Monday, December 22, 2008

Thought I'd better share some of our pre-Christmas festivities before Christmas is actually here (and I only have 2 more days to do that). Can you believe Christmas is just TWO days away??

It has been unusually COLD down here in TX, so it does actually feel like Christmas. One night, we even saw this icky stuff falling from the sky and into our backyard (what is up with that????) ...

Tree Decorating:
For once, our Christmas tree lights and decorations went up without any mishaps. With the six of us working on it, we were done in no time. I've definitely lightened up in the ornament placement category. I used to secretly fret over where the kids hung each ornament. Now, I'm just happy they make it on the tree in one piece! Brittany helped add to the Christmas cheer by making us all a cozy cup of hot chocolate.

(click to enlarge)

Traditions and Advent:

If you were reading my blog last Christmas, you might remember me mentioning that I LOVE traditions and Christmas is a great time for loads of traditions. In case you missed it, you can read last year's post here: Christmas Traditions and Orname-mories .

We are once again reading The Advent Book every night before the little kids go to bed. What a great (and simple) way to hide the story of Christmas in their hearts. It warms my heart to hear both of them call out, "God with us", when the author mentions the meaning of Jesus' name, Immanuel. This advent season has opened up many opportunities to talk with the little ones about the baby Jesus, God's plan for HIS and OUR lives, His coming so that He could ultimately die for us, etc. What an awesome privelege it is to share these truths with these little ones, just as we have to the big kids over the years.

2008 Orname-mories:

Brittany will kill me for attempting to explain her 2008 orname-mory, so I'll let all of you fill-in-the-blanks...

Brant's 2008 was undoubtedly marked with TEXTING his friends, with 100s and 100s of texts coming to and from his cell phone per day. Crazy, isn't it?

2008 for Brock Ji Hao was obviously a year full of changes, as he prepared for and then began to acclimate to his new family and home here in America. We are so happy to replace his 2007 orname-mory, when we were just "thinking about Ji Hao", with his new 2008 "1st Christmas home" ornament.

Brielle has spent the last half of 2008 purring and meowing like a kitty. Not sure where that is coming from, but it made picking an orname-mory for her quite easy.

Cookie Making and Decorating:

Cookie decorating has always been an event for the entire family, and now with two more members in on it, it goes so fast. This, too, has been a place where I've given up on things looking perfect...or in this year's case, even edible :o) !

(click to enlarge)

Gingerbread House:

While Max and I were shopping one afternoon, Brant helped the little kids make a Gingerbread House from a ($9) kit. Brock and Brielle were so proud of their creation. It has been our centerpiece on our breakfast nook table, and they still proudly tell me all about it on an almost daily basis. Brant is such a good big brother!

Better make that it for now...there are many things to wrap up in the next TWO days!

Wishing you and your family the most blessed of Christmas Days!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Multiple Blessings from China!

(photos compliments of my sister, Cindy, whose camera is MUCH better than mine...thanks, Cindy!)

Aren't they precious?

It really wasn't until I got home from our visit to TN and loaded my pictures into the computer that it really sunk in just how COOL it is that our family has been blessed with FOUR sweet Chinese children. To be honest, the reality of it brought me to tears. I am so humbled that our family was chosen to reach across the ocean to hold the hands and hearts of four of God's precious children born in China. God has a perfect plan for each of our lives, and I can't help but stand in awe and wonder of how He is orchestrating the lives of these precious, once fatherless, little ones. I can't help but wonder what great things He has in store for them...and for the country of their birth.

A Tennessee Thanksgiving!

This year, with Brielle no longer "two", we decided to brave it and take the L.O.N.G. car ride to Tennessee for Thanksgiving with our family. With all six of us crammed in to our extremely over-packed van, we made the journey with no problems at all (as long as you don't include the difficulty in keeping our eyes open on the 19 hour trip home).

Several times a day leading up to leaving, I talked with Brock Ji Hao about the trip and who we'd see in TN, and he was so excited! He kept asking, "Tomorrow Tennessee?", so I finally decided that a count-down chain might help...and it did! He was able to meet both sets of grandparents, as well as some of his aunts, uncles, and cousins (two of whom are also cool is that???). He seemed to be enjoying his time with extended family so much, that I was worried he'd be sad to go back to life as usual. Actually, though, he was more than ready for life as usual, and once we were home, he repeatedly said, "I like San Antonio." So cute!

(click on the photo collages to make them larger)

A short hike in the Smokey Mountains...

Exploring the outdoors at Grandma and Papa Thibert's house...
Thanksgiving (and a little Christmas) at Grandma and Grandpa Good's house...

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Be joyful always; pray continually;give thanks in all circumstances,

for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,

whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Philippians 4: 11b - 13

I have SO much to be thankful for. Truly, my life is good. I adore my precious husband and cherish our relationship. I have four beautiful, healthy, smart, and (relatively) well-behaved children (uh, least two or three of them are :o) ) I have the privilege of being a full-time keeper of our home and our children. My husband has a good job with a good income. We live in a beautiful home with way more than enough room for all six of us. I love my extended family, and we all get along well and enjoy each other's company (Cowboy fans included...I guess :o) ) I was told about Jesus as a young child and have been blessed with His salvation, grace, and mercy for the majority of my life. I live in a country where I have the freedom to live out my faith.

Thank you, Lord, for all of these blessings!

But, what if my life wasn't so "good"? What if I lost one of those I hold most dear to my heart? What if one of us were terminally ill? What if I didn't have my "dream home" or even anything close to it? What if my children were rebellious? What if my husband was a jerk, and I despised the sight of him? What if I didn't know where we'd get the money to pay our next mortgage bill, hospital bill, electric bill? What if I lived in a country where I could be brutally persecuted for my faith?

Would I still be giving thanks??? Would I still be content???

I've been thinking about that quite a bit lately. Knowing myself, I ashamedly admit that I'm sure I wouldn't be a natural master in the thanks and contentment "in all circumstances" category.

God didn't give us two separate "manuals" -- one for when things are going "well" and another for when we are living through a trial. His Word is the same for each and every one of us -- yesterday, today, and forever, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. I have the same instruction (and responsibility) (and promises!) from the Lord whether I am rich or poor, healthy or sick, happy or hurting, free or in prison chains, in America or in Africa.

As I've been pondering these things, I started reading the book The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of the Chinese Christian Brother Yun, and then I saw the following video posted on several of my favorite blogs. Both of these are humbling and challenging examples of people living out the Lord's instruction to be "joyful always" and "content" in circumstances unimaginable to any American.