Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Day Recap

I guess I'm not so great at this whole blogging thing...I totally forgot to recap Christmas day!

It was a wonderfully relaxing, no pressure, kick back day! I was expecting Emily to wake us up at a ridiculously early hour but instead it was Allie who couldn't sleep! He had been up since 5:00 a.m.! He was super sweet and made everyone breakfast...we were not as kind when he tried to wake us up to eat it! All Ryan and I could think of was "Hey, wait a minute, Emily is still sleeping!" We were up and fully moving into gift mood by 7:45, which I think is a Christmas morning sleep in record...for everyone except Allie!

Somehow I was sitting in the line of wrapping paper fire during the gift unwrapping! We always set out a box or designate a spot for all the wrapping paper to be thrown, to try and make clean up a little easier. Well, basically every piece zoomed past my face making me jump through the whole process! It was so fun though! Everyone was so generous and the gifts were all wonderful! I don't want to mention any names and forget anyone but please know we appreciated everything we were given very much!

I will mention that Allie surprised me with a Circuit! It's a personal die cutting machine, for those of you who don't scrapbook and it's amazing! I have wanted one for a couple years now but have been putting it off "Until after China". If you can't tell that has been a recurring phrase around here for all large or unnecessary purchases. So to get such a fun "toy" was so cool! I've had a couple chances to play with it in the last few days and lets just say I'm addicted! I really need to get in some serious kindergarten cut and paste time "before China"! And to all my family, you may just be getting monogrammed card sets for gifts for awhile!

The rest of the day was wonderfully mellow! Our friend Priscilla came over and my mom made a simple ham dinner with roasted potatoes, green bean casserole, roles and deviled eggs. Thanks mom, it was sooooo nice not to cook! We spent the afternoon relaxing and the rest of the evening playing silly board games... we love Apples to Apples! Poor Priscilla had never played games with Allie before...it's quit an experience!

We do have a few traditions that remind us of the true reason we are celebrating. One of my favorites is our Christmas Bucket. It's the type of bucket people usually fill with goodies and give as a gift. Several years ago (I'm guessing 2002 but if any of you were at Mc Donald's that day and remember, please let me know) I filled it with small Christmas reminders of Christ for a ladies devotional group. It was meant to be a way to teach your children to see Christ in the holiday. Each item has a tag on it and we pass the bucket in a circle with each person removing an item and reading it's tag before it is passed to the next person. Here's the list of items in the bucket and what their tags say:

A Christmas Tree: Remains evergreen, reminding us of our everlasting hope in Christ. Like an arrow it points heavenward reminding us to look to God at Christmas and all year through.

A Star: God had promised a savior for the world and the star was a sign that He had fulfilled his promise.

A Candle: A reminder that Christ is the light of the world. He was sent to take out the darkness and bring light into our lives.

A Wreath:
Reminds us that like a circle God’s love for us has no beginning and no end.

A Holly Leaf:
Its pointed leaves remind us of the crown of thorns Christ wore. The red berries remind us that Christ shed his blood for our sin.

A Gift
: The wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus and we should be giving ourselves as gifts to God with the same spirit of love they had. Christ was God’s ultimate gift to us.

A Candy Cane:
The colors of the candy cane remind us of the blood Christ shed so that our sins could be made clean and white.

An Angel:
They revealed God’s plan to Mary and Joseph. Then they sang and rejoiced over Christ’s birth. They announced His birth to the shepherd and we should be announcing Him to the world also.

A Bell: A lost sheep is found by the sound of his bell. No matter how lost we get Christ will always search for us and welcome us home.

It's a simple way to put the focus on Christ through the holiday and we finish by reading Luke chapter 2 and praying. Then the kids are allowed to open their pajamas and hopefully fall asleep quickly.

We haven't had a visit from Santa since Emily was four but Allie and I put all the gifts out after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve, so that they are a big surprise in the morning. Well, this year Emily tried to wait me out and have a sneak peak. She succeeded too!

After the gifts were all in place, I thought I would blog a little to decompress and then go to bed. I thought I heard something down the hall a couple times but never saw anything....I should have known! As soon as I was in our room with the door shut, I heard something again and there she was tip toeing back to her room! Apparently there was a creature stirring in the Lansford house! This is probably why she didn't wake us up at 5:30 on Christmas morning like she has in years past!

It really was a nice day! There were a few moments were Pop was missed beyond measure and KayLi was prayed for and longed for greatly! But all in all it wasn't nearly as bad as I had anticipated. My heart was broken for my grieving family days before Christmas but on the day itself God's mercy was strongly felt!

A brief note about the photo above. We have a chalk board that hangs in our kitchen. I write scripture or quotes on it and use it to encourage memorization. I usually change it every couple weeks or so. I love this silly chalk board! I love decorating it, I love putting thought into what will be written on it next, I love that my family sees God's word in our home! My family on the other hand loves to, lets just say, tweak what is on the chalk board. It has become a huge game around here and I've actually started taking before and after pictures of it. But lets keep that our little secret so that we don't encourage their vandalism! The photo above is the before picture of the chalk board for Christmas week. I hope you all had a very peace filled Christmas!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

KayLi's 100 Good Wishes Quilt

Many of you already know that I am working on a very special quilt for KayLi. I have been procrastinating SO badly about sewing this precious quilt! I don't sew much and this quilt feels very intimidating! But I have a great friend who sews beautifully and she has agreed to hold my hand or push me forward, whatever it takes!!! Love Ya, T.J.!!!!

Just in case I haven't invited/pestered you into being part of this project and you don't know what I'm talking about, there is a tradition in Northern China to make a Bai Jia Bei or 100 Good Wishes Quilt. The custom is to invite friends and family to contribute a patch of cloth with a wish for the baby. The patch of cloth goes into the quilt for the baby, and the wish (or prayer or scripture in some cases) goes into a scrapbook. The quilt is said to contain the prayers and wishes from all the family and friends who contributed each piece of fabric. It is then passed down from generation to generation.

If you would like to contribute to KayLi's quilt, simply e-mail me (my address is on the sidebar) and I'll e-mail you our mailing address. Then just send me two 8 inch squares of whatever fabric you like (I've learned that cotton is easiest to sew) and your "wish" for KayLi.

How awesome it will be to read the"good wishes" to KayLi when she is older! Oh, how I long for her to know how much she was wanted!

So many of you have given fabric to be sewn into her quilt and I'm so thankful for you and your sweet wishes! A special thanks to Joyce Baggett for the embroidered square above...I love it!!!

I'll be posting about the progress we make as soon as we begin to sew it! Then once it's finished I'll put up pictures of it, so you can find your square!!! Thank you so much for welcoming our daughter in such a special way!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!!

Taking pictures in front of the tree in pajama's made by Grandma Patti, is one of our families Christmas traditions. I keep waiting for Ryan to protest but he was a great sport again this year. We always seem to get the oddest mix of sweet, cute & total silliness!

May your Christmas be filled with all the love that was sent on that first Christmas night!!!!

We Love Y'all!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Toryn has a Family!!!

Our good friends the Kendricks are in China and welcomed their new son into their arms, family and hearts yesterday!!! Congratulations!!! He's beautiful! He's amazing! He blows kisses! And he said Mama...how awesome is that!!!

I've really come to love this family and I'm beyond thrilled for them! Merry Christmas and many blessings to the Kendrick family! I love y'all!!!

You can check out Traci's blog by clicking their beautiful picture above or it's listed with the blogs I follow in my sidebar, titled "Our Little Asian Sensation."

God & Chocolate

For the last three years I have been certain that we would celebrate the following Christmas with KayLi. Yes, you heard me right, three years! Four really, if you count the first year God was barely whispering adoption to us but technically whose counting that.

Three years of imagining baby dolls and toddler toys under the tree. Three years of longing to buy a pretty little Christmas dress. Three years of hoping to hang a new stocking by the fireplace. Three years of dreaming of the first time I would read her the story of a sweet baby that was lain in a manger. Three very long years!!!

Last Christmas it finally got to me. I forced a smile through our tradition of cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I laughed as we opened gifts and I received an enormous wall clock!!!! By the way, Ryan if you buy me a couch this year, I WILL return it...gift from my son or not! I was even fine through a nice ham dinner.

It wasn't until after dinner, when the kids all three of them (I'm counting Allie in there) began to get very wrapped up in the new Wii that total discouragement hit me.

I wanted my baby! My heart and arms literally hurt to hold her. My desire to cradle her, stroke her silky hair and breath in her sweet baby smell was so strong that I allowed it to steal my Christmas joy. I sat miserably at the computer trying to find anything that would be a distraction. All the things that I, as a Christian, know to do in battle never entered my mind. I simply laid down in a puddle of self pity and let my enemy win.

All of you that know us, know we lost Allie's dad to lung cancer on July 23rd. So to say I have spent a some time thinking about how to get through Christmas without Pop and KayLi would be pretty accurate. I guess I could curl up on the couch or in front of the television and be miserable. It's very understandable and likely part of the grieving process. Several in my family may do exactly that and I don't blame them one bit. But I can't. I simply can't do that again.

This year I have set my mind and I refuse to allow Satan to steal my Christmas joy!!! He may have won last years battle but this year he will not win!!!

This year I will focus on the birth of my Savior without sadness or pity! This year I will remind my enemy that it is because of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection that I have the promise of being with my Pop again. That is is because of God's precious gift in a manger that I am empowered to bring an orphan from the other side of the world into my heart, life and family. That it is because of that sweet tiny baby that I am filled with a love for her that is beyond description. I WILL celebrate the birth of my King! And I WILL do so joyfully!!!


So, if you're wondering about the picture of the red box, here goes. When I was battling cancer, it became a running joke at my house that there is nothing God and chocolate can't handle. So as I was telling my mother in law how I felt about celebrating Christmas this year, I said that I didn't care if I had to eat a pound of chocolate and stay on a perpetual sugar high, I would have a merry Christmas! Bad joke I know, I'm not really going to run to food when I should run to God!!! It's just a joke!!!

Yesterday we received a package from my mother in law. The red box was in it. She said I might not want to put it under the tree because it's a pound of gourmet chocolate!!! I love her!!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Gingerbread Masterpiece

When Emily was five she and I assembled a gingerbread house from one of those premade kits. Not because I thought it would be a great holiday activity but because my mom decided to torture my sister in law and I by sending them to the kids in our lives! Needles to say we haven't made one since but Emily has asked to do it again every year. This year I finally decided to buy another one. She didn't really have the patience for it when she was five but I knew she would be fine this year.

Tonight while I was trying to finish up some baking I asked Allie if he would help her put it together. I was so thankful that he was excited about it! It seems like every year I have great plans for wonderful holiday activies but when it gets down to it there is simply not enough time for it all. Next year I'm going to have to be much more realistic with a toddler wonderfully under foot!!!

They really seemed to enjoy their time together and created quite a masterpiece! When they finished they ate the icing from the bags and decided it was great glue but not so tasty as icing goes. Allie even tried to give Emily a gingerbread man type smile with it...gross! That's my man, always so serious!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Simple Provisions...Big Blessings!

Thursday afternoon I meet with our family doctor to discuss our adoption and how the special needs process works. I've been a little worried about this because our pediatrician relocated a couple months ago and I haven't found a new one yet. So meeting a general physician for our future under two year old worried me some. It didn't take long for me to know I was exactly where I was suppose to be!

Two awesome things happened at the doctors appointment.
1. His receptionist has been considering adoption and wanted all the information I could give her. I was able to exchange e-mail addresses with her and give her links to our agencies! Praise God! I'm praying for you Rebekah!!!!
2. I discovered that our doctor has just moved here from the Dallas area and is very familiar with the doctors at the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children! He will be able to refer us to some of the best doctors out there! Is our God awesome or what!!!!

After the doctors visit I was rushing home to work on treats for teachers gifts. Usually I am ahead of the game but not this year. God's call to a special needs adoption and the fact our immigration paperwork will expire in a couple months have thrown my holiday schedule for a little loop. A very wonderful & peaceful loop though!!

So when my friends Priscilla & T.J. said they would come over Thursday evening while Allie & I went out for a couples date night, I was thrilled. They were so awesome! We came home to beautiful hand dipped pretzels that were drizzled and sprinkled to perfection! All T.J. and I had to do was package them up and make them festive.

Unfortunately Emily has a cold and missed her class Christmas party, which meant that I would have to deliver them with her home on the couch. I know she's eleven and I shouldn't fret over her but I hate leaving my kids when they are sick. So I was even more thankful when T.J. said she would deliver them for me. All this to say THANK YOU Priscilla & T.J.!!!!! You helped more than you know!! I love you guys!!!

Oh and the couples date night was awesome!!! Our church has the best pastor and youth minister ever...even if they are a little suspect!!! And have I mentioned that I kinda like their wives? Thanks for a great evening!!!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

40 Winks 'til Christmas!

Yesterday Emily's school preformed their Christmas program titled "40 Winks" and they did such a great job! I was so proud of our kids! Emily was the best dancing disco bear I've ever seen!!! I think she gets her moves from her daddy!

Many thanks to Mrs. Tucker for all her hard work and patience...it really paid off. And thanks to Mr. Fishback for video taping it and posting it on the school site. With family all over the country, this is awesome! I appreciate you both more than you know!

You can click here for the scene Emily is in and here for their big number "When The Toys All Came To Life." It's titled "What a Day" but the link should work fine.

Our friend Priscilla was so sweet, she brought Emily the most beautiful roses! I'm loving the picture of Emily posing with them. She's quite the drama queen! We may have found her calling! Thanks for making Emily's day special Priscilla. We love you!

Congratulations to all the kids at Elbow Elementary...great job you guys!!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Surprise Visit

Ryan came home unexpectedly Friday evening and literally made me scream! I've talked to him several times over the past week and I can't believe he didn't let anything slip! He knew we were putting up the Christmas tree (ridiculously late I know) and didn't want to miss it. I had been a little sad thinking that it would be the first time he wouldn't be here to help. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see him. He and Allie weren't feeling very well but that didn't stop us from doing many Christmasy things. We strung popcorn for the tree, made paper snow flakes for the front window and visited a live nativity, which is beautifully done by a local church.

The children at our church preformed their Christmas program but unfortunately I didn't get any good pictures. They did a great job!!! I'm so thankful to go to a church that is filled with people wiling to share God's love with our kids! I'll post some pictures later if anyone that has them would like to share...hint, hint! Here's a few pictures of the weekend that did come out ok, considering that we were using Emily's camera...ours is going through batteries like crazy lately!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Story Behind Setting Up Stones

Many times throughout the Old Testament God's people would set up stones as memorials to something special God had done. You know the type of things that are so amazing, they are worthy of being remembered. Things you hope are talked about for generations to come. Like Jacob, who after wrestling with God all night, set up the stone he had used as a pillow and declared that place to be a place where God lives. (Gen.28:22) And Samuel who, after God helped him defeat his enemy, set up a stone and named the place "Ebenezer" saying "Thus far the LORD helped us." (1 Sam.7:7-12)

My favorite example of this is found in Joshua 4. God had cut off the flow of the Jordan river allowing the Israelites to cross over into the promised land on dry ground. When the Israelites were safely across God gave the command for twelve stones, one for each tribe of Israel, to be taken from the middle of the Jordan river and set up as a memorial. Then God said "In the future when your children ask you "What do these stones means?" tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." Joshua 4:6&7

I love that! I love that God in his sovereignty knows we need reminders. Big, huge stone like post-a-notes that remind us that God did something amazing. He knows we need to be reminded of his faithfulness, provision, protection, guidance and love in order to trust him more deeply. That's what I pray my life and this simple blog are, reminders. A place where, mixed in with all the silliness and craziness of everyday life, you will see reminders (stones set up) that our God has done amazing things. And I pray that by being reminded, your faith and mine will be strengthened. May God will be glorified. Amen

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Adoption Story

It's a long story but when you finish reading it, you'll know why. When God is up to something amazing you simply can't leave anything out!

In Feb. 2003 my husband and I received the news that I was pregnant and that our family of four would soon be a family of five. In the early years of our marriage we had always talked of having three children. But when it took seven years to conceive our second child Emily, we felt that she was a miracle and would likely be our last. We assumed a third child was not in God's plan for us. But secretly I still dreamed of a third child, the way we had hoped for in the beginning. Now with Emily starting kindergarten the following year, I was preparing to leave the world of preschool and go back into the world of grownups. You can imagine how surprised we were to learn that I was expecting another baby. My attempts to give up the dream of three children had, in a peculiar way, left me a little disappointed to learn I was pregnant.

Unfortunately, my doctor was very concerned from the beginning. My hormone levels were not where they should be and the pregnancy soon ended in a miscarriage. I was left with a gut wrenching longing for the baby that I was not even initially excited about. It was heartbreaking to say the least. I still yearn to hold the baby that I had begun to want so badly. I had hoped she would be a girl we could name Abby. I know I will hold her someday but until then, she is in the most blessed arms of all.

Two weeks later life got darker than I ever knew possible. My doctor’s office called and said there was an abnormality with one of the tests they had done while I was miscarrying. One week later, I discovered what it feels like to have the world fall out from under you. My doctor told me I had cancer. As he described surgery and possible radiation treatments, every desire I had for another child was completely and instantly removed. I prayed “Lord, please let me raise the children you have given to me.”

To describe all that God taught me as we faced cancer together would require a story all its own. So let me simply say that He is now my comforter, my strength, and my Jehovah Rapha like never before. While I trust and pray that I never have to face cancer again, I can honestly say that I am thankful for my diagnosis. It drew me closer to God than anything I could have ever imagined. It is something I am strangely but deeply grateful for.

As I began to heal and life settled into a new kind of normal, I began to wonder what God’s plans for our family were. Emily was now in school and Ryan, our oldest, was very active in high school. Between the two of them and various church activities I kept extremely busy. Still there was an emptiness that I attributed to being a stay at home mom with no one to mother during the day. So I waited for guidance.

I remember very clearly thinking “Wow, God must have an exciting new direction for my life that doesn't involve children.” Did He want me to go back to school and finally have a grown up job? Or did He have a ministry that He wanted me to begin? Only He knew, so I began to pray for His direction. I had no idea that He would answer those prayers with one of the strongest desires of my heart. The only “occupation” I have ever wished to have is that of being a mom and God was about to give me a new job title – “Adoptive Mom.”

When He began to call us to adoption I'm sorry to say, I questioned Him. “Us Lord? We are not those super sweet couples you see raising fifteen foster children. And you know exactly what our savings account looks like. Don’t only wealthy people adopt children?” His answer was simple “IF NOT YOU THEN WHO?”

In a huge act of faith and obedience we dove into the world of adoption. Very quickly we learned that there is a lot to learn! Terms like "foster adopt", "trans-racial adoption"," private domestic adoption" and "international adoption" all became part of our everyday speech. We prayed all new prayers for direction. We asked that God would patiently lead us to the child He had already chosen for our family. After weeks of searching and praying there was such peace when we asked “China Lord?” and He answered “OH YES!”

We went through all the paperwork and home study “interrogations”, as my husband calls them. Then we were the ones being asked to be patient as we began to wait. And wait and wait and wait. Technically we were waiting for the Chinese government to match us with our daughter. Ultimately we knew that we were (and are) waiting on the Lord.

God has taught us so much through "The waiting phase" of our adoption. More than anything though, He has taught us to trust Him. Now He is teaching us to trust Him even more by asking us to begin the process of a special needs adoption. There's that amazing peace again! It truly does "pass all understanding!" Only one thing can explain why there would be such peace in the midst of it this entire process and it's God. I can't tell you how much I love Him!

There is a Chinese proverb about a red thread that is popular in the adoption world. It says “An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but it will never break.” I don’t believe in fables or folklore but there is a red thread I believe in. It’s the blood of Christ. It’s woven through every book of the Bible both the old and new testaments. It’s woven through the books of history and law, through the Psalms and the Proverbs, the Major and Minor Prophets. It’s woven through the gospels and Acts, through the epistles and the glorious revelations. I am so humbled to say that God will give me the opportunity again to teach a precious little girl about His son, The Red Thread. The thought that I will tell her of the amazing love Christ has for her is beyond overwhelming. But I’m reminded of what God asked us when we first searched His heart, “If not you, then who?”

By traveling through the darkness of cancer and then navigating the confusing terrain of adoption God has taught me that there is so much to praise Him for. Praise Him that no matter how dark your world is, you can trust that His plans are “not to harm you but to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer.29”11) Praise Him that He knows the name of every child around the world that will never have parents to call Mom and Dad and a place to call home. Praise Him that He empowers people through his Spirit to love these beautiful children who may otherwise never hear of the saving love of Christ. Praise Him for the redeeming power that enables me to long for another child when I thought I would have no more. And praise Him that in his infinite wisdom there are many others that He may someday ask “If not you, then who?”