Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our Christmas Letter...

It's hard to believe that a year ago we were on our way to Ethiopia to meet our three new kiddos for the first time.  We spent Christmas day in London eating fish-n-chips in a not-so-great pub, freezing our tushies off walking around London on our site seeing tour, Gatlin and I falling asleep on the tour bus cause the jet lag was so bad, and almost missing our flight to Ethiopia cause nobody in the London airport seemed to know where our gate was -- but I'm not complaining cause it all made for a great memory and fun story to tell.  

Fast forward a year...we were sleeping peacefully in our own comfy bed when three little black children excitedly ran into our room to wake us up to start the Christmas celebration!  LOL    Thankfully, it was 8:30 (I've trained them well - ha!)  And it seemed perfectly normal to me.

Isn't that amazing!   In the 10 months that the kids have been here, it's gone from a few weeks of feeling completely overwhelmed, to a few months of, "Ok, I can do this", to a couple more months of, "Getting kind of used to this", to now..."Can't imagine life any other way".   There have been some emotional ups and downs, that's for sure, but if I've learned anything at all this year, I've learned that it's just not about me and I MUST keep an eternal perspective in ALL things in life.  That isn't always easy, but it is imperative for a joy-filled life.  I want to choose joy.  

All five of our kids are doing really great.  Kaleb and Kali are loving first grade and doing so well.  Bennet is doing wonderfully in school, but that has been one of the biggest challenges for us...not having to do with Bennet, but just the communication between us and the school as to Bennet's needs and how to meet them.  We finally got the kinks worked out and things are running smoothly now.  She loves to read and it's been so fun to watch her dive into a book and not want to put it down.  It does blow me away that she's only been here 10 months and is flying through 3rd grade level books now - I'm so proud of her.  Gatlin is making all A's except in Algebra, and she has a high B in that one.  It has been such an adjustment for her to go from homeschooling to a difficult private school, but she's doing great!  I'm very proud of her for making such good grades and feel quite relieved, actually.  ha!!   I mean, I know she's smart, but when you home school and then put them in a school, there is a sigh of relief once you know they are doing well (and not just doing well, but excelling).  Whew!  Cooper is still homeschooling and doing great.  He is taking Spanish through a tutorial and is making a strong A in there, so that's great.  Homeschooling is such a great choice for him because it gives him such freedom to work on his music and to teach his guitar students.  So proud of him and his strong work ethic.

Brian is super busy these days, which is a HUGE blessing cause a couple months ago he didn't have work lined up and it was a bit scary, to be honest!   I've told this story a couple times, so if you've heard it before, sorry...but when we started the adoption process, we told the Lord that we'd eat peanut butter and jelly if we had to, but that we wanted to provide a life for these kids, and even a life filled with PB &  J would be better than the life they had in an orphanage because they'd have the love of a family.  Anyway, this year got pretty tight financially and I found myself just a little worried and crying out to the Lord telling Him that I didn't mean it -- I didn't really want to eat PB & J -- I wanted some steak!  You understand.  And, really, we have never gone without, it's just been different.  God is faithful and has provided everything we need and even things we want.  We are blessed.

I have to tell you that there have been friends that have been extremely generous to us this year.  We've had many friends give us hand-me-down clothes but a few that have just gone above and beyond and continually send us boxes!!  There's probably not a day that goes by that Kaleb isn't wearing something given to us by my friend, Shelli, and Kali is constantly in something from my friends, Tish and Courtney.  Bennet has been blessed by my friend, Kimmy, and Moriah keeps blessing Gatlin.  And MANY others have given us clothes -- it has been a HUGE, huge blessing!  It blows me away!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, sweet friends!  

So, clothes weren't something we needed at Christmas (ha!) but Forever 21 did have an on-line clearance that was unbeatable so Gatlin got a couple new things, which was fun for her.  We got all the kids a pair of shoes -- the two big kids got Tom's and the three young ones got boots that they had mentioned liking.  Then they each got two other gifts from our family and a gift from Nana and Papa and Uncle Jack and Aunt Lora.  And then Uncle Jim blew us away with his generosity towards all of us.  We are blessed by him and how he loves our family so well.  

We enjoyed a casual lunch with our gang plus Uncle Jim and Cooper's girlfriend, Brianna.  Yep, that's big news this year...Cooper has a girlfriend.  We all love Brianna and it was great to have her here with us for Christmas as her family went out of town but she had to work and couldn't go with them.  That worked out well for Cooper!  LOL  She and Cooper have been close friends for a year and a half, but decided a few weeks ago to start dating.  Cooper is 17 and Brianna is 18 so they're at a good age and are displaying wonderful maturity and godliness in the whole dating/courting process.  It will be exciting to see what the Lord does with/through their relationship.  

Gatlin and Kali made a birthday cake for Jesus and decorated it so nicely.  We sang Happy Birthday and blew out the candle and celebrated THE life that gives all of us life.  How blessed we are to know JESUS!  How blessed we are to have brought three children into our family and now we get the privilege of helping them grow in their relationship with Him.  It just doesn't get any better than that.  All we have, all we are, EVERYTHING is because of HIM.  

One of Bennet's gifts today was to inherit her brother's old computer (a nice little Mac Mini, because Cooper bought himself a laptop) and so now she has an email account set up so she can email her family.  I was the recipient of her first email and it said, "Thank you for the gifts.  This was the first and the best Christmas ever.  Thank you so much and I love you very much".   Makes me cry again just typing it here.  Good grief, ya''s AMAZING to think that somehow God allowed us to be a piece in the puzzle of a transformed life.  Humbled.

One last thing, today my sister left to go get her little boy, Crew, from Ethiopia.  It's been a year since they started the adoption process and it's been quite the roller coaster ride.  But, God is faithful to finish what He started and they will be home on Wednesday.  The timing is perfect for us to jump in the car and actually get to be there for their airport arrival.  How awesome is that!!   I can't wait to grab that little guy up and squeeze him.  I can't wait for him to see that he has cousins that look like him.  In a sea of white people, that's a special thing!!  Woo hoo!!   

I pray that you've all had a wonderful Christmas and that you know the joy that comes from knowing Jesus as your personal Savior.  Be blessed!

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