2013: Year in Review

As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 tonight, it only seems fitting to look back one more time on this super-crazy-good year…

2013 started with me just so thankful that the holidays were over.  Thanksgiving and Christmas without Amania last year was indescribably difficult, and for the first time I can remember, I was just happy it was over.  We rolled right on through January and February waiting for news, and in March our answer came – our girl was coming home!

But, first – one last vacation as a family of six to our favorite ranch in Colorado – Lost Valley!

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It snowed and it was cold and Matt was sick and exhausted and in some ways the trip was a forecast for our whole year – good, but not easy, but like everything else, I’m so glad we did it.

Just a few short days after that, Matt and I packed up to head to Haiti to bring our girl home….

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And then the process of adjusting to this new family member began.  Everyone did amazingly well and it wasn’t long really before she felt like just another one of our girls.  It has been a continual process in some areas, and will be for some time, I’m sure; but we are blessed in how easy, all things considered, the transition has been.

And then it snowed.  In May.

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And then, because our lives were just too normal (???), we decided to buy a new (to us) house.  And so, what was meant to be a relaxing summer of bonding and recovery turned into an insanely busy summer of packing, home repairs, moving, showings, inspections, closings, unpacking, painting, and more.  I’ve never been so happy to see a summer end and a school year begin, just so we could have some structure to our lives again!  But, it was totally worth it.

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in with the new(er)….

And all that crazy ended up pushing me over the edge and I faced a season of depression I haven’t seen in years.  And God, in His great wisdom and mercy, introduced our family to essential oils and we have become completely committed to this crazy, oily way of life.  And because of my (sometimes excessive) transparency, I have been blessed with the opportunity to share oils with many old and new friends and watch them also find healing in these seemingly simple treasures.

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In August we started a new school year and we settled in a bit and since then we’ve helped organize a race and had friends visit and taken road trips and celebrated birthdays and life has been beautiful.

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And we played soccer and we played volleyball and I got a tattoo to remind me that hope is that anchor for the soul that gives the heart wings.

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And Thanksgiving and Christmas came again and everything was different because everything has changed.  And two years ago I never would have guessed I could be happier than I was then and a year ago I never would have guessed what a year would bring and today I wouldn’t change a thing.

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And a video, just for fun, because watching Amania open her “big gift” as we call it, on Christmas morning, was absolutely priceless….

(click the photo and it will take you to the video in a new window)

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As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 and I look back on this crazy year, I can’t help but have a heart full of thanks for God’s faithfulness, mercy, and goodness.  His love never fails.

Looking forward to a new year of adventure with my favorite people and following God wherever He may lead us.

For His Glory ~

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Joy Find #16 – another year of God’s unending faithfulness and love

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Celebrating My Love

Today my best friend, my beloved, my favorite, celebrates another year of life and I celebrate the gift he is to me, to our family.  I continue to stand amazed at how God blessed me with this man and how thankful I am for the chance to live life with him.

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I’ve shared many times (maybe too many) about how this year has been defined by changes, all good changes, but several big changes.  And those changes had some big effects on each of us individually and on our marriage.  Matt walked with me through a deep valley of depression the likes of which I hadn’t seen in well over a decade, maybe since before we met.  I know he became discouraged when he felt there was nothing he could do to help me, but he never gave up and has been more than supportive as I’ve recovered.

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I watched as people who never had an opinion before suddenly had loud and significant opinions about our family life and his work schedule and the choices we make.  And he stood firm, recognizing that the path God is leading us down is no ordinary path and we may be misunderstood and it may be lonely, but with God we are where we should be.

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And this year our marriage took a beating that I don’t feel like we’ve had since the first year we were married (the year that both of us thought we had made a horrible mistake and wished there was a way out).  It has been a long, hard year for our marriage, but by God’s grace, we have held on to Him and to each other, never giving up hope that things will one day get better, get back to where they were.

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And as our lives start to settle down, just a little, and we find this “new normal” I see glimpses of us again.  But even if things don’t ever get back to what we once were (even though I’m sure they will), there’s still no one else I’d rather do life with, no one else better suited for me, no one else I want to grow old with.  And I believe we will laugh at the crazy days we’ve come through and we will laugh at the days to come, because of the Hope that lives in us.

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For His Glory,

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Joy Find 15 – my beloved
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Adopted for Joy

I sit here, the room across the hall finally quiet.  My heart hurts for a girl who chooses a harder path out of fear.  And I think of our adoption as children of God and how our Father trains us, teaches us, disciplines us, in ways we often don’t understand.  Ways that seem too hard at the time, but they are for a bigger purpose.  And just like each new stage and event and transition in life bring struggles for this otherwise adaptable little one, we are daily presented with the temptation to revert to our old ways, to take on a survival mindset that says God cannot be trusted and my way is best.  And yet, it never is and He always can.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child and exchange gifts and sit in wonder at the manger, I am thankful for the gift of adoption, the gift of being bought for His Kingdom, to be part of His family, and to have this child as part of ours.  I am thankful for parenthood and how it gives the tiniest glimpse into the heart of God and His great love for us and that bigger picture mindset.  And I am thankful for His gentle, but firm, hand that always leads, always guides, always hangs on.

May your Christmas be filled with wonder at the gift born long ago and the gift He gave everything to give to us.

Joy Find #13 – adoption by a perfect Father, paid for at the cost of His own Son

For His Glory ~

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Joy to Share

I knew this 25 days would take a while, especially during such a busy month.  🙂

Here we go with a few joy finds of late –

Joy Find #8 home school choir singing carols in the library rotunda; beauty echoing, singing glory.

Joy Find #9 – trees that count gifts and that count down to the Ultimate GiftPhoto & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Joy Find #10 – annual church lightshow, a favorite holiday tradition

Joy Find #11 – Christmas goodies sent by friends far away

Joy Find #12 – twinkle lights and falling snow

 

May you be finding moments of joy in the midst of the busy season.

For His Glory ~

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Getting Older

One of the funny things I’ve noticed about “getting older” is watching those you love get older too.  And so it’s a little surreal today to be celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday.  I’m not sure how my dad is that old, and if you know him at all, you’re probably a little surprised too.

And the older I get the more I come to appreciate my dad just as he is.  Probably because the older I get, the more like him I become.  Our relationship has been marked by some very rocky years, but I’m thankful for a dad who led his family to Jesus and prays for us all like crazy, who is honest to a fault and generous to the same degree, who loves with his whole heart and is in turn loved by so many.

Happy birthday, Dad.  I’m blessed to have a few really great men in my life; one of them is you. We all love you!

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{Quite possibly my dad’s first “selfie”. 🙂 }

For His Glory ~

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Joy #7

Joy came last night and this morning by way of the western horizon.

Last night….driving and looking westward and seeing the sky ablaze in red sunset – brilliant and breath-taking in its radiance.

This morning….walking with a friend up the hill to our cars with giant golden moon just sinking below the horizon – haunting and humbling in its beauty.

The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech.  Night after night they reveal knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-2

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The Difference a Year Can Make….

A year ago, I sat waiting and wondering.  I looked at pictures of a little girl far away.  I walked daily by her empty stocking and empty bed.  I wept, wondering when the process would ever end.  And I grieved, knowing she would not be joining us for Christmas.

A year later, she is home and we are all together and the whole season has light and life again.  I have new appreciation for those who grieve during the holidays, who feel keenly the absence of a loved one for any reason.  And I give thanks for our family united this year and the chance to celebrate all together – to see all my girls faces every morning, to hear their laughter, to share in their joy each day.

A year ago I heard this song by Third Day.  I had heard it many times before, but it was just a nice song.  But in the midst of the waiting and the wondering and the longing, it became an anthem that was listened to often last Christmas, always with tears.  And then I forgot about it when the season was over and the Christmas music turned off.

Until this year when it played again.  And the tears fell again, feeling those feelings once more and also rejoicing that the wait is over and we are on the other side of that song.

Joy Find #6 – all my girls home for Christmas

Merry Christmas  – Third Day

There’s a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Cyin’ for momma’s arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
Where the forgotten are

But half a world away I hang
The stockings by the fire
And dream about the day
When I can finally call you mine

It’s Christmas time again but you’re not home
Your family is here and yet you’re somewhere else alone
So tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart, I wish you a Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I’m warmed by the fire’s glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white
And make angels in the snow

And half a world away you try
Your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven’s angels come
To carry you here

It’s Christmas time again but you’re not home
Your family is here and yet you’re somewhere else alone
So tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart, I wish you a Merry Christmas

And Christmas is a time to celebrate the Holy Child
And we celebrate His perfect gift of love
He came to us to give His life and prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with Him above

It’s Christmas time again and now you’re home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I’ll hold you in my arms
And tell you from my heart and I’ll tell you from my heart
I wish you a Merry Christmas

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For His Glory ~

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Joy Gathering

Joy Find 5 – 

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This weekend was not only marked by Emma’s twelfth birthday, but also by Ellie’s first Nutcracker performance. This sweet girl has loved ballet this year and was soooo excited to dance the part of a Cookie. I couldn’t help but have all kinds of joy as she just radiated her own joy at practices and all throughout the weeks leading up to last weekend.

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Praying your days are filled with joy as we prepare to celebrate the Giver of all Joy in just a couple of weeks!

For His Glory ~

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This Girl

Day 4 – this girl….

Twelve years ago, we were blessed with our second daughter.  At 5-something in the morning, Emma Joy, entered the world and our lives were forever changed.

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The past year has been a special blessing as we have watched her mature and mellow.  As Matt shared this morning, she calls herself a “geek” (though neither of us knows when that became cool – but as a former geek, woot!) and loves books and a certain BBC series she’s not even been allowed to watch yet and camo and Duck Dynasty.  She’s excited to play soccer in the spring and volleyball next year.  She’s taken to baking this fall which has resulted in a variety of delicious concoctions, particularly her bacon butterscotch muffins.  She sings beautifully and I could listen to her play the piano all day.

Emma is a gift to our family.  She keeps us laughing and makes sure things don’t get too girlie.  I’m so glad I get to be Emma’s mom.  I can’t wait to see what God does in this next year of her life.

Happy birthday, Emma Joy!

For His Glory,

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* photo credit goes to my beautiful and talented friend Chelsea Hudson

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