Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time to Catch Up

I have been REALLY bad about taking pictures and posting on this blog since Christmas time. January and February were VERY BUSY months for our family. We traveled to 5 different events in about a 5 1/2 week span. All 3 of us were sick for about 2 1/2 weeks of that traveling time. In the midst of that we have juggled office work, contracts, a homestudy addendum for our adoption process,  Hague training (an "8 hour" online course - which didn't really take that long) for the adoption, meeting with our Somali friends, English training with our Burmese friends (and just doing life with the Burmese as Billy has helped them get a vehicle and then get it registered - that was an adventure that took 3 full days!). And the list goes on with regular mommy duties (laundry, cleaning, bathing, zoo trips, play dates), working out at the gym and enjoying our house church. 

This week has been special for me. I did not calendar in any meetings, play dates, dr. appointments - nothing except our regular work out time at the gym. Billy was out of town doing some recording for our new EP that's in the works (he is writing new songs like a mad man!) So, it was just Libby and Jesus and me. We spent the week doing some special mommy-daughter things. I created a book for her that will help prepare her for the big trip to Ethiopia and for becoming a big sister. I took her to the zoo. We went for long walks. And I've just been asking the Lord, "how do you want me to spend my time starting next week?" 

To whom much has been given, much is required. Our family has been given the unusual gift of "flexible time". Since we are on our own schedule when we are home we can really wrap our office work and such around whatever the Lord asks us to spend time on. But it is so easy to stray from what Jesus requires of us to what I want or feel entitled to spend my time doing. I love hanging with my Christian friends and their families/children. I love getting on the computer and visiting Facebook and blogs. I love solitude and the quiet of my home. But really, none of the above advances the Kingdom of God to any great degree - though all are permitted and can be profitable.

A great teacher I often have the opportunity to learn from asked a simple and profound question a few weeks ago that really got me thinking about my time and about the people I have yet to call "friends". He asked, "if you have a rough day, do you pick up the phone and call your Christian friends or do you call your [friends who worship other gods or no gods at all]?" His point was that we are called to love outside of our "kind" just as much as we are called to love our brothers and sisters. To love means to have relationship. To have relationship is to share life - the good, the bad, the difficult, the joyous - and in the midst of that let our reactions and way of life speak and shine the light of the One who lives in us. But if I am always calling my brothers and sisters - always spending my time with them (though I love to do so!) - how can I be a part of gathering more into our "family"? 

The Lord is starting to clarify in me that I have not loved and built relationships outside of "family" like I should and this requires time  - of which He has given us much. He has been shaping our desires and our schedule over the last several weeks. Our new spring schedule is an exciting one. We will be regularly meeting with 3 different people groups right here in San Antonio to find the ones Jesus has told us to call friends. And we are going to love on them in just that way - as close friends. We are going to learn how to share life with people who are not like us at all. I am ready for the diversity. I am ready to learn from Jesus AND our new friends. Two of these people groups are amongst the most unreached groups in the world. How awesome that Jesus has brought them right to us. He said, "ask for the nations and I will give them to you." And He is doing that in spectacular ways! We are also going to start visiting a nursing home with another dear family once a week. We're still ironing out the details, but I am excited to introduce Libby to the wonderful ministry of caring for the elderly. She hears about cute orphans all the time (since she is one!) but to love on the old and wise will be a whole new adventure. Again, I believe we will learn so much from them.

The adoption of Lulu is trucking along. I am fairly sure that we will receive a referral by the end of April. That being said, we will have to wait several months for our court date and then will have to pass court the first time in order to get Lulu before court closures. If we do not pass court before closure in Aug, then we will have to wait an additional 2 months or so for a new court date and then travel 2-4 weeks after that - meaning - next Christmas. Yikes! We are praying for God's mercy - that he will give us a referral by mid April and a court date in July so we can travel in August.... We shall see. The process is definitely getting exciting and I am having to fight harder to live in the present and stay calm. I am just ready to get this going and discover who our little Lulu is - and then I want to get to her as FAST AS POSSIBLE! Billy's parents recently gave us a really nice financial gift to go towards the adoption and we are very grateful. As soon as our referral arrives we will have to start writing checks again! So their gift has arrived in perfect time!

Speaking of my in-laws - BC (Billy's dad) recently found out that he will be receiving an Honorary Doctorate Degree from ETBU this May! He was so surprised! And we are so excited for him! Congratulations BC!

And then there's Libby:  Libby is..... imaginative, emotional, daily stuck between young toddler and young lady, loving, generous, compassionate, ready for Lulu, full of energy (more than I ever knew possible), brilliant (I'm not biased!) and challenging. Age three is definitely all that everyone warned me it would be. But I am (cough, cough) enjoying every minute of it! Seriously, I am - even when I'm frustrated and clueless.

The other morning Libby and I were running errands. She asked me questions ALL MORNING! Why did Jesus make the sky blue? Why did he make trees? How did he make rocks? I was in the middle of explaining how dirt gets compacted over time and how it turns into rocks when all of the sudden I realized - I'm explaining this to a 3 year old and she is seriously listening and interested! The rest of the day (and really every day since) she continues to request the entire story of Billy and I's wedding, how we found her in China, how we're going to get Lulu and then she asked, "Tell me the whole story about Jesus." I started with the creation story and went all the way through his resurrection and the girl listened to the whole thing and then had questions afterward. I was amazed! I think my biggest challenge with our Chinese beauty is how to keep her from getting bored and somehow not go nuts with exhaustion in the process!

So - here are some precious recent photos. Enjoy!
(Above) Looking for ice cream at the zoo. (Below) Found it!

Libby loves to help me around the house. She dusts and she does a great job washing dishes!

Below - Libby sits on the lioness at the zoo. Following picture is of her on the lioness in October 2006 - just a few weeks after bringing her home!

Libby had a slumber/pj night with her friends. Their mommy and daddy had a special date so we kept the girls and they had so much fun in their matching pjs!

Above: Cute Libby!
Below: this says it all. She loves sports. She's very athletic. But she's still all girl!

This was the night that we flew into San Antonio at 10pm! She had NO nap that day and was still awake when we landed. Not only was she awake, but she was keeping the entire back row of the plane entertained with her stories. She told them that she lives in a flower garden next to San Antonio and has 4 boys ages 4,5,6 and 7. My, oh my! It was cold outside waiting for the bus. So we bundled her up. She's so adorable!
We were in a hotel on Valentine's Day. I heart Libby!

Here, Libby is playing with her Aunt Terry. My mentor and friend.

Libby will be in a wedding in March. This is her precious flower girl dress!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Storing Up the Good Memories for a Rainy Day!

Being a mom is the most amazing experience that I have yet to find the words to fully express. But as every mom encounters rough patches with their youngsters, I have experienced such with Libby this week. Yesterday was the climax of her disobedience, terrible attitude, swatting, talking back, and her flat-out ignoring me and even talking over me to act like she doesn't hear. Most days there are just a few instances of these things. This week and especially yesterday I was completely spent and clueless as to what to do with her. I went to bed last night begging God for a break through because I was at my end with her. 

Today was glorious. She obeyed all day. She gave me little kisses on my arm throughout the day on her own initiative. She helped me around the house and sang songs all day. She smiled and glowed and I couldn't get enough of her.

Maybe the previous days can be blamed on the fact that at least one of us has been sick for the last 14 days and we have traveled out of town to 3 different events in the last month - 2 of those events during all the sickness. Maybe we have just been crammed together as a family in either our house, a plane or a hotel room for too long! But when a mom has a day like I had yesterday I really don't know how she keeps going without faith in Jesus and the hopes He gives when He says "peace I give to you" or "my mercies are new every morning". 

One thing I need to do a better job of (and there are many more things, believe me!) is writing down the sweet moments so I don't forget that God is doing an amazing work in my daughter as He shapes her heart and mind. So, this post is for that - to dwell for just a moment on how Libby's heart and mind are processing life through her own words.

1. A few nights ago we were driving home and Libby asked, "Mommy, where is the sun?" I replied, "It is night time and right now the moon is out." She said, "Mommy, in the morning do you think Mr. Moon will go behind the clouds to get the sun?"   

2. A while back we were at the home of a family who has very little. The youngest girl ran out to our car before we left her house to give Libby her only little teddy bear. On the way home we explained to Libby how precious that was and asked her if she wanted to give this girl something the next time we saw her. When we got home Libby went straight into her room and picked out one of her nicest and biggest bears and told me she wanted to give it to the little girl. A few weeks later this family was in our home. Libby was so excited to give her this bear. The little girl must have been in a picky mood (normally she is not this way, but we all have our days, right?) and she told us that she didn't want that bear. She wanted a different bear and she pointed to one of Libby's favorites. As I sat and watched I started to interrupt and make a different suggestion so Libby wouldn't be upset or something, but before I could say much Libby gave her the bear and started suggesting all the others she could have. She was willing to give almost every bear away.

3. For the last several nights Libby has been sleeping with 2 small little bears. They have been her favorite all week. This morning she said she wanted to give them to Taylor and Camryn (her cousins) but I know that Becky (their mom) is not wanting them to have any more stuffed animals so I said to Libby, "Taylor and Camryn already have teddy bears. We should give them to someone who doesn't have any, like the Somali kids." She picked up her bears and set them on the kitchen counter and said, "these are for the 'mollies' when we see them tomorrow." And there they sit until tomorrow.

4. Every morning Libby and I pull out our "Operation World" book that features a different country almost every day along with the unreached peoples in those countries and we pray for those nations and people before breakfast. Today Afghanistan was featured. I said to Libby, "today we are praying for Afghanistan". She said, "who's Afghanistan" so I started to tell her about the country and I said, "many of the people are very poor because of all the war." And she said, "the people have no food to eat?" and I said, " that's right. Many of them don't." Libby proceeded to get out of her chair and go to the pantry. She brought a box of wheat thin crackers and said, "this is for the poor people in 'Afghnstong'. We can give them our crackers and cheese nips." How do you explain to your three year old that its a little more difficult than that and then put the box back in your cabinet? 

5. Libby has talked about Lulu A LOT lately. When she eats her Spaghettios she says she wants to save some for when Lulu comes. When we get into the grocery cart at the new HEB she says Lulu can sit in the cart-seat next to her. Today, Libby was asking questions like, "why did you marry daddy?" So I answered her question and then she would say, "You marry daddy and then you get me and then you'll get Lulu." She's getting the order correct! As she asked and talked about this order she went on and said, "Where is Lulu?". I explained that she is in Africa if she is born already. She asked, "when are we going to get her?" I said, "we are waiting for some people to say we can go to Ethiopia to get her." "Who are the peoples mommy? she asked." "Well," I said, "there are 2 groups of people. One group is our adoption agency and they are helping us find Lulu. The other are Lulu's nannies in Africa who are taking care of her until we can get there." "huh," she said as she contemplated what I was saying.  I went on to say, "you know, you had nannies in China who took care of you until we could get to you and that is exactly what is going on with Lulu right now." She just mulled over that the rest of the day.

6. We've been reading Bible stories to Libby at night. We are going chronologically, but Libby often wants to read the same stories over and over again. We've read about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Esau quite a bit. The other morning Libby was sitting on the couch with her daddy and she said to him, "Daddy, you have very hairy arms like Esau in the Bible."

7.  Several weeks after pulling Libby out of moms-day-out (only because I wanted more time with my baby girl before Lulu comes), we were driving to the gym when out of the blue (we really had not talked about school since before the Christmas break) she said to me matter-of-factly, "Mom? I think my teachers at school are wondering where I am."  

8. Libby makes up words and nicknames for friends all the time. I'll never know why, but when she's being really sweet she calls me Mimi. She calls our friend, Terry, "Pumanina". Sometimes she makes up words and uses them regularly but we still can't figure out what they mean. The most recent one is "cantaboo".  I have no idea....

9. At one of our recent events I was leaving Libby with a friend so I could go sing. Libby was off schedule and did not want me to leave her. In the lobby of the hotel she was screaming and crying "I don't want you to go. I don't want you to go." Finally I started to make my final move out of the hotel when she screamed very loudly and dramatically, "MOMMY! I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING." I fell for her desperate attempt and came close to her and said, "what is it, baby." And she cried loudly, "I DON'T WANT YOU TO GO!"  Surprise, surprise!

10. I often lay down with Libby for her naps. One afternoon she would not be still and go to sleep. Out of aggravation I said, "For the love of St. Pete, please go to sleep!" She started laughing uncontrollably saying, "sweet pete" over and over again. So now, when we want her to laugh we say "st. pete" or "sweet pete" or "sweet pea" and she is happy in an instant. I have no idea how long that will last so I'm using it for all its worth!

Happy memories,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm 34!

Another birthday has almost past. Today I turned 34. Mom - thank you for enduring 36 hours of labor to give me life! Mom and Dad, thank you for all your sacrifices to make my life FULL. I love you both so much!

Last week Billy and Libby were both sick. Libby ran a strong fever for 6 straight days, poor thing! I did everything I could to stay well knowing that we were singing in Nashville soon for the re:create worship conference. I tried everything -sudafed at the mere thought of allergies coming on, vitamins, healthy food, no sugar, no soda, no dairy, saline nasal mists and even the Neti pot. But to no avail! On Monday of this week after taking a kickboxing class I realized that
I was not feeling well at all! The drainage began.  On Tuesday we flew to Nashville. On the plane ride my ear decided to go crazy on me and for the rest of the day it felt like someone shoved a plum in my left ear. Not so much fun when you have to sing! But everything went well and we flew home the next day. The flight home didn't help the situation much so I found myself in the doctor's office this morning - yep, on my birthday. Turns out that I have a cold and an ear infection so I've started antibiotics. I had to cancel some of my other birthday plans with friends so I can rest and get well before our next event. But Billy and Libby have made my day very special! 

A couple of weeks ago Billy and I were doing some office work and Libby wanted a pen and paper so she could write with us. I have never worked on Libby writing letters. I didn't think she was ready because she rarely wants to draw or color. She's known her letters for a LONG time and knows words that start with each letter. But that did not prepare me for this
 delightful surprise!  Next thing I knew Libby said, "I for ice" and I looked down and she had written the letter "I". I made a big deal about it and told her how wonderful it was that she could write a letter and then asked if she could write any other letters. She proceeded to write the letter "O" saying "o for oval" and then the letter "E" saying "e for egg" and then the letter "K" for Kelly (her uncle).  I was completely blown away!!!! I had never worked on this with her. She just knew how to do it - CRAZY!

So today when Billy handed me my birthday card I saw the most precious thing. Billy had told her what letters to write and all on her own she had written "I Love U".  Billy did not help her draw these letters at all! This is amazing - here's proof. It says.... I  LO       VE  U.   Do you see it? Not bad for turning 3 this past November! I will cherish this card FOREVER! Her first written words saying "I Love U"! How awesome!
Later, Billy and Libby came home with flowers, pizza and cake. What more can a mom/wife ask for!? Here is a picture of Libby and I. I'm looking pretty rough and she has icing on her lips. 
Of course, Lulu is present in our thoughts as I am wearing my comfy Africa t-shirt. We moved up in the waiting line for an infant girl. You can visit our adoption blog to read more about that:
We are now number 8 in line! We could receive a referral as early as March or April. We shall see.

There is more news to share on the horizon (no, I'm not pregnant) but it will have to wait for now. We're keeping this post short so I can finish enjoying my last hours of birthday bliss.


Monday, February 2, 2009

A New Graham Has Entered the Family

John Hunter Graham was born last night at 4AM. Kelly, my brother, and his wife, Carissa, are the proud parents. This is their first baby! Carissa had to have an emergency C-section last night when Hunter's heart beat was too slow. It was discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and then again around his head! Though the C-section was a surprise, Carissa and baby are doing just fine! Hunter was born at 7 pounds 2 ounces and 19 inches long!

Here's a picture of the proud mommy and her baby boy: