Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Thoughts...

I am looking at the clock, and it says 1:07.  That means two things:  one, I stay up way too late.  And two, it is the very last day of 2010.  Seriously--the very last day!  I know I say this every single year, but can you believe it?  Didn't this year just fly by like a bullet?  Doesn't it make you realize how short our time here on this earth really is?  My, my. 

I really love New Year's Eve.  We don't party--at least not THAT kind of partying, so it's nothing like that.  I just love a fresh page.  You know?  A new start.  It just feels good in my bones to have a starting point again.  I am the sort who makes New Year's resolutions.  And I do have a few I'm mulling over that I'll let you in on, but probably not tonight.  And I always like to look back on the year and reflect.  Cassandra and I were talking about 2010 tonight, and it was certainly a big one. 

Of course, in our little world, 2010 was the year of cancer.  We got the diagnosis and the healing all in 6 short months' time!  It was a whirlwind of emotions, appointments, hospital stays, and some downright normalcy mixed in.  It was an amazing time of learning and drawing near to God, and of experiencing Him drawing near to us like we had never experienced before.  Yes, it was the year of cancer.

But, it was the year of something else that completely overshadows the cancer, to me.  2010 was the year that we realized in full force how truly wonderful and miraculous adoption really is.

We adopted Sarah near the end of 2009.  We arrived home from our China trip on October 31, so technically we were already falling in love with her and learning about what adoption is like.  But those things became solidified to us throughout this year. 

Sometimes I forget that Sarah ever was an orphan living in an institution. 

But other times, when we are rocking and singing at night, or I watch her playing with her brothers or big sister, or when Daddy is sipping pretend tea out of little cups with her, or Grandpa is making her belly laugh...I remember that we were not always her family.  There was a time when she was a statistic.  Just one of the many abandoned babies in China.  I hope that someone thought the world of her like we do, but we just don't know. 

She did not have a family.

This was the first day we saw Sarah.  All of our lives were about to change forever.

Sarah learned pretty quickly that mommies and daddies are pretty great!

And we learned pretty quickly that Sarah is one very special little girl.

You are not an orphan anymore, precious girl.  You are a TREASURE.

You have brothers who adore you...

And a sister who loves you more than life itself.

Sarah, you are more priceless than gold to us.

I hope that in following my blog this year,  you have learned a little more about cancer and our journey through it.  I sincerely hope you have seen God at work in our lives, and that you have been encouraged in your walk with Him, and most of all encouraged to seek Him yourself if you do not know Him. 

But I also hope that our blog has given you a little glimpse into the world of adoption.  My passion and prayer is that there would be no more orphans.  ANYWHERE.  The ones who can help make that happen are you and me!  Could you bring a child into your home who needs a family?  Maybe 2011 is the year that you could seriously consider it, and start taking those steps!  Adopting Sarah has been a blessing so great, that I can't even describe it.  She fills our lives with so much joy, sometimes I think my heart will burst.  Most people really can adopt a child.  It mostly just takes a willing heart. 

And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me.--Matthew 18:5

Thank you so much for being a part of our lives this year.  Everyone who prayed for us and supported us in any way was a tremendous blessing.  May God richly bless you and your family in 2011! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas fun!

Finally I am having a chance to blog. : )  I know we are all feeling really done with Christmas-y type things, but just in case you are itching to hear about ours...Here you go! 

Every Christmas season, we make these pretzel treats and give lots of them away to people (and eat a bunch too.)  They are so easy and yummy--Square pretzels, topped with a hershey kiss or hug, melt in a 200 degree oven for a couple minutes, and then quickly put an m&m on top of each one. 

We also make gingerbread houses every year.  Only, we do it the cheap way and use graham crackers. : )  Maybe one day we will spring for the real stuff...

And, we make cookies!  This year darling Cassandra did the baking with the kids when Hubby and I were out.  Bless her soul...

Sarah thought the flour on her hands was pretty hilarious : )

Each year we choose someone to bless at Christmas time.  Last year we gave toward clean water for a village in Africa.  This year we bought some special gifts for current bone marrow tranplant patients, and filled some goodie bags for all the kids on the oncology floor.

Our kiddos with the nurses on the floor.  (We treated them to some yummy pretzel treats too!)

On Christmas Eve we leave Santa some cookies, and of course eat some ourselves...

I don't have pictures of all of our traditions.  We also try to go see Christmas lights as a family (but this year we didn't) and we play a silly Christmas game I've had since I was a kid (that's still on our list of things to do before New Year's...)  Also, the kids all draw each other's names out of a hat early in December and get gifts for each other.  Ben was sooo excited to get this cap gun from Sarah.  We let them open them on Christmas Eve along with their new jammies..

And my favorite tradition is, on Christmas Eve we all think of something we want to give to Jesus this year.  We write them down on slips of paper, and put them in a box, so that if we forget, we can look in the box again throughout the year.

Then on Christmas morning, Scott and I don't let the kids go downstairs until we get up so that we can capture their reactions on camera. 

Then one of the kids reads the Christmas story.  This was Josh's first year...

And then we open presents!

Next, we pack up, load up, and head to Grandma and Grandpa's house!

Sarah's favorite gift--a willing patient for nurse Sarah!

Best big sister....EVER!

Jacob got a pocket knife that belonged to his great-grandpa, and some CASH!

Checking out what the cousins got : )

So much fun with Grandpa!

Coming back from sledding

Grandparents are great for snuggling, too. : )

Our kids are blessed with terrific grandmas and grandpas

Woo Hoo!  What a great Christmas celebrating Jesus with family!

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas too.  : )

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

Sarah says...  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OF YOU!!!  (Well, we all say it, but I just didn't get a picture of everyone in time...)

Luke 2:11--For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's not always the most wonderful time of the year...

I have had this post on my mind for a little while.  But I just didn't think I could write it without it coming across the wrong way, so I left it alone.  But I just can't stop thinking about it, so I am going to try to say what's on my heart as gently as I can, because I certainly don't mean to offend anyone even in the slightest!

I think it's so heartbreaking that Christmas is a sad time of year for people.  I understand completely of course why that might happen.  People lose loved ones, and they miss them the most around holidays-- especially Christmas in many cases.  I would too!  Some people have cherished traditions they have always followed, and now they can't for some reason.  Some have lost jobs, money is not there, children are wayward, maybe there was a divorce or there is an illness.  We know some families whose children are going to be in the hospital in the process of having bone marrow transplants right over the Christmas holiday.  There is no end to the heartbreak that plagues us as human beings living in this fallen world, and sadly, holidays can just be downright painful when all is not right with us.  I don't mean to make light of any of this.  And I pray with all my heart that if this is you this Christmas, that God would lift your burden--whatever it is. 

I guess the reason why I decided to go ahead and write this post, is to try and encourage people who might be feeling down.  God has been impressing it upon my heart so strongly that Christmas really is simply what it is.  It is the birth of His Son, the Savior of the world.  Like I said a few posts back, isn't that amazing??  There is nothing whatsoever sad about it!  Christmas is the celebration of the very best thing that has EVER happened on this planet.  The One who came to bring an END to all of the terrible things I wrote about up there.  The One who is with us and helps us through them.  The One who made a way for us to leave this old, dilapadated, stinky world with all of its troubles and live forever with Him.  Treading very lightly, I am just suggesting that probably God would not want us to be sad around Christmas time of all times!  It doesn't really make sense when you think about it that way.  Don't you wish that we could take off all our human emotions (because I know that is easier said than done) and simply see CHRIST at Christmas?  It really doesn't have anything to do with our human family, our traditions, our things, the presents, or anything we tack onto it to make us feel warm and happy.  Those things are wonderful, and trust me, we do all of those things as part of our celebration.  But I am trying to remind myself always that those are manmade Christmas ideas that can be taken away.  I don't want to get so attached to them that I would not be able to enjoy Christmas without them.  Does that make sense?

I guess I'm just saying that I wish nobody had to be sad at Christmas time. My hope is that everyone could put aside their expectations about what Christmas should feel like, and focus entirely on what it really is.  And I think if we could do that, this whole world couldn't contain our joy! 

Merry Christmas from us to you.  To God be all the glory for the wonderful gift He has given us!!

John 3:16--For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Getting Ready...

Here is the post I was planning on writing last time.  A lot less "meaningful," but a lot more pictures!

We decorated our house for Christmas last week.  I confess I am not a decorator.  Really not at all.  I am domestically challenged in many ways, and it's just not a big priority for me to have my house looking like a magazine picture (but I sure would love it if it did!)  But, our house looks so pretty at  Christmas time.  : )  I always hate to take down all the decorations.

Anyway, this year we are not allowed to have a real tree or a fire in the fireplace because of Sarah's post bone marrow transplant restrictions.  (Not really sure why, actually. No live plants at all, because of the possibility of mold, maybe?)  We were all pretty sad that we couldn't have a real tree because it's our family tradition to go and pick one out every year.  Even though we typically go to the local home improvement store to get one, still, it's fun.  : )  And we really didn't want to go out and spend money on a fake one that we would only use for one year.  But we do have a smallish, artificial pine tree up in the boys' camping-themed room.  So....that is our Christmas tree this year!  Seriously, it is MAYBE 6 feet tall, very thin and pretty spindly, and a far cry from our typical tall and chubby trees we get every year, but this Charlie Brown tree works!  It was kind of fun bringing it downstairs and decorating it.  

Sarah is LOVING the Christmas season.  She loves the lights, and the boys decorated their room up big time.  It's been dubbed "the Christmas Room."  Sarah runs in there and jumps and dances around yelling, "Christmas!!"  And then they put a strand of lights in her room too, and she yells, "Christmas!" in there too. : ) 

Enjoy some pictures.  I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful season!

 Helping put up decorations...I guess the "headlight" helps?


 Getting it just right

 Sisters working together

 Hanging it right here. : )

 Hubby seriously wanted to use our "normal" angel on our little tree.  Yeah, that didnt' work.

 Hmmmm...What should I put on my Christmas list?

 Big brothers are the GREATEST!

 Mom, I can't pose for a picture right now.  I am still making my Christmas list.

 The boys and their Christmas Room

Fun, Fun!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas time!

December is zooming by, isn't it?  Christmas is in 12 DAYS!  I heard someone say that today, and I could hardly believe it!  We have been busy--well, I should say I have been busy.  My poor boys have been pretty bored, since we have had a lot of cold, but hardly any snow, which makes for long days in the house.  Sarah and I have been spending lots of time together, the hospital, at the clinic, and at the surgery center where she gets her eye exams.  She had one today..........Still not a trace of a tumor anywhere!! 

Anyway, we have been trying our best to focus on Jesus and not this old world and all of its glittery trappings.  And in the midst of all the appointments, school, Christmas shopping and life in general, I have been doing it. Focusing on Jesus.  Just being quiet in the center of my soul, and thankful for what He did for us.  Really, isn't it amazing?  We are so wicked.  Really, we are.  The message at church on Sunday was about our sin, and how we truly are guilty.  Let's not sugar coat it, because our sin problem is at the heart of it all.  God made us for Himself, to glorify Him, and we are so saturated in sin.  We run from Him every chance we get.  I am so appalled at how my mouth is so quick to complain.  To talk about someone in not so nice of a way.  To be negative and bitter.  And, unfortunately, that is just a reflection of what is too often in my heart.  It's so ugly.  I am so sorry about it all! 

And yet, God in His mercy did not give up on us. On the contrary, He ran TO us.  Just think.  What if you were able to make a person.  You painstakingly created him, and your plan was to have a loving relationship with him.  You never once did anything to let him down, and gave him everything he ever needed.  But instead of loving you in return, he turned his back on you, broke your rules, and wanted nothing to do with you.  Wouldn't you give up on that ungrateful brat?  But God...He is so full of mercy.  He knows we are lost in sin.  He knows we are really made of dust.  He knows we can't do anything on our own to make that relationship right again.  So, instead of giving up, He continued to give.  He gave us a long letter, His very Word, to help us and teach us.  It spells out every little thing we need to know.  And He gave us His Son--part of Himself--to come here and be one of us.  A baby with a gassy tummy.  An awkward teenager.  One of us with all of our aches and pains and pimples and wrinkles.  He allowed Himself to be tempted, and put up with it so that we would know we could relate to Him.  That He would understand.  And finally He gave up His very life in one of the worst possible ways because it was the only thing that could be done to pay our sin debt.   He wanted us to see how very, very much He loves us, in spite of our wicked hearts.  What else could He possibly do to show us?  Nothing.  He did it all.  He sacrificed His life to take the punishment for our sins.  So that we could be FREE!  Free from sin, and free from guilt.  So that we could be righteous in His eyes, and have that perfect fellowship with Him, even forever and ever! 

It's just so amazing.

Christmas.  It's time to celebrate that amazing love.  Have a wonderful Christmas season, remembering how truly loved and blessed we are!

(And that was completely NOT what this post was going to be about, but it's what came out of my fingers when I started typing. Hope you enjoyed it!)  : )

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas shopping with a purpose!

I am short on time today, but I just wanted to write this post really quick...

I think it was early this year that I heard it.  It was a radio program hi-lighting a ministry that promotes awareness about sex trafficking.  I can't remember the ministry's name, but they are working diligently to help these women and children--rescue them, and get them started in a new life.  I remember being so entranced by the program.  Of course I had heard about sex trafficking before, but I had never really THOUGHT about it.  Now I was forced to really sit and think about it.  I was so moved and devastated.  I just sat in the grocery store parking lot listening and feeling helpless.  I don't know if I had ever felt so desperate to DO something, but I knew the problem was so immense, that there wasn't much I could do.  And I had no idea where to start.  So, I prayed for the ministry and the victims, and went on my way.

Fast forward to now... I am so excited to say that there is a ministry based right in the city where I live that is doing something to help combat this problem!  It is called WAR International.  They have a website with MANY ways that we can help.  How it works is, these brave workers go into these countries and rescue women and girls out of the sex trade, and bring them to "safe houses."  They teach them how to make something, and then sell those things here in America.  The jewelry they make is BEAUTIFUL, excellent quality, and very affordable!  They also sell gift baskets, some clothing, home accessories, and some really cute toys.

Anyway...I did some of my Christmas shopping at the WAR International store by our house, and I left feeling more excited than I have been in a long time.  Finally, something I can do to help combat this horrible problem!  And after the holidays I am going to have a home party to sell some of the products.  Just like T*pperware or P*ampered Chef, you can sell these beautiful products to your friends, and know the purchases are going to help change someone's life!  I talked to the store manager, and she told me that almost all of the ladies in one of the safe houses gave their lives to Christ.  I had my 6 year old, Ben in the store with me, and we were looking at the cool toys.  I told him about the store and how they are helping people get out of slavery.  His eyes lit up, and he said, "That makes me want to buy MORE things!"    I hope it makes you want to consider buying some things too. : )

There are more ways to help than just buying things.  You can find out all about it on their website:

Also, if you want more ideas for Christmas shopping, you can check out the 30 Days of Giveaways link on the right side of my blog page over there.  On the left side of that blog page, there is a whole list of fun "shops" with a lot of great stuff.  Most of them are handmade, unique kinds of things that people are selling for a good cause.  Go check it out!

Happy Christmas shopping, everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Because of Cancer

I have a few quiet moments as I sit with a sleeping little girl in our hospital room. We are only here because Sarah's central line tubes broke, and they were repaired.  I don't have much time at home to just be still and reflect, since there is always something to keep me busy, or my mind occupied.  But when I am here I appreciate the quiet times, and my mind so often returns to thoughts of gratitude to God.

Because of cancer in our Sarah's life, I am so grateful to have had so many uninterrupted hours with her that would have seemed impossible to find in our normal home life.  I have learned more about her amazing little personality, and enjoyed her so much.  I have discovered precious gems about her such as her endurance and strength--her ability to trust and let go of all fear.  The way she laughs and enjoys life no matter what the circumstance.  I never would have known the extent of the strength of Sarah's spirit if we had not traveled down this road.  I would not have known my little girl the way I know her now.  

Because of cancer, I have learned about God, and I have come to know Him better than I ever could have apart from it.  I have learned in completely new ways that His promises are true.  When He says He will give us peace if we trust Him, He really means that.  I have questioned Him and trusted Him, and I know whatever the outcome of all of this, I would trust Him still.  He has shown Himself so real to me.  So real, that at times I have felt completely and totally surrounded and filled by Him.  I have learned that the worst, most scary things we can imagine are not so scary when God is walking with you through them. We can't ever fully understand that until something like this happens. I am thankful for cancer because of this.

Because of cancer, I have learned more about myself.  I was surprised to find that I have more faith than I thought I had.  (I know that was from Him.) I have also learned that that faith could so quickly disappear, and that God loves me either way.  I have learned that when I am weak, He strengthens me.  I have learned that I really do love adopted children every bit as much as any of my biological children, and that love is fierce.  I can survive on less sleep than I thought I could.  I appreciate my children and husband more. I have grown as a person in so many ways. 

Because my daughter had cancer, I have been made aware at the deepest level that childhood cancer is really here, and it is actually all around us, not some far away thing.  Sometimes every room on this floor is full.  I have gotten to know some of  the children and their parents.  I have developed sincere love and empathy when before I could only offer a helpless sympathy.  I am now able to reach these hurting families in ways I never could have before we walked this path ourselves, and I hope God allows me to use this throughout my life.

Because of cancer, I have met some of the most wonderful people I have ever known.  My life is richer just because I know them.  I watch these doctors, nurses and other staff come to work every day giving everything they have to these children and families.  They can't have a bad day.  They always have to keep smiling and loving because they know that their problems are really nothing compared to what these kids go through.  I am in awe of their energy.  They are not only nurses and doctors--they are counselors and friends, and everyone here knows that most if not all do what they do by choice out of love.

Because of cancer, I have seen the very best in people.  Friends we know well, less well, and even strangers have encouraged us, strengthened us, given of their time, money and resources to show us love.  My boys have learned through experiencing this what God's love in action really looks and feels like.  I am so grateful to every person who has had a part in our lives through this time. 

Our precious Sarah is the one who had cancer.  She has lived it beautifully.  Probably more patiently and joyfully than most people, or even anyone I know could have.  God has shown Himself amazingly gracious and powerful in her life through this, and even before that.  She already has an amazing life story, and she is not even three years old.  I truly hate cancer.  But I am grateful for it in so many ways.  I can only hope and pray that she will be able to see as she grows that even though it was not fair that she got sick , God is good through it all.  I have heard the quote, "Don't waste your cancer."  I made it my goal at the beginning to make that my goal.  To live each day with my eyes and ears open, waiting to experience what God wanted me to learn and gain through this.  I am thankful that I did just that, and that He poured His abundance out on me and really all of us, the whole time.  My prayer is that Sarah will know God and that same abundance He gives as well.  

This list really only scratches the surface of everything I could say about this.  I would never, ever hope for someone else's family to hear the news that cancer is in their family, but I want to encourage you that if it ever does happen, do not be afraid!  God is so good and loving.  He can and will use it for our good if we let Him.  

I can honestly say that because of cancer... I am thankful.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm BACK!!!

Hello, everyone who might still be checking in to read my blog after what seems like a long absence on my part...

My boys and I just got back from sunny Arizona where my parents live!  I love my family so much.  I loved every second of being with them all.  My two brothers and I all live in different states--different from each other and my parents, so it was such a treasured time all being together even if for just a little while.  I do wish Scott and my girls could have been there, but in some ways it was kind of nice.  A little break from toddlerhood days for a while. 

Waiting for the plane...First plane ride.  They were really excited!

Thanksgiving Dinner at my Mom's house.  Yummy!

My mom had a million presents for everyone. 

We went to a fun park nearby.  This is my sister in law with most of the kids.

Loving Arizona!

Ben loved Bella, my brother's dog so much.  I think I need to get him a little dog.  (We already have a big one!)

Here we all brothers and their families and us!

Hunting for scorpions at my dad's house.  They did find one!

My dad treated us to the Natural History Museum.  Loved it!

And he also treated us to the science museum.  Here is Ben's favorite part--a stomach that made belching and other lovely gassy noises...

Spending time with cousins we never see. 

We climbed half way up a mile-high mountain with my dad.  So much fun!

This is what we came to Arizona to do...swim!

Aaaaah...Hot tub!

Ben said it was the BEST day of his life. : )

We said good-bye to this...

And we said good-bye to this...

But that's okay.  We came back to the snow!!  And the boys played outside all day. : )

We had a wonderful time, and Scott and Cassandra did fine with Sarah while we were gone.  She is still doing great, by the way!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving too!!