Wednesday, December 31, 2014

See Ya Later 2014

Ahh... 2014. What a year!! It's crazy to look back at this time last year and see how much things have changed. They both started to move and chat, making our home much livelier. Our littles are growing so quickly. This time last year, we had hopes for Israel but still so much uncertainty. Israel had an MRI and we saw several specialists. Now, we have a diagnosis and more tangible evidences of a brighter future for Israel. Israel was the UCP poster child for the telethon, and then again nationally for the Giving Tuesday campaign!

Other things about this year: I became a working mom for a season (I'm back as a SAHM for now). I finished my MSW through the University of Alabama, and passed the LGSW exam. Will finished his PhD courses and passed his comprehensive exams (only a few steps left in his program!).

Will and I went to Empowered to Connect as an anniversary trip (thanks to a generous scholarship from Show Hope!). We spent our summer on the porch and at the pool. Will took a college group to NYC. Things with our ministry have continued to grow and flourish. I was able to lead a small group for college girls this summer, and co-lead one this fall.

We celebrated Edith's first birthday with a smash cake and a family party. Israel celebrated his third birthday with friends at a party place. After he turned three, he started to receive therapy through the local school and we said good-bye to his UCP therapists and his outpatient therapist in Anniston.

All in all, it was a busy, full year. There were seasons where it was really tough and we felt like we were surviving, and then there were times where it felt very aware of God's grace and like we had a settled routine. Of course, this is a highlight reel. There are things not blogged about and seasons where we were sifted and tried in ways we had not imagined. I won't share it all in this space, but I'm thankful for this year- the good and the hard and the refining. This year I was reminded that our character is shaped through trials and perseverance. I think this year really showed us what we are made of and who we trust in. I know with confidence that 2015 will bring more of the same. So see ya 2014. It was fun, it was stressful, and it was refining to the core. I have no idea what the next year will look like, and there's no point in speculating. All I know is that God is faithful - He has been and He will be. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holiday Pictures (Sarah Siak Photography)

My sister took these amazing shots of the kids for me in November! I love the way she captured the kids' personalities and the way they are looking at each other. I just love them! Bonus points for Sarah - she took these pictures in about 3 minutes. Seriously. She is amazing! If you are in the Hendersonville/ Marion/ Asheville NC area check her out!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Spunky Kids

Just a few more snapshots of my spunky kids these days. Life is always lively and silly!

There's snuggling, glasses-stealing, climbing out of high-chair-ing, and being all around cute. What a blessing it is to watch these two kiddos grow up each day. 

Christmas at the Falls

Tonight we had a fun night! We met Will's parents and brother Evan in Gadsden, AL. We went to dinner, and Israel was thrilled to see his GaGa and Pop. Edith was a little bit of a diva at the restaurant, and reminded us why we don't eat out much. Israel charmed the waitress into letting him wear the Rudolf ears!

We went to Christmas at the Falls in Gadsden, which is a park with a bunch of lights, a train, Santa and some more attractions. We stayed for about an hour and it was really fun!

We loved it so much we rode the train twice!

Our Santa experience was pretty much what I expected. Israel, always the charmer, was happy to sit on his lap while Edith was horrified. I love these pictures because they are a silly snapshot of this season! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Edith: Sixteen Months Old

Dear Edith,

You are now 16 months old! You are at a fun, feisty age my girl! You are into everything. You only sit still when you are very tired or just woke up. You want to explore any nook and cranny, and you love to tinker with things to figure out how they work. You're love light switches and sockets and unplugging the Christmas tree. You know all of your favorite cabinets to play in! You will copy us when we play with toys and when we make silly faces. You love books, stuffed animals, and puzzles. Your favorite spot to play is behind the recliner on a pile of blankets.

The biggest milestone this month was that you had tubes put in your ears after your fifth ear infection! You handled it pretty well, but getting your heart rate taken (they had to put a clip on your toe) was the worst part. You were hilarious when you were drugged! You were given a stuffed bear and it is your newest sidekick. You were giving it medicine out of the dropper and you share your milk with it.

You know that the refrigerator = milk so you will get very dramatic about opening the door when you're thirsty. You love bananas, bread, raisins, blueberries, and grapes the most. You eat all the time and love to snack. When you're not in the mood to sit in your high chair, you will try to climb out. We have to keep a close watch on you!

You can be quite the bully to your brother sometimes. You like to take his glasses off so you can wear them like a necklace. You will sit on him and push him over on his back. Sometimes you pull his hair too. For the most part, he loves the attention and doesn't seem to realize what a pest you are to him! I love watching you two play together when you're being nice!

Before your tube surgery. 
For the most part, you are a very happy girl. You definitely love being at home, and you don't mind your carseat much. You tend to be a bit dramatic when we're out in public, especially in the nursery at church. I think you are more of a homebody. We can't keep socks or shoes on you, especially in the car. You like to throw things out of shopping carts and the stroller. On our walks around the neighborhood I have to watch you because if I'm not paying attention there will be a trail of socks, blankets, pacis and toys behind us. The other day I had a 10 minute search for the Mary from our Little People nativity that you had tossed!

You're taking one or two naps these days, and you sleep a solid 11-12 hours at night. You still have your paci in your crib and in the car. You love bathtime and brushing your teeth. You are Miss Independent and want to walk, climb the stairs, and eat all by yourself.

We are thankful for our spunky girl. You keep us laughing and very aware of you! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ready or Not, we have a Platform

It's really amazing to me the opportunities that have come up recently for our family. At the beginning of November I visited my dad's church and spoke for a few minutes about adoption. (It's the first 5 minutes of the "I have you in my heart" Nov 2 sermon if you want to hear it!) Being an adoption advocate is just a role that happens when you become an adoptive parent. I didn't know that when we signed the papers back in 2010, we would be come spokespeople or a point of reference for others. We just wanted to step out in faith to do what God called us.

I am not one to say that everyone should adopt. Adoption is hard work, and it requires a lot of sacrifice and dying to self. You can't passively adopt and the road is not always easy. There's attachment and cocooning and unexpected issues that come with not knowing health backgrounds or how to fully incorporate your child's birth culture. There's potential for identity issues or emotional trauma. But as I wrote many years ago, the pain is all worth it. Our adoption/parenthood journey has humbled me and made me realize the depth of my need for God.

So what does this have to do with a platform? Well, when you are a conspicuous family, you're going to be an adoption advocate. Because people will have questions! You have the opportunity to talk about your story (whatever parts you want to share) and say "you see this amazing kid? there are millions out there like him, with no mommies or daddies to revel in their cuteness." Our family picture is a glimpse of the potential redemption for millions of orphans who need advocates, moms, dads and caregivers. Not every child is adoptable but many are and many need sponsors or adoptive parents to love and fight for them!

Our second platform is special needs. This platform has come as Israel has been a part of the United Cerebral Palsy center. This summer he was one of the poster children for our local UCP Telethon (read here and here). I'm really thrilled to share that Israel was chosen by the NATIONAL UCP office for their adoption awareness in November and a blog was posted and shared to the whole nation! You can read that blog here ("From an Orphanage in Africa to a Life Without Limits).

If THAT wasn't exciting enough, he was chosen to be the face of the UCP NATIONAL #GivingTuesday campaign!!! His picture was used to promote donations to UCP on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving! It was on the head of their twitter page and their national donation website.

All this to say... we are so humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to speak and advocate for vulnerable people. I never would have known back in 2010 that we would be speaking or writing publicly on behalf of orphans and those with disabilities. It's a platform that we were given and we are grateful that God is writing our story. He has given us the opportunities to share what hope and redemption can be like. We desire that by sharing our story, we will point to the One who writes it and redeems it.

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