Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

We've had a happy day, full with family and Christmas excitement from beginning to end. It was one of those years where everything just seemed perfect, making me want to lock all the memories away as they happened. To help me with that, I just happened to get a Christmas present that I'm more than a little excited about. A new camera!!!

I am so pumped.

I know next to nothing about it, but I was able to grasp the automatic function well enough to capture the day. I look forward to diving in later, but for now, here is a glimpse of Christmas.

I hope that no matter your situation, good or bad, the hope of Jesus was with each of you today. Christmas can just as easily be difficult as light-hearted, but Jesus is the same. I pray that His light will shine brightly in all of us as we finish out this year. Merry Christmas, and may God bless you each and all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Marianna's musings

Today I thought I would share with you some of Marianna's keener observations of late. She keeps me laughing on a daily basis, and I hope some of them make you smile too. Enjoy!!

*A few days ago Marianna and Adrienne were eating lunch in the car. Adrienne had already finished her chicken and she decided she would like to have some of Marianna's lunch as well. Marianna tried for several minutes to keep the sandwich out of reach, but Adrienne continued to protest. That's when Marianna decided to try a new tactic. I heard her announce: "Okay Adrienne, the person whose hand is bigger will get to eat the sandwich. (half second pause for examination) Well, it looks like my hand is bigger. I get the sandwich!"

No arguing that logic, right? Unfortunately, Adrienne wasn't satisfied with the full proof decider-of-sandwich method Marianna created, and the protest continued until the sandwich was gone =).

*Yesterday morning I let the girls each open an early Christmas present that came in the mail. Marianna was thrilled with her new microphone, but it turns out Adrienne was as well. Between the signing microphone and the screaming girls, the noise level was soon above operational. We sat down and had a talk about the right and wrong ways to respond to a toy being taken away, and with Christmas just a week away, I felt it was a much needed discussion. A few minutes later I asked Marianna, " What do I not want to hear on Christmas morning?" hoping to reinforce what we had just talked about. She immediately replied, "That Santa Claus isn't real!"

I had to stop and laugh. Yesterday we had also had a discussion, focusing on the fact that while Marianna does not believe in Santa, her cousins do, so any word to the contrary that would ruin Christmas for them would not be appreciated. So, yes, she was right. An exclamation of "Santa Claus isn't real!" is definitely not what I want to hear on Christmas. Among other things.

I tried again. "What else do I not want to hear on Christmas morning?" She replies in her meanest voice, "I hate you! I will never be your friend! I don't want any of my presents!..." And I cut that little tirade off right there. Yes, once again, she hit the bulls eye. None of those things would be music to my ear on Christmas morning either. I realized the open-endness of my question was getting me no where, so we went ahead and moved on. Hopefully, she will also remember, among all the other many examples she gave of what not to say on Christmas, that she will also not scream if her sister takes a toy from her =).

*The other day we were listening to a Christmas cd that I have in the car. One of the songs is Faith Hill's "A Baby Changes Everything", and as soon as that song finished playing Marianna exclaimed, "Mom, that song is just like me, isn't it? Because when I was a baby, I changed everything too." I responded, "Well, for me and your daddy, you certainly did."

If nothing else, we've given the child a healthy self-esteem, wouldn't you say?

So what has your child said today that has you rolling with laughter? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

my Christmas loves

Thank you to Ashleigh Peak for the beautiful work she did!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas on the brain

This is an action shot of Marianna pouring her heart out to Santa on Saturday night. She was ready, rapid fire style with her list: a Barbie with a fashion dress, a Barbie camper, and a Barbie necklace. It was all business as she discussed this with Santa, who by the way, she doesn't even believe in. But still, she feels it is an important thing to do.

Today Nathan shared with me one tidbit he had forgotten about last night's experience. During her bathroom break last night, Marianna evidently examined the contents of the toilet bowl and let Nathan know she felt it looked like a wise man's crown. I feel all of you will probably agree that when observations of that nature are being made it's safe to say that Christmas is on the brain.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

a new trick

To me, Photoshop is like the Bermuda triangle. I feel like once I step in, I might get swallowed up by the vastness of everything I don't know about it. It's scary, so I generally don't touch it.

But tonight I have broken through a barrier and peeled back a tiny corner of that vastness that has previously been untouched. Yes, I have learned a new trick, and I'm going to show it off.

The backdrop for my new talent is the Alpine Village, a wonderfully magical Christmas event at a local church that focuses on children under age 10. I was blown away by everything, from the 10 or so cottages the kids could go into to make crafts, cookies, candles, cards, and more, to the North Pole visit to Santa, to the live nativity, to the puppet show. It was really fantastic, and as you will see, the girls had a blast.

Here they are showing off their new ink.

Posing, angelic and frostine.

And there you have it. I've learned how to make a photo collage with my pictures. Nathan wanted to know if I thought the new discovery would revolutionize my blogging. Probably not.
But it is fun, and I do love new tricks!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Energy

It's Christmastime again—or as Marianna calls it, Christmas days. There is no doubt it is all about the days to her right now as she take one little nativity character out of her advent calendar each day and puts it up at the top. For me they fly, to her they creep, but either way, one day at a time we are going through the days of December.

In these first 11 days, we've already witnessed around here what I'm sure you already know to be true: we all have a little extra energy to spend during the Christmas season. You all know that Marianna's Christmas energy led to eager and unrestrained fingers about a week ago, but whether we have a penchant for present spying or not, we all have extra Christmas energy that we use in some way or another. We decorate with flair, we bake with passion, we shop with determination. There just seems to be a little more "umph" in everything we do.

So the question is, where am I directing all of my energy this season? Last year I thought about this question a lot, and as I was thinking on how to purposefully use my energy, it became very clear to me how lazily I had used my energy before. In years past I had been no less busy, but it seemed I couldn't remember spending my time on many things that were truly important. Yes, I did a lot, but staying occupied isn't the point of Christmas. The point is remembering what it is really about and doing those things that help make Christmas more meaningful to you and those around you in your family, friend circles, and communities.

That's why last year I had a little campaign on my blog to "Take Christmas Back." It was my way of setting a goal to do something purposefully every day that helped me and Nathan and the girls remember what Christmas is really about. It was really, really wonderful to sit back and look at Christmas from a "how can I make it meaningful" perspective, and it's something I definitely want to do again this year, and every year.

The terrific thing is how easy and fun it is to incorporate little things into each day that help us focus on Jesus and His gift to us. Just keeping your ears open is a fantastic way to find places to go, things to make, and activities to participate that focus on the giving and not the getting. And the way things are going around here, I can tell we need that lesson more this year than ever before. So how have we kept little minds off of ripping into Christmas presents around here? Well, truth be told, we haven't =). But we have found some super fun ways to be actively involved in trying to give to others like Jesus has given to us.

On Monday night we had the privilege of being able to go back for the second time to the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home to throw a Christmas party for one of the cottages. Our fantastic connection class at church along with another wonderful class from Bellevue, joined forces to put together a dinner, presents, and lots of crafts and games for the seven girls in the cottage. It was SO much fun to get to visit with these amazing girls. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. These girls blew me away.

That's just one example of the thousands of opportunities that I know are all around us, not only at Christmas, but all year long. I want to do, not for the sake of doing, but for the sake of taking advantage of our time, and using it to some things that are truly important. And coincidentally, those things also happen to make Christmas all the more fun and exciting and special to each of the members of our family. Focusing only on the presents leaves us feeling a little empty. Baking and decorating and doing only for ourselves doesn't automatically make us happy.

The true joy in Christmas I believe comes from looking at Jesus, rejoicing over His gift, and using that as the springboard for everything else we do this Christmas season.

What do you think? I'd love to hear some ideas from you on opportunities you've noticed or taken advantage of to make Christmas special this year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The run

is done!!!

This morning was the St. Jude half-marathon, the race that I have been looking forward to and training for all summer and fall. I didn't know what to expect, never having done anything like it before, but it was an experience I will not soon forget.

St. Jude is an amazing place, and getting to run for the kids was definitely special. One of the best parts of the race was when the course took us through the St. Jude campus and the different families came out to cheer. One in particular brought tears to my eyes. A little boy in a wheel chair, hooked up to tubes and covered in blankets, sat next to his parents, cheering us on. He was such an inspiration, reminding me that you can't run for a better cause.

When I hit mile 10, those three miles ahead of me were looking awfully long; by mile 12 I was on autopilot. But I had two wonderful running buddies and together we pushed to the end. The race finished in AutoZone park to a baseball stadium full of cheering people. I finished at 2:09:52.

After today I can confidently say two things: 1)I'm glad I decided to run in a half marathon. 2) I will never run the full 26.2. That vow was made around mile 13 =).

And of course, the best part was seeing the happy faces waiting on me at the end.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

T-minus 2 days

Anticipation, I am just about to kiss you goodbye.

You have been my constant companion these past four months, inspiring me, pushing me, keeping me going.

You've been a companion worth having because you have gotten me to the place I need to be.

But at 8:00 Saturday morning as soon as the whistle blows, you will be gone.

Because at 8:00 AM when the whistle sounds, the race will begin.

13.1 miles. St. Jude Half-Marathon. Here I come!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You Better Watch Out

Since we are officially in the Christmas swing of things, I believe you can all finish the phrase. Those words to the classic children's song are supposed to serve as a helpful admonition to all children to be on their best behavior, because of course, Santa Claus is coming to town!

Maybe Marianna is not old enough to understand that, or maybe she just felt like those words were better applied to me. Here's what happened.

We put our Christmas tree up on Saturday. It was by far, her most thrilling Christmas decorating session to date. Every ornament she came across was like a reunion with her best friend. I can't imagine that she even remembered most of them from last year, but she talks a big game and I was beginning to think maybe, just maybe, she did.

The tree went up, the tree skirt went under, the star went on top, and no sooner were we done than Marianna was begging for a few presents to be wrapped and put under the tree. Her presents of course. Nathan, being the terrific dad he is, wrapped up three presents as soon as the girls went to bed and had them placed under the tree for them to see when they woke up. That was Sunday.

Monday morning, just 24 hours later, I'm in the kitchen when I hear Marianna saying, "Oh Mom, I'm so sorry! I'm so, so sorry! I'm sorry. I'm sorry." I run in and find her sitting in front of the Christmas tree, an empty box and shredded paper in front of her, a confused, but innocent sister beside her, and a hand behind her back, clutching the present she has just unwrapped.

Yes, I better watch out indeed. It seems that 4 is the age from which I will always have to be on the look out from the little Christmas eager claws of Marianna. I will now probably have to find better hiding spots and out of reach locations to hide the presents that evidently cannot go under the tree this year until Christmas Eve.

The hardest part? Not laughing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Praise the Lord, for His goodness never ceases

Today is December 1st, and in many ways it is the day that gives me more reason to praise God than any other because of what it symbolizes in my life. I praise God because I am a different person because of the past two December firsts God has ushered into my life. I praise God that through these two days specifically, and many others collectively, He has shown me that He is real, good, gracious, and loving. I know that more today than I used. I believe it more today, not because I didn't believe it before, but because I didn't have the capacity for believing it as deeply as I do now. God is good. He is always good. But this day highlights his goodness in my life like none other.

Most of you probably know that today is Poppy's 2nd birthday. It was on this morning two years ago that we got to meet the miracle that God blessed us with. I say that now, two years later, with conviction. We were blessed by Poppy. She was such a gift, although one I didn't always recognize in the months leading up to her birth. I saw the disease of trisomy 18 as the enemy. Now I see that in a way, it was her sickness that allowed God's glory to shine all the brighter. Poppy was beautiful, and perfect, and loved, by us and most of all by God. She looks down from heaven. From heaven! I don't believe that today she is sad because of the sickness that shortened her time here, and though I will always miss her, I am no longer consumed with sadness. This was God's plan for her, and His plan for us, and over the past two years God has graciously let me see even more glimpses of His perspective by showing me the big picture of how He uses our tiny baby to cast His light on the dark, hard places of different peoples' hearts.

That's why today is a day to celebrate and praise.

One year ago today, something else significant happened. God orchestrated something beautiful for us when He allowed Adrienne's official adoption day to be December 1, 2008. On May 29th Adrienne came into our home, but the law requires a six month waiting period before adoptions can become official. That is how it happened that last year, on Poppy's first birthday, we gathered at the courthouse to sign the paperwork that would make Adrienne a part of our family forever. Another reminder that God is good.

God is good, but not just because He allowed us to adopt Adrienne. Please don't walk away thinking God was only good because He did something for us. The truth is, whether we were chosen to be Adrienne's family or not, God is good. God is good despite the circumstances of our life. If you don't believe that, then believe me, you will go through circumstances terrible enough to make you doubt God. If you don't believe that God is good no matter what, then you will compare your life to the lives of others and walk away feeling God has not been very good to you. Please, please, don't believe that lie. Instead, I hope that you will see God is good, in the good and in the bad. Good because that is His essence. He loves us, He has given everything for us, and whether or not we are going through something difficult or coasting through on an easy road, He is good.

December 1 reminds me of that. That is why today is a day for celebration and praising.

I want to share with you again a few of the moments captured on film and video on Poppy's birthday two years ago. What we shared with her during those three hours, I will never forget.