to enjoy that night and they also gave Billy a beautiful frame to put a family photo in. On Thanksgiving Day we got a really great photo that we will put in that frame. Here it is:

On Thanksgiving Day we gathered with all of the family - cousins, uncles, grandparents, etc - at Nini and Papa's assisted living home. We had a terrific dinner provided by Hawkins (the assisted living place) for FREE! Hello! They fed about 17 of us for free and had us all set up in a room to ourselves. That was so generous!

We took lots of pictures and tried our best to get some cute ones of Libby and Brooke together. We didn't have to try too hard because they are both so precious.

Grammy gave both girls matching PJs for Christmas. The evening of Thanksgiving turned into a Christmas celebration between Brooke and Libby. They started dancing and posing for us in all the excitement. So cute!

Papa Boots gets some slobbery kisses from his granddaughters.

Libby tries to take Grammy down with some well rehearsed UFC moves.

and then it was time for more presents! Brooke and her family gave Libby 2 board games and some really cute Fancy Nancy items. I personally love Frenchy - the Fancy Nancy dog!

One of the nights in Longview we drove out to Santa Land to see some beautiful Christmas lights. We visited the gift shop at the end. I have been looking for a good Nativity scene to display in my home and use to teach Libby, but they are all so pricey. Well - wouldn't you know - the gift shop had the PERFECT Nativity and we were getting ready to purchase it when BC and Winky announced that they were buying it for us! We love our Nativity and can't wait to bring it out each year and think about their kindness. When we arrived back home we set it up immediately. Here's a couple of pictures:

Honestly - the pictures don't do it justice. It is much prettier in person. 

I think I have posted way more pictures than should be allowed in one post. But hopefully you've enjoyed them all. This was a special week and I am truly grateful to my Lord who has fulfilled every desire of my heart.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
God Bless