November 28, 2011

Strollers and Shoeboxes

 Well, it's official - we own a double stroller! I knew it would be the only way for me to attempt outings on my own, and I know we'll get great use out of it. We had some gift cards to Target, so I went to the store and this was the only kind they had. It ended up being nice, because I wasn't stuck there for 30 minutes trying to make a decision! It's a BabyTrend Sit and Stand, and it has lots of configurations. Here we are modeling the new ride:

Kurt's mom gave the kids their inaugural ride!

This was a special year for us to do Operation Christmas Child, because Evy is at the age where she understands more concepts like this. I picked out the items at Target (the Dollar Bin section was GREAT!), and brought it all home. She helped me pack four boxes and we talked about the little girls who would receive these boxes. I explained that they don't have any toys, and we want to give some to them. But most of all we want to tell them about Jesus. The biggest hit was that I bought Evy some Christmas Belle (Disney Princess) socks, just like the ones we included in the boxes. So every time Evy puts on her socks, she says "The guls (girls) have these TOO!" It's so, so sweet and makes me so determined to raise ministry-minded children (and become more ministry-minded myself). I am so excited to do more projects as a family where we serve others!

November 27, 2011

Meeting the Staff

 Soon after Liam arrived home, I took him to meet some of the staff at Dad's office. We also let him explore the preschool area and walk around the church to get familiar with it (this was before he had been to church at all). We had a great time!

Dad's secretary printed out this picture while we were in Korea so everyone could see Liam!

The first thing Liam took interest in was Dad's prayer bench (that my grandfather made)!

My two littles!

Some of the staff that we got to see!

Checking out the sanctuary....

I love this picture :)

Such an answer to prayer!

November 24, 2011

Thanks Be To Our God!

I mentioned in an earlier post that our choir had the privilege and blessing of singing with Travis Cottrell last week. There were many powerful moments during that concert, where we all felt like we were going to just see Christ return at any moment. Our very last song with Travis was "Thanks Be to Our God." It was one of those really personal songs, where we knew every member of our choir was expressing thanks to God for what He has done in our lives. I never want to forget what that felt like, to collectively praise God at that level. 
This Thanksgiving, I want to share these song lyrics with you (sadly I couldn't find a video), because it expresses my heart perfectly. Kurt and I, along with all of our families, are just in awe of what God has done.

For the road that leads from darkness into light,

For the hope that rescues from endless night,

For the grace covers sin, at the the door where life begins,

For salvation reaching in to guide us through,

Thanks be to our God.

For the healing that no mortal can explain,

For deliverance that breaks the sinner's chains,

For the strength to carry on, and forgiveness great and strong,

And the promise of your mercies ever new,

Thanks be to our God.

Hallelujah! Everlasting songs will rise

For all you've done.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thanks be to our God!

For the emptiness that cries out to be filled,

For the promise that your word is deeper still,

For the longing and the need, to have more of you in me,

Because nothing satifies the way you do,

Thanks be to our God!

Hallelujah! Everlasting songs will rise

For all you've done.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thanks be to our God!

For the mysterious beyond the veil of death,

For the peace that opens with our closing breath,

When our struggles pass away, and we finally see your face,

And a greater glory rises into you.

Thanks be to our God!

Hallelujah! Everlasting songs will rise

For all you've done.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thanks be to our God!

Hallelujah! Everlasting songs will rise

For all you've done.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thanks be to our God!

Thanks be to our God!

Hallelujah! Everlasting songs will rise

For all you've done.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thanks be to our God!

November 23, 2011

Christmas Fun

Like I said in my last post, we are always wanting to focus on spending time together as a family during the Christmas season. Especially now that Liam is here, we're excited to create new memories together! Here are some fun things we're doing:

- Kurt and I are going to have a date to see Mr. Dumey's Christmas Dinner Show! I KNOW I've talked about him before, but Mr. Dumey was my 7th grade choir director, and he totally and completely changed how I viewed singing, performance, etc. He was, by far, one of my favorite teachers I've ever had. Each year he directs a Christmas dinner show that includes a great meal and great entertainment! Kurt and I went last year and it's a really happy memory for us.

-We will be having rehearsals for our Christmas worship program at church! The program will be on December 11th, and it will be so awesome.

-Speaking of, we offered to host the choir Christmas party at our house after the program! We want to practice hospitality and open our home to others, and this was a great way to help serve.

-We will drive through the Christmas light display at one of our local parks. This is so much fun because we we listen to Christmas music and make a fun evening out of it!

-We are going to do something new this year and go see the live nativity called "Road to Bethlehem." It's in another nearby town, but you walk through the "town of Bethlehem" and enjoy what that must have been like. I think the kids will really enjoy it!

-I'd like to go and see the historic Glenn House all decorated for Christmas!

-I'm looking forward to watching some Christmas shows/movies! This is a great way to keep up with what's coming on!

-I'm hosting a small Christmas party for some of Evy and Liam's little friends, which will be so cute. We'll just do some fun Christmasy crafts and such. :)

-Like I mentioned before, we are excited to participate in the Food Basket ministry as well as provide Christmas for the Christian Actvities Center.

-We're going to do something for Advent, and we're still working out what that will be for our little ones. It will probably just involve a nightly short discussion about Christmas and talking about the nativity, etc. We'll just keep it to their age level and have fun with it.

-My friend Whitney and I are obsessed with the Tudor period of English history, so we're going to try and get tickets to one of the high school's Madrigal Feasts. I hope we can make it work!

-We'll be going to Kurt's parents' to celebrate Christmas the weekend before Christmas. Since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, it was hard to figure out our travel schedule! Since we rotate holidays, we'll be home for Christmas this year. I hate that we have to be at the Lancasters' a whole week before Christmas and not closer to the day, but unfortunately that's how it fell with Kurt's work schedule. However, we're thankful and excited to spend whatever time we can with Kurt's family! It's always strange for me to have Christmas in my own house since I grew up traveling, but I like that every other year we'll be at our house, and the other years we'll be at the Lancasters'. It's the best of both!

I'm sure there's more we'll be up to, but that's a good synopsis. This is my favorite time of the year, and I can't believe it's already here. It will be Liam's first Christmas with us, which is incredibly special. What are some special things you do each Christmas?

It's Different This Year.

We are here at Kurt's parents' and having a great time so far! We are celebrating Thanksgiving here, and then we'll head home on Friday to see my mom's parents who are in town. Very sadly, we'll just miss seeing my dad's parents who are there right now! :( But we look forward to making another Texas trip to spend time with them!

So, here's where I am with Christmas. Honestly, it's been very different for me this year. Usually I'm in full festive swing by late October/early November. I'm not one of those who ignores Thanksgiving - I love it! I just usually am in the holiday mindset pretty early. And that wasn't the case this year. I'm not sure what it was. I think being in Korea for a week, adding our second child to the family, overcoming jetlag, and settling into life with two kids probably had something to do with it? Ha! I've just felt so off-kilter with everything.

Another thing that totally threw me: I lost all of our data on our external hard drive. Long story short, I think it got damaged in transit to Korea. I had meant to double check and make sure everything was backed up in another place, but it just didn't get done. I'm completely backed up until March or April 2011, but after that I'm having to piece pictures back together from Facebook and the blog. It has really messed me up, simply because I'm angry with myself for not being more diligent in backing things up. And I haven't bought a new hard drive yet, so things are just sitting in random places. It's like a weight on my shoulders that won't go away. I know that once I take the time to sit down and tackle it, I'll feel better. Because of this, I haven't created the photo calendar that I usually give to all of our family, and I'm just going to have to make the announcement that they might be late this year. This is the downside of a Type A personality - letting things go, telling people something might be late, etc., absolutely kills me. It kills me. But the Lord and I have been working on this, and part of that is me being really convicted about "STUFF" this year.

I'm not one of those who all of a sudden thinks that we shouldn't celebrate Christmas because of the "commercialism" or refuse to take part in festivities because we should only be doing philanthropic work during the holidays. There has to be a balance. However, I put up my tree the other day and left it bare for a good week. Every time I thought about decorating it, I just wasn't ready. The only way I know to describe it is that I was having to process what it means to have your own celebration while still recognizing the povertry, sadness, and general need in the world. My mind just needed to process it.

Kurt sat down with me and we had a talk about things. He told me, "You need to understand that it's okay to have our tree up and celebrate as a family what Christmas really means. It's okay!" I just needed someone to tell me that I wasn't being disrespectful to the orphan crisis, or world hunger, or homelessness, etc. etc. by decorating a tree.

And I still LOVE Christmas! It's just the excess that is really getting to me this year. I online-shopped for my gifts, and I still love giving gifts to friends and family. And my kids will still get a few gifts. And my house is still decorated (minus a few things). But when I see people talking about how long their Christmas lists are, or I see a pair of $500 boots, or people complaining about the PETTIEST things. . .I've been extra upset this year. It has REALLY bothered me!

Some might think that it's because we just got home from Korea and what that did to our perspective, etc. But honestly, Liam didn't come from a third-world country. He wasn't starving. I still think that his adoption is just as meaningful as a starving child in Africa, and who knows - Kurt and I might be called to adopt from a situation like that in the future. The only way I can explain my level of conviction this year is that it just came from the Lord. I got the Samaritan's Purse gift catalog in the mail and couldn't take my eyes from it. I could NOT bring myself to throw it away. I also read posts like this from my friend Debbi who is in the process of adopting Crew from Ethiopia.

Here's the conundrum with blogging - the minute you're transparent with your feelings or convictions, people are very quick to examine you and let you know if you're being hypocritical. And I'm going to be honest with you: I'm still sorting through what all of this means for us. I'm still figuring out the balance between celebrating Christmas and just how different it should look from the traditional model. The only reason I'm writing this is to get it off my chest and share my heart. Like I said, my kids are still getting a few gifts, and my house is still decorated. We're still going to do some Christmasy things! And we're going to enjoy doing it!

I do want to share some things that we're doing (or did) this year. Like I said, I shopped Samaritan's Purse a lot. You can give a sheep to a family who needs it, feed a baby for a week, give a life-saving mosquito net, etc. And all of the gifts can be given in honor of your loved ones! While I did buy a few gifts for Evy and Liam, they're getting about three things. I'm going to clear out the toys we don't use and give them to Goodwill so that other children can play with them. I'm also going to go through Evy's clothes and only keep the ones that are special (in case we have other girls). The rest will go to a friend so they won't just be sitting in bins. We packed 4 boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Evy helped me with this and it was so, so meaningful (pictures coming soon!)! We are participating in our church's Food Basket ministry, and I want us to go and help deliver the baskets if our schedule allows. We are providing Christmas for a little girl at the Christian Activities Center in St. Louis (a very, very poor area of that city). We are providing Christmas for two children in the Angel Tree ministry (whose parents are in prison). I'm NOT listing off this things to be boastful or to show how benevolent we are!!!! PLEASE understand. I'm only sharing these things because you might be interested in doing the same.

Truthfully, I've always felt like we do well in the "don't overdo it" area of Christmas. We've always been aware of needs and have limited the over-abundance. But we need to do more. The point of this post is not so that we can all start comparing each other's "good deeds" and judge each other's decisions. Everyone is responsible for their own decisions and what God has called them to do. But I just wanted to share where we are this season and some things we're doing.

My next post is sharing some of the "family things" we're doing this Christmas! One of the most important things to us is just spending time together, so I thought it would be fun to share some of what we have planned. I'm sorry for the LONG post, but I wanted to just unload some stress (the external hard drive, anyone?) and share my heart!

November 20, 2011

Post Placement #1

Tomorrow we will have our first Post Placement visit from our social worker. We actually started the process with a different SW, but she is no longer with Holt, so we'll be meeting Joy for the first time tomorrow.

This visit begins our process of finalizing Liam's adoption. Since we will adopt Liam through the United States government (and not Korea), we are technically only his foster family/guardians at this point. In Missouri, there are two hearings that take place in court - the first transfers custody over to us and the second is to finalize the adoption. We will have three Post Placement visits at 1, 3, and 6 months home. After each of these visits, our social worker will write reports based on her interviews with us and her observations of Liam. These reports are then used in our finalization process.

I'm just glad to get the ball rolling! This is also a special milestone, because tomorrow will mark exactly one month since Liam came home! WOW! I can't believe we have been home a month. I really don't feel like I came out of the fog until we had been home about two weeks, but these past two weeks have been really good. We have started to settle into somewhat of a routine, and it has been WONDERFUL to be back in church and involved like we're used to. :)

Now that the holidays are starting (YAY!!), I know we'll create some great memories and just enjoy being together. I'm going to write a post about my thoughts on Christmas this year. It's been different for me this year, but in a good way. I'll share soon. :)

Pray that our social worker sees how much Liam loves us and how much we love him, and that everything goes smoothly!

November 18, 2011

When the Stars Burn Down

Today was so fun! My family ate lunch with Travis Cottrell and his worship team. They are here to do a concert with our choir tonight, and we are so excited! For those who aren't familiar with Travis, he's an incredible worship leader and very prominent in the Christian music industry. You've probably heard him sing "In Christ Alone." Although he didn't write that song, he made it incredibly popular. Travis has a new album out called "When the Stars Burn Down." Our choir will be singing some of these new songs with him as well as classics like "In Christ Alone" and "Revelation Song." It's going to be an incredible evening.

For me and Kurt to be able to say that we've sung with Travis is such an honor, and we know God will do incredible things!

November 15, 2011

Veteran's Day Speech from my Grandfather

My mom's father, my Poppy, is a retired Brig. General in the United States Air Force. But beyond that, he is one of the most incredible sources of information, wisdom, and thought-provoking anecdotes that I've ever had the privilege to be in company and conversation with. It's still unreal to me that God would choose for me to be born into such a family as that of my grandfather (I can say the same of my dad's father as well). As I get older, I am more and more humbled and grateful for the legacy that's mine.

On Veteran's Day, my grandfather was asked to speak for two engagements. We have the footage of his invocation during the opening ceremonies for the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Northwest Arkansas. I will cherish this footage forever, not just because of the words spoken, but of watching my grandfather in uniform. I've seen him in it a handful of times during my life, and without a doubt, it is more and more special each time.

I wanted to share his words with you so you can get a glimpse of the incredible man he is. Pause my music in the right-hand column so you can hear the video. As a sidenote, I've had the privilege of traveling the world with my grandfather, and one of our trips was to Washington, D.C. when I was around 13 years old. You'll hear him reference Bob Utley, who served during D-Day. I had the honor of meeting Bob and his wife when we visited D.C., and he was such a special, sweet man. There just aren't enough words in my heart when I listen to this invocation and the memories it brings to my mind that I have with my grandfather. I'm so thankful.

I love you, Poppy!

November 14, 2011

TV + Biography = New Obsession

Back in the summer, I started doing something new. I love classic TV shows, and I also love biographies. Without meaning to, I started to combine the two! It began when I bought Melissa Gilbert's biography, Prairie Tale.

I wanted to learn more about her and her perspective of her life and the show. I read that book SO QUICKLY. She gave her whole background, not just inside info about Little House. It actually helped to understand where she was emotionally when she was filming that show. Of course there were tidbits and stories and "behind the scenes" stuff that was just fascinating to me. I liked the she inserted those anecdotes into the full picture of her life. Because I felt like I knew her, it made me really sad when I learned that she filed from divorce from her husband several months ago. She had ended the book talking about how she had really settled into a happy life with Bruce and so I was surprised and very saddened to hear about the end of her marriage. I think that's what biographies do - they personalize people for you.

At the same time I had bought Melissa's book, I also bought Alison Arngrim's book (she played Nellie Olsen on the show). It fascinated me. I devoured it! She took a more comedic approach to telling her story, which is appropriate because she's a stand-up comedienne! She also told her whole story, but she focused a good bit on the Little House years. I don't think I'm giving anything away, but Alison really had a tragic childhood. I will never watch her the same way on TV. The show was really an escape for her, and that's why her performances as Nellie were so genius. I walked away with a much deeper understanding of Alison and I also LOVED the inside stories she told about the show!

Coincidentally, I had been recording and watching Little House on the Prairie while I was reading these two books. It didn't start out that way, but I love that they overlapped. I was amazed at how much it added to my experience of watching the show since I was also reading the background information!

Because I enjoyed the process of simultaneously reading and watching, I picked up Dick Van Dyke's biography: My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business.

I also really enjoyed this book, but it gave me a different perspective of Dick, and I'm not sure it was a positive perspective. I'm not usually that naive person who can't watch an actor portray more than one character, but I guess I really attached to the "Burt" in Mary Poppins persona when I picked Dick Van Dyke.

But he wasn't Burt in real life. I don't want to put a totally negative spin on the book, because I did enjoy it. However, I felt like there were several narcissistic moments where he was very proud of his achievements. Also, the thing that shocked me the most was how flippantly he wrote about his affair that broke up his marriage with the mother of his four children. Did you know that Burt from Mary Poppins had an affair that ended his marriage? Yeah, I didn't either. He also shared some views on God and faith that surprised me. Again, I think I was picturing him as Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, and he was just different in real life. I did enjoy hearing his perspective about the Dick Van Dyke Show, when he was starring with Mary Tyler Moore. It was good to read how special their relationship was.

Of course with Liam coming home, and other things keeping me busy, I haven't been reading a ton lately. But I'm the type that can't be away from reading for very long. It makes me very antsy if I'm not in a good book. So I'm about to embark on a new TV and Biography journey!

I grew up watching the Brady Bunch every single day after school while eating Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. Today I realized that I miss the Brady Bunch and I really want to be nostalgic and watch it again. One episode comes on each day and I taped it for the first time today. It made me smile because I thought back to being little. :)

 To correspond with the Brady's, I'm going to start reading Florence Henderson's biography, Life Is Not a Stage.

I'm excited to learn her story and her perspective! There wasn't a huge reason behind this post, but I enjoy sharing books, etc. that I've learned something from. I actually think biographies can be the best kind of book, because we're able to learn from the human experience firsthand. People are sitting down to write their stories so, in essence, we can understand them better and learn from their successes and mistakes. When the opportunity comes along to appreciate anything or anyone a little better, I place high value on that. Just thought I would share!

November 13, 2011

Liam's Adoption Announcement

Here are Liam's adoption announcements! You can click on the pictures of the front and back to see it bigger. I absolutely LOVE them!

I think it perfectly reflects how we feel and how grateful we are for this journey and all God has done. We also wanted to honor Liam's foster family because they are a huge part of Liam's story. Two of the pictures on the front of the card were taken by our photographer in Korea, Romin Lee Johnson, and I snapped the picture of Evy and Liam together in our front yard. Isn't it precious?! I think the announcements turned out beautifully.

I wish I could send everyone an announcement in the mail (just like Christmas cards)! I wanted to share it with you this way so everyone can see. :) We're so thankful to have Liam HOME and it felt so wonderful to send these in the mail! Thank you, Lord.

Fall Block Parties

On the night of Halloween, our church had several block parties at people's homes around town. Growing up, we used to have one big fall festival, but the last couple of years our church has taken this approach, which gets us out into the community more. We've seen a good response to people walking up to the block parties as their kids trick or treat.

This year, Kurt was on call, so I took the babies over to my parents' house for dinner, and then we walked over one of the block parties a street over. It was the very first time a group of people had seen Liam, and he was a huge hit (of course!). It was perfect because there weren't too many people, but he was able to have a little social interaction. I didn't have a costume for Liam - it just wasn't something high on the priority list. Evy already had several princess dresses, so she chose to be Snow White for the evening. We had a lot of fun and we enjoyed keeping it low key!

This says it all!

Pinka treated Liam to his first cotton candy!

Evy Katie loved doing the ball toss!

Having fun with Ginger and Bitty!

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