Tuesday, February 26, 2013

8 months old...

My baby boy turned 8 months old today. It's so crazy for me to think he is already 8 months old...yet at the same time, it's so crazy for me to think that he's only been in our arms for 8 months! The truth is that he's been in our lives a lot longer than that, because our desire to parent him began YEARS ago. People often ask me how Lucy has adjusted to being a big sister, and I'm always so blessed that I get to respond with how much she is thriving because of having that role. DH and I weren't the only ones who longed to have Gabriel in our family--Lucy longed for our family to grow, too. DH desired to be a father again, I yearned to be a momma again, and Lucy hoped and prayed for the opportunity to be a big sister. I am so very thankful God answered each of our heart's desires through this precious little baby boy and his amazing birthmommy. He is a daily reminder to me of God's perfect plan!
I've been under the weather for about a week now, and finally gave in and went to the doctor this morning. (I snapped the above shot of Gabriel and me:) I love his sweet smile. He is SUCH a happy baby, and his smile seriously melts my heart into a big huge puddle! He smiles with his whole face, he loves to stick his tongue out and give silly faces, he thinks "fake coughing"is hilarious and does little bouts of it himself several times a day. He absolutely ADORES puppy dogs, and whenever he ears Annabelle (our beagle) coming near he jerks his head away from ANYTHING else going on, jumps up and down excitedly, and gets the biggest grin on his face! He is very serious about his bottles (as in when he wants to eat, you better have it ready! I often find myself singing the old Amy Grant song when I'm hurriedly trying to get his bottle made, He wants his bottle and he don't mean maybe...) and will hold them well for other people but usually acts like he "can't" when Mommy is feeding him:-) (I don't mind!;-) He also enjoys all solid foods (unless they aren't pureed well--he doesn't like lumpy stuff) and has GREAT motor skills with picking up objects and starting to self-feed with little baby rice cakes and mum-mums. He usually takes GREAT naps and sleeps ALL night. He LOVES to play with toys! He still isn't crawling but he definitely can move quickly from one end of the room to the other, and he rocks on his hands and knees a lot. (I really think he just hasn't seen the need for crawling just yet.) He goes easily to other people, loves to snuggle and be read to, and he loves the piano. He's a very easy-going baby, and we are all, of course, just totally in love with him!

We met a dear friend for lunch today, and she spent plenty of time loving on GP. She commented on his sweet smile and how handsome he is. I told her, You know, it's funny, because I feel like since I had nothing to do with his physical appearance that when people say something about him I can just respond, 'I know, right?!' Maybe that comes off a little conceited, but I really don't mean it in that way. I'm really just so in awe of this beautiful baby boy God has blessed us with, and I love watching other people love on him and enjoy him. I think part of my willingness to "share" him so much is that he's my second child, so I'm more laid back about germs and such (I think Lucy was about 4 months old before I really "let" anyone hold her...and that's about the time she ended up in the hospital with RSV!) but I think it's also because SO many people played a part in bringing him home to us. He is such a loved and wanted little boy, and I pray daily for him that he never doubts that. My friend looked at me at one point while she was snuggling GP and said, "You CHOSE him, Paula-Beth! You CHOSE him to be your son!" I couldn't help but smile and think of how much adoption relates to our relationship with our Heavenly Father--He chose me, too!  Wow...

When I came back into town this afternoon and picked up Lucy, I grabbed the mail out of the mailbox and found a letter from our adoption attorney. I immediately envisioned what would be inside, and I quickly tore into the envelope to discover its contents. My eyes quickly were drawn to the phrase,

"All work associated with the adoption has been completed."

Completed.  What an amazing word to read!  (Now, mind you, that's just on the attorney's end. We still have to apply for a social security number, but once we receive that card it will be our final process in all of the legalities. Shouldn't be much red tape in that process...SHOULDN'T being the main word there!)

I then pulled back the page behind the letter from our attorney to find Gabriel's birth certificate. My eyes literally filled with tears and my heart started to pound. I searched the document quickly looking for his birthmother's name...but I didn't see it...and that's when I realized, "Wait, that's MY name on there...it says I am his mother...." Don't get me wrong--I have always felt this in my heart, but there's just something pretty amazing about seeing it written out in front of me. The place that had once been blank on his birth certificate for father was now occupied with my DH's name.  Gabriel's mother. Gabriel's father. I felt like time just stood still for a moment as I stared at that long-awaited piece of paper. Lucy was curiously peering over my shoulder, and sensing my emotion she said, "Momma, is that something special to you."  I choked back my tears, "Yes, baby, it is...this is Gabriel's birth certificate. We all know that he's a part of our family, but this piece of paper tells the entire world that now. It says that I'm his mommy, and that Daddy is his Daddy, and if there was a line on it that said 'Sissy' it would have your name on it, too!" I can't help but think how cool it is, too, that we received his birth certificate on the day he turned 8 months old...

Maybe I'm a bit more emotional that usual because of being sick, but I seriously could just burst into tears at any moment.  We. are.SO.BLESSED! What an amazing journey God has taken us on, and He's not finished with us yet!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Make a CRAZY Joyful Noise!

We survived yet another Sunday in our house this week!

I know this may sound awful at first, but Sundays can seriously be rough when you have small children.  We start off early in the morning at praise team rehearsal, then Sunday School, then Worship service, grab lunch, attempt to get the kids down for a nap, I work on children's choir, and then it's back up to the church for adult choir followed by children's choir.  By the time we get home, it's usually 7:30, and we haven't even had a chance to eat dinner, thus putting bedtime to an even later time.  I'm not complaining at all--I am SO thankful we can freely worship, and I never want to take that for granted.  I'm just saying that it can be pretty exhausting.  As I was reflecting on things this past weekend though, I began to feel very convicted about my approach to Sundays.  Those of you that know me well probably know I am, by nature, a total night owl!  I love to stay up late, and honestly no matter how early I do go to bed, I still hate getting up early in the morning.  I realized something though: my staying up late on Saturday evenings can greatly impact me on Sundays.  In other words, I began to question what I was doing, if anything, to really PREPARE my heart for worship on Sunday mornings.  And if I'm not preparing my own heart for worship, I'm certainly in no position to help my children know how to prepare theirs.  So I began asking God to show me ways to help prepare my and my family's hearts for worship, and He showed me a couple things right off the bat that I needed to change...

The first thing I realized is that I CANNOT stay up too late on Saturday nights.  It's not always possible, but I'm hoping we can keep out of town activities to a minimum on Saturdays so we can make sure everyone (including Mommy and Daddy!) gets to bed at a decent hour on Saturday night.  As usual, my insomnia kicked in Saturday evening, and I found myself wide awake at 6AM with still time left to snooze before my alarm went off.  I think this was God's way of nudging me out of bed early though, because I was able to grab a cup of coffee, read my Bible, get my heart prepared for the day, feed the animals, and get the boys' clothes ironed before anyone else even woke up.  (I still couldn't manage to get out the door quite on time though.  Ugh!  Such a pet peeve of mine!)

The other thing I felt the Lord show me about preparing our hearts for worship is to really set our hearts on God first thing in the morning.  Yes, we should do this every day, but especially when we are preparing to head into a set apart time of worship, God revealed to me how important it is to prepare our hearts fully for Him.  I often will let Lucy watch a show on her ipad while I finish getting ready, and while we are pretty picky on what we let her watch, I realized that Phineas and Ferb probably wasn't doing anything to prepare her little heart to worship her Heavenly Father.  So after I fed the kids breakfast, I told them, "Let's get our hearts ready to praise Jesus this morning..." and I popped in a Hillsong Kids Jr. DVD for them.  As I walked through the room to check on them, I found them sitting together, Lucy singing and helping Gabriel "dance" to the songs as they both were smiling and laughing.  As you can see from the picture, true JOY was written all over their faces!

Were we still a little frantic in trying to leave the house at a decent time?  Yes.  Did everyone stay in a perfect mood for the entire day?  No.  But were our hearts more prepared to worship God than they usually were?  I think so.  We had already started the day off praising God, and church got to be a continuation of that time.

One of the songs on the DVD Lucy and Gabriel watched (which, by the way, if you have small children you NEED this DVD or CD--it is SO so good!) is called "Crazy Noise," which basically just talks about making a noise in such a way that everyone around you will know that you're praising God.  Life is often pretty CRAZY, and Sunday's schedule is a great example of that.  But even in the midst of the craziness, we can join in and just make an awesome exclamation out to our Heavenly Father.  That's what I saw written all over my children's faces on Sunday morning, and I hope that's what was written all over each of our hearts as we went through our jam-packed Sunday...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lessons on Love from the Floor of my Foot Tub...

I'm a big fan of the book, "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman.  DH and I read it as part of our premarital counseling assignment, and it really taught us so much about how to love one another and even how to understand the actions and reactions of others.  To summarize the book, everyone has their own "language" that they use to speak love to others.  Furthermore, the way you show love to others most is usually how you most easily feel loved by others.  This is where relationships can get into trouble, because typically, a husband and wife don't share the exact same love language, so while you may be thinking you are showing love to your spouse, if you aren't speaking "their" language, then they end up not feeling like they're being loved at all.  DH jokes that I'm more difficult to love because he says I possess ALL five of the love languages:) While some might view this as high maintenance, I say it's just easier to figure out ways to love me because there are so many choices! LOL:)  ANYway, the point that I'm trying to get at is that our KIDS have love languages, too, and I think I've finally figured Lucy's out...

From the moment she got up this morning (which was probably around 6:30...the child seriously has NO concept of "sleeping in" whatsoever!) she was carting around an inflatable foot tub because she wanted to get a pedicure.  I had to keep telling her I PROMISED we would do it, but it had to be later. (A 5 year old with a tub of sudsy water and nail polish isn't something you leave unattended!) I seriously think she brought it up twenty times before baby brother got down for his afternoon nap and I could fully devote my attention to her.  Her face LIT UP when she saw me blowing up her foot tub, and then when she saw me get one out for myself, you would have thought I announced we were going to Disneyland.  She was SO excited to have girl time with Mommy!  We chit-chatted and she ate some snacks while we soaked our feet in special fizzies, then I gave her a special foot massage and painted her toe nails and both our fingernails. It was a special little mother/daughter time (despite me having to constantly tell her "Honey, BE STILL!" as water splashed onto the floor and nail polish smudged onto her skin:) It wasn't timed exactly right though seeing as how by the time we were finished she was extremely cranky from having gotten up entirely too early, so she got put down (unwillingly) for a nap. But, the pedicure itself was a sweet time for just the two of us, and I have a feeling I'll be hearing about it a lot in the weeks to come..."Mommy, remember that time that we put our feet in the water and the bath cookie crumbled around our toes and we painted them?" :-)

All of that to say, the one thing my Lucy-bug loves more than anything is quality time. When she has a phone conversation, she wants to do face time because it's so important to her to be able to look right into your eyes when she's talking to you. She wants your undivided attention (PUT THE IPHONE DOWN for goodness sake...unless you're going to take silly-face pictures together!) and just wants to be WITH you, with no distractions. She's a very social little girl, but one on one time is very important to her.  She's never been big on playing with toys UNLESS someone is right there playing with her, so sending her to play in her room by herself is basically like a punishment. This is probably why, despite never letting her sleep in bed with us when she was a baby, now that she can crawl out of bed we usually wake up at some point at night with her in bed with us--she wants to be near you and with you. From the time she started toddling around I referred to her as my little shadow, because she would follow me from room to room.  I'm kind of surprised it took me this log to figure out how important quality time is for Lucy, but I'm glad I have because it helps me know how to best speak love to this little girl that I do love so very dearly!

As I was drying her feet off today, I thought back to a few days ago when DH was reading her bedtime Bible story which was about Jesus washing the disciples' feet. This was an act of service and an outward expression of love Jesus showed to his closest friends. As I began painting Lucy's toes, I realized that this fun little girly activity of ours was a way for me to serve my little girl--it was a way for me to pour out love to her in a way that would truly speak to her. It was such a simple act, but also very profound. It made me realize how we so easily overlook the simple actions we can make that can have such profound impacts on those around us. We are faced with multitudes of situations each day where we have the opportunity to pour our lives out in service to show love to others--are we missing out on them though because of being too focused on our own selves, just like we so easily miss out on showing love to our spouse and children because we only speak it in the way that touches us more deeply? Just some thoughts to ponder from the depths of my little plastic foot tub;-)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank you...

In the past several weeks, I have watched two people very close to me go through the pain of a miscarriage.  My heart aches for them, for the tremendous loss they have experienced and the pain that comes from it.  I grieve alongside them, even though I know I cannot fully understand what they must be going through.  And I pray for them...for God to comfort them, to reassure them of His perfect love and plan, and for Him to grant them their heart's desires.  I have never experienced the pain of losing a baby at any stage of their life, and I am pray it's not something DH and I ever have to endure.  I know the pain of not experiencing a life that I desperately want to create month after month, but to cope with having that life for but a moment before it is taken away is something I cannot comprehend.  And as I have watched both of these women pick up the pieces of their hearts after enduring such an event, I am in awe of the strength and beauty they possess.  Yes, I'm sure their hearts have grieved and maybe they have broken down once or a million times.  Regardless of their emotions though, there is a faith within them that is absolutely beautiful.  To be able to recognize and accept that God's ways are so much higher than ours is such a gift...one that I cannot say I always possess, and one that I have desperately needed to be reminded of.  We are called to hold all things loosely, for NOTHING is our own--my husband, my children, and every relationship I have been blessed with are on loan to me.  God has entrusted these precious people to me, but they do not belong to me.  So when it feels like life is crumbling around me, it's probably because I've entrusted it to something or someone other than my Jesus, for He alone is my firm foundation.

So to those of you facing a trial and walking through it with the inner beauty and strength of a devoted follower to Christ, thank you!  Thank you for speaking God's truth to me.  He is making beauty from your ashes, and He's not finished yet!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I used to hate Valentine's Day...for the same reason many people hate it.  If you don't have a Valentine, it kind of feels like a holiday that constantly slaps that reality into your face.  I remember my first valentine was when I was 14 years old.  I went to drama class that day and this boy actually got down on one knee, pulled a yellow rose out of his jacket, and asked me to be his "forever valentine."  Pretty sweet, eh?  Of course, forever only lasted like 4 months, but still!;-)  (The picture posted here is of me on that actual Valentine's Day, and the rose on the left is the rose he gave me.  I'm still shaking my head at my strange sense of fashion back in the 90's, but I guess we all are!)  I don't think anyone will deny that it feels good to have someone do something sweet and sappy for you.  I love how DH always gets Lucy something special for Valentine's Day, because no matter who may come or go in her life, her Daddy is always going to be there for her.  This morning she woke up to a red rose, a heart shaped box of chocolates (and so did, Mommy:), and a card labeled, "For Daddy's Princess."  Precious!  On the way to school, I said, "Lucy, I just love you SO so much!" and she said, "And I love Daddy SO so much!  Will you tell him that for me when you get back home?"  LOL:)

Anyway...since we know Lucy will always have a Valentine in her Daddy, I want to make sure my precious GP knows he will always have one, too:)  I never thought I would share my heart with another man, but this little mister man caused my heart to grow, and he's got every single bit of it!  Gabriel's birthmom texted me today to wish us a happy Valentine's Day, and I responded with this:

"Happy Valentine's Day to someone who has brought more love into our lives than we could ever have imagined...not just because of our son, but because of the special relationship you allow us to have with you.  We love you dearly!"

It's true that Valentine's Day is an overly commercialized holiday, but I don't think about just the candy and the cards and the chocolates and the flowers when I think of this day.  While if I am being honest, I certainly do enjoy all of those things (and have been enjoying them already today thanks to my DH:), the first thing that really comes to my mind when I think of this holiday is love.  Yes, we should show love to one another every day of the year, but I certainly don't see anything wrong with setting aside a day where we focus specifically on that action.  And this Valentine's Day, I feel that I am able to celebrate love in a whole new way because of the gift I have been given in seeing sacrificial love displayed before my own eyes through Gabriel's birthmother.  I know I say it all the time, but I will never grow tired of saying how much she means to us and how thankful we are for her, because I never want to take her act of love for granted...

I also realize how blessed I am to have my own Valentine:)  This marks DH's and my 13th Valentine's Day together...wow!  Seems so crazy to think of thirteen years ago sitting and eating little pints of bluebell ice cream with plastic spoons at the park:)  I am so blessed to have a husband who not only loves me so much, but who also shows Christ's love to me.  Many relationships have come and gone in my life, but Michael has always loved me for who I am while still challenging me to be all God desires for me to be, but not growing impatient and giving up on me during the process.  I have a better example of Christ's love for me because of the way my husband loves me, and again, I will never grow tired of saying how thankful I am for being chosen to be his wife, because I never want to take that for granted either.

We don't typically do anything too fancy for Valentine's Day, but we always observe it in some form or fashion...and today, DH observed it in a VERY fashionable way by getting me a Vera Bradley tote that I've had my eye on for quite some time!  It will be great for a smaller diaper bag, for my ipad, or for my KNITTING stuff:)  I've already got it packed up for this weekend;-)  (It's pictured here.  I'm wearing a necklace DH got for me a few Valentine's back, too.)  For DH, I found some Star Wars glasses several weeks back that I knew he would love, so I'd been saving them for Valentine's Day.  Since Valentine's Day is usually a day you buy chocolate for your special someone, I wanted to get DH something sweets-related, but since he hates chocolate (his one fault;-) I had to get a little more inventive.  We have a friend in our church who does AMAZING baked goods though, and she was able to whip up a heart shaped cookie cake with the Texas Rangers logo on it!  It turned out SUPER cute, and DH absolutely LOVES it!  (He even shared some with me:)  DH and I are also kind of following South Beach Diet though, so I decided to make the rest of his gift a little more SBD-friendly and loaded him up on some of his favorite South Beach snacks.

The only damper on the day is that my precious littlest valentine is sick:( This is his first time on antibiotics, and poor baby boy just looks miserable.  It literally has broken my mommy-heart and I just want to cry with him because I know he feels so awful.  I was supposed to go to Lucy's Valentine's Day party at school this afternoon, but he finally went down for a nap, and I just don't think it would be a good idea to wake him and take him into a classroom for of all sorts of other germs.  I have a feeling Lucy won't mind so much--she will have her mind on the party and will be excited to tell me all about it when I pick her up.  (I will admit though, I'm pretty torn on missing it.)
The picture of the glowsticks are examples of what we did for her Valentines this year.  She signed her name by herself on all twenty of them:-)  Lucy absolutely loves a glowstick (Her Nonnie used to work at Michaels and has bought them for her several times, so I think that's what started her love of them) so when I saw this idea on pinterest using glowsticks and mentioned it to her, she was ALL about it.  She was so excited about taking them to school today.  She told me yesterday, "I didn't say anything about the glowsticks to anyone today!"  (She was trying hard to hold her excitement in and let it be a surprise.)

Anyway, I had hoped to do a valentine's photo shoot of the kids together, but there hasn't been enough daylight in the day:(  (I've had piano students in the afternoons.)  I did manage to get a few shots of GP the other morning though.  The lighting isn't the best, and he was just starting to get sick, so he isn't his usual smiley self, but I still love how they turned out...

Happy Valentine's Day to you!  May your day ultimately be filled with a reminder of God's great love for you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Great is Thy Faithfulness...

Lamentations 3:19-33 (The Message)
19-21 I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.

They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.
25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.
28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.
31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.

    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
    in throwing roadblocks in the way...

This time of year always reminds me of a time in my past that I went through.  I literally hit rock bottom, and it wasn't pretty.  But even in the midst of that very dark time, as much as I wanted to give up hope, it was as if Hope just refused to give up on me.  There were days where all I could do was just hold my Bible in my hands and not even read it, but His love just wouldn't let me go, and one day, He pulled me out of the pit.  This passage is such a beautiful picture of what He has done in my own life, and as I read it this morning, my heart filled with thankfulness for the mercy of my Saviour.  It reminds me of a song I've been hearing a lot on the radio lately by "Jesus Culture" called "One Thing Remains."  Each time it comes on the radio, I find myself singing along as if it were my own anthem.  (Ok, truth be known, it doesn't take much to make me sing along with a song on the radio, but still!  LOL:)

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me x3 [ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsty.com/jesus-culture-one-thing-remains-lyrics.html ]
On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I'm confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there's nothing that can separate my heart from your great love

My prayer today is that even though it's easy to get bogged down when life happens, I will remember that we don't ever have to lose hope.  While friends may grow weary of hearing us share the same sob story over and over, our Heavenly Father NEVER grows weary of us coming before Him with our cares and concerns and troubles.  Just as the passage says, His mercies are new EVERY morning!  I am so thankful that He never grows tired of me, and I pray that I would never grow weary of turning to Him.  It is my greatest hope that my children will see Jesus in me in everything I say and do, so that they, too can learn to turn to Him at every step in their own lives...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Seeing the hand of God in my life...

I was on pinterest last night and saw something a friend posted on her adoption board, and I immediately just fell in LOVE with the quote. The basic gist was this: You may not look like me, but what I am able to see in you is so much more beautiful, because when I look at you, I see the hand of God in my life.

That so describes how I feel about our precious Gabriel Paul! He is a living, breathing example of Jesus' power and provision and so much more! When I look at him, I know without a doubt that HE is the child our hearts were yearning for. And while I would love to experience the joys of pregnancy and expanding our family even further, I would not ever trade having our precious son for that experience. When he hears my voice and looks around the room for me, or when he gives me a humongous grin when I go to pick him up out of his crib, or when he reaches for me, puts his sweet chubby hands on my face, or lays his precious head on my shoulder so I can snuggle him...my heart just melts! And then to listen to Lucy talk about her baby brother...what a JOY to see how much your children love another! I don't really even know how to put it into words, but they just have such a special bond. I'm at my mom's house this weekend (I had to leave yesterday morning, so Lucy stayed with Daddy so she wouldn't miss school. We are kind of in trouble because she's missed so much from being so sick this school year.) and I talked with Lucy on the phone this morning. She said, "Tell Gabriel I love him and I miss him!" My mommy heart isn't just full from having my son, but Lucy's heart is full, too from getting to have a baby brother. What a blessing to see her take her role so seriously and blossom even more from having him in her life!

The friend who originally pinned the quote I opened this blogpost with is the one who told us about CHFS, and we started our journeys at just about the same time. It's crazy to think how when she was sitting at our "annual ball" telling me abut CHFS, little did any of us know that HER SON had just been born the day before. Their precious Parker is still in South Korea, but we are all anxiously awaiting for him to get to come home! I know I cannot fully imagine the anguish of not being able to have your baby with you, but God does. He knows exactly how they feel, and He is going to see them through this period of waiting...and bless them along the way. You see, after GP's last checkup, I had been texting with Kursten and found out they had just recently gotten an update on Parker. I shared with her what GP's measurements were, and...THEY WERE EXACTLY THE SAME AS PARKER'S! I'm talking height, weight, and even the size of their heads! I just couldn't believe it at first...but then I just had to stop and smile as I realized it wasn't a coincidence, but a precious little gift from God. I immediately told her, "You have GOT to hold Gabriel!" I mean, of course I know it's not the same thing as holding her son, but since he is not physically here for them to love on, I just thought what a sweet blessing from God to be able to love on a baby that has the exact same measurements as her own precious son. So, that following Sunday, Kursten came and scooped Gabriel up during the Sunday School hour and loved on him, and he fell asleep in her arms:)

I know we should never be surprised at how God chooses to bless us, but I mostly pray I will just never take it for granted. Adoption has taught me SO many things, but one of the greatest things has definitely been seeing the hand of God in my life. I am so very thankful for that and blessed because of that!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fore Score and One Piano Tuning Ago...

We had a visitor at our house this week, and this ivory-tickling gal is very happy because of it!  In other words, we got the piano tuned today:)  I try to get it tuned once a year, so it's been at least one year since he was here last.  Last time he came, I had to convince Lucy that he wasn't the "bad man who broke mommy's piano"!  Gotta love how kids repeat everything...especially the bits that they get confused about and don't repeat correctly;-)  (SIDE NOTE: When we moved here, the mover was very careless and caused my piano leg to get broken.  I was HEARTBROKEN, and he was just plain RUDE about the whole thing.  The man who tunes our piano is the same man who repaired the leg.)  So how does this bit of information have anything to do with this blog?  Welllll...

You might remember this particular post from last March.  We were anxiously preparing for our homestudy.  While it wasn't a "requirement" to have the room put together for the baby, we wanted to go ahead and clear out where his room was going to be, so once we were approved we would be as prepared as possible to welcome our baby home at any time:)  We were pretty concerned with what we were going to do with my piano tho.  We knew it needed to find a new place in the house, but even aside from that problem, we were just worried about having to move it period since the movers had damaged the leg.  So, I called our piano tuner and asked if we could hire him or if he knew of someone we could get to move it and explained why we were needing to do so.  He didn't seem to think it would be an issue to move it ourselves though, so DH and our good friend Blake (affectionately known in our house as the "lizard whisperper" after "rescuing" Lucy and me from a lizard roaming in our garage:-) moved my beautiful Kawai into the living room (which is really a much better place for it anyway:)

It's just amazing to me to think that just a year ago (or just "one piano tuning ago:) we were a family of three...I remember those days and treasured those days as our little trio, but I just can't imagine not being the "quatro" that we are now.  It just doesn't make sense to me.  When the piano tuner arrived, he said, "You family has grown since I was here last!" And I was reminded what a blessing we've been given.  I will be the first to admit I get very frustrated when people say how "easily" or "quickly" our adoption went through, because they just aren't seeing the whole picture of it all.  (No, we didn't have to wait ten years to have a child, but I promise you there was SO much more to it than just the 6 months that was shared on our blog.)  HOWEVER, I don't ever want to minimize what God has done for us.  Once we began the process through an agency, our wait time was VERY short, and overall the process went extremely smoothly for us.  God was preparing our hearts for a long time to be Gabriel's parents, just no one else knew that but Him until right before it happened:-)  I remember when I first began feeling God was calling us to adopt was when I noticed how my prayers had changed from "Lord please let us get pregnant" to "Lord please bless us with a child."  And Lucy began praying, "Dear Jesus, please be with my baby brother and sister..."  I began to wonder, What if the child we so long to parent is not one that we are waiting to find out we are pregnant with, but a child that already exists?  And that was truly the case, because Gabriel's birthmother was pregnant with him at that time!  It still amazes me when I think how God wove all of the details so intricately together.  It's easy to lose sight of that when we get weighed down by every day life, but I pray I can always stay "in tune" to how He is working...

And speaking of being "in tune," my Kawai is sounding beautiful after her tuning, and Lucy got to be the first one to practice on her! She has been telling me she wants to take lessons, but I think I kept putting her off because I didn't want to push it with her. Nothing would thrill my musician's heart more than to see my kids love the piano, but I don't want them to think they HAVE to if they don't want to. I want to invest in their God-given talents...and whether it's Beethoven or Basketball, I will be their number one fan! (Although, if I'm being honest, I REALLY would prefer it not be basketball;-) At any rate, Lucy kept asking for me to teach her, so I gave her something to work on and told her if she practiced the whole week, I would let her take lessons. I really thought she would lose interest (she does that with all but a very few things.) but she kept bringing up that she wanted to practice and would sit there and work through her "songs." So, on Tuesday, I gave her her very first "official" piano lesson...and I couldn't believe how easily she picked up on everything! The pianist and the teacher inside of me was jumping up and down, and the momma inside of me was beaming from the inside out! I'm in my hometown with GP taking care of my momma this weekend (she had MAJOR dental work done yesterday) and Lucy is spending the weekend with her daddy. I sent him a text last night and asked if he could help her practice her piano and he texted back with, "She already asked!" *squeel* I know it seems silly that this makes me so happy, but it's just such an awesome feeling to love someone so much and have them share in something you love, too. It's just a sweet little bonding time for us in a way. She looks at me with those big beautiful blue eyes and says, "Mommy, will you sit next to me on the bench and play the piano with me?" Melts my heart:) Anyway, here are pictures of her practicing and enjoying her first lesson:)


I was excited to hear from Gabriel's birthmother today that she received her package in the mail today with the pictures, letter, etc. I posted about last week.  The above photo/quote is one I saw on FB this week that made me think of her immediately.  This is what I posted about that picture:  
I often hear "I don't understand how a mother couldn't want her baby," but that is not the case at all with most adoptions. Gabriel's birthmother is the most selfless woman I know, and he is such a blessed little boy to be wanted and loved by so many because of his birthmother's decision.   

In her note to me today, she said: I love you all so much and thank God every day for you and the wonderful thing you have done to agree to be his family.  He looks so happy and I know he is. 

I could feel the tears welling up in my throat and trying to make their way to my eyes as I read her words.  I just can't even begin to express the love and respect we have for this incredible woman.  I've not really shared many details of what happened the day we got to take Gabriel home from the hospital, but imagine this...a woman loving her son so very much that she is able to look completely beyond her own self and do what she felt would be the very best thing for him.  As she tried to hold back her tears, she said goodbye to him and placed him in my arms.  Then she hugged me and said, "Thank you."  

I was speechless.  

This woman was giving me the most amazing gift, yet she was the one thanking me.  I will never forget that moment in all of my life.  It was the most beautiful picture of love I have ever seen played out before me...but it wasn't all "warm and fuzzy" feeling like we think of when we think of love.  It was drenched in tremendous grief and sorrow.  It was and remains to be a reminder to me that doing what is best is often not what is easiest and how we should never make our choices based on the response that they will get or the emotions they will bring about.  

I made the "mistake" once of praying for God to teach me how much He really loves me...and it was one of the most painful processes of my spiritual walk!  I learned that to understand God's love for us, we must also understand His pain.  When we look at the picture of love He has given us, it is one painted with nail-pierced hands.  He endured the greatest sacrifice so that we might receive the greatest gift ever known.  There was nothing easy about what Jesus had to endure, but he looked beyond Himself and towards His Father.  And when I think back to that day in the hospital almost 8 months ago when I saw such sacrifice and love displayed right before me, I am reminded of the greatest sacrifice of all--my Jesus dying for MY sins so that I might live. And that's why, as Christians, we are called to look to HIM and allow Him to guide us.  We are called to die to self, just like Gabriel's birthmother chose to do as a mother.  Every day, I strive to be that kind of mother to my children, but more importantly, I pray I can be selfless in every aspect of my life so that I can allow my Jesus to shine through me.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thank You, Stella's Mommy!

When DH and I were first married, he was serving as the BCM director for Western Illinois University, where I also was a student. (That's probably another post for another time, but I will just quickly say that it was a difficult time for me, juggling trying to live up to God's call as a minister alongside my husband when all anyone saw me as was just a young college student...altho I now see my hair could have had something to do with it! LOL:-) We had a small group of core students that we became very, very close to and spent a lot of time with.
I still remember our "BYOM Survivor Parties" every week at our house where the students would "bring your own meat" for DH to grill while we all watched to see how "the tribe has spoken."

A decade later, we have seen these students graduate, start their careers, and some marry (some of them others from the group!) and start families of their own. It's really such a blessing that they allow us to continue to have a glimpse into their lives and how God has guided and blessed them over the years!

One of our students, also a close friend of mine and fellow music major (I think one of the first people I met in the music department?) would house sit for us when we were out of town for various trips and camps. Our beagle absolutely LOVED Selena! She taught Annabelle how to give kisses (thanks a *lot* Selena;-) and would even do laundry for us! Selena was always very crafty, and you would often find her crocheting some sort of beautiful creation. Well, this week she blessed our family with the sweetest surprise in the mail filled with some of her beautiful crafty creations for the whole family! DH and I received a super fun wreath, Lucy got a one-of-a-kind tin with her name on it filled with a bracelet and pink nail polish (I'm so happy to hear that Selena retained the most important piece of knowledge from her college days: Pink IS God's favorite color!;-) and GP got one of Selena's crocheted creations as well as HOMEMADE teething biscuits which he absolutely LOVES (and apparently, from the picture, I have no clue how to spell;-)

Selena--thank you so much for taking such time and energy to bless our family! We love you, miss you, and hope to meet your hubby and precious baby Stella one day soon!:-)