Joy

It’s officially three minutes into our daughter’s due date and I’m flooded with emotions and thoughts that I want to capture before I fall asleep.  I actually just snuck out of bed to come write this post.  The last few weeks have been a blur of surreal excitement as we’ve made the final preparations for our girl.  There have been so many precious moments that I want to remember and jot down before I forget them all, but tonight I felt the need to share this while my sentiments are fresh.  I actually don’t know what to say or where to even begin.  I just know that my heart is full of overwhelming joy.

Just down the hall, my two oldest nieces are snuggled up sleeping in my guest room.  Ave, my ginger-haired and freckle faced teenager is wearing my t-shirt, and my AK with the cutest button nose and rosy cheeks asked to sleep in my warmest pair of socks.  I watched them a little closer today as they giggled and joked with each other.  It’s a lot harder these days, but I can still imagine them as young babies.  How did they get this big this fast?  I often wish that time would stand still or slow down just enough for me to remember every single detail of their smile.  Seriously, they capture my heart.

After I tucked them in tonight, I said a silent prayer hoping they know how much I will always love them.  I’m beginning to understand that the line drawn between being the fun Auntie that spoils them, and the responsible adult that wants what is best for them is delicate.  I’m thankful for so many years with them to “practice” being a parent.  I know everything will be different with my own, but they have taught me so much.  One thing that I hope I can teach them, and eventually our daughter one day, is that it’s okay if you aren’t always happy.  As much as we want to protect the sweet innocent ones in our life, they learn that all things aren’t fair.  We get hurt, there are difficult days, and things don’t always turn out the way that we want.  In fact, there will simply be times when we will be sad.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have joy.

There is a beautiful and glorious difference between happiness and joy.

Joy shines through the darkness.  Joy is fought for, gives hope, and fuels faith.

Tonight, I am filled with joy at the anticipation of Anderson Marie’s arrival.  I want her to know as soon as she can understand how thrilled we are for her to join our family.  I also want her to know that she has two amazing families that are forever joined through the miracle of adoption.  Charles, Ande’s birth grandfather has told me since the first time that we met that he gets his joy from seeing our joy.  He won’t let us forget that our excitement and gladness brings him comfort.  The Lord is taking an unfortunate situation and creating good.  He is turning our sadness into joy.

My heart may burst from all the joy that I can’t contain.  In these last few moments as we wait for the birth of our daughter, I’m going to soak up the time that I have left loving on my big girls.  They are helping the time pass quicker, and definitely keeping me busy!

Come quickly though, Ande, we are all ready to meet you!

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

Gifts of Grace {Christmas 2013}

For the sake of documenting our story, I want to remember the little blessings that the Lord has used to give us comfort and hope.  The holidays, for obvious reasons, were the most difficult for us to face.  We had so many hopes and dreams planned for that season. There were “My First Thanksgiving” bibs, and matching Christmas cousin pajamas.  There were plans for pictures that we never got to take, and we were really looking forward to playing Santa.  Instead, it was a season of mourning what we were hoping for, and trying to let go of something that we felt like we lost.
The sweetest Christmas gift was having my twin brother fly in from S. Korea to surprise the entire family!  It was such a joy to finally get to spend a Christmas with him.  It’s been too many years in a row that he’s been deployed during the holiday season!  Having him and his precious wife around was like glorious comfort food for my weary soul! Whenever we are able to get everyone together we usually refer to the gathering as “Better than Christmas…”  Well this was the Christmas to beat all Christmases.
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My tiniest gift of grace this year we lovingly call our Tiny or Amelia Jane.  She is my sister’s fourth daughter.  She is our miracle baby, (you can read more about her story here), but she is my little reminder that joy can come from pain.  Amelia was born in September, right in between when we found out we’d be selected by a birth mother, and when the baby was due to be born.  Her timing (and testimony) are nothing short of Providence.
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I found out that my sister was going to be adopting a baby before we got ours, I was a little disheartened at first. That sadness quickly faded to excitement when I realized that our babies would be so close in age, and would forever be best friends.  We even got several matching outfits for them to wear together.  Despite the outcome of our adoption placement, the Lord knew exactly what our family needed, and He especially knew how to protect my heart.  I know my sinful nature well, and had Amelia joined our family any earlier or any later, there might have been a little bit of bitterness in my heart.  Not that I would love her any less regardless of when she came into our lives, but I’ve been down this road before with my sister’s third daughter.

We found out that Atalie was joining our family just a few months after we had our miscarriage in 2009.  In my solitary moments with God, I did not handle that news with grace.  I was angry at God, and selfishly bitter because I was ready to be a mother.  Atalie burst into our lives and has left us all speechless with the joy that she brings.

Amelia Jane has done nothing short of that as well.  The Lord knew exactly when to place that Tiny miracle in our lives so that we could fall madly in love with her.  He used her severely deformed body show us His Grace and Mercy.  All I have to do is look at those sweet chubby cheeks and I’m reminded that His plans are not my own, and how desperately I need a Savior.

Those two reminders sitting in my husband’s lap are evidence of how far He has brought me in this journey.  Despite my selfish tendencies, inconsiderate thoughts, and shameful anger the Lord has brought joy from my pain.  He has given me comfort and hope.  This past Christmas season was hard to face, but was surprisingly redeemed with beautiful gifts of Grace.

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:19

Summing up Summer

I have to admit that I’m a little jealous of my teacher friends. I secretly get psyched when boxes of crayons can be purchased for pennies, the urge to buy paper in bulk becomes irresistible, and I legitimately crave the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. I would get sick with dread when I had to go to school, but there is a different kind of excitement that comes with being the teacher. That excitement must bring a little bit of bittersweetness too. The colorful sale-filled isles at the store signal the end of another summer.

Doesn’t it seem like the summer passes quicker with each year?

Now, I will not apologize for not blogging all summer because I promised myself I wouldn’t do that. There aren’t any high expectations, remember? But I will do a fast little recap, for my memory’s sake, which is already fading faster than the leaves are turing colors.

In early June, we were able to visit our beloved Seabrook Island. It’s our little hideaway from reality. When we visit we feel like we leading a different life, far from the worries of the everyday grind. Isn’t that what vacation is supposed to be about? This year, the Lord gave us a sign that we just needed to sit back, relax, and put our feet up. Literally.

Those pictures should speak for themselves, but the story begs for some clarification. My darling husband, who is a few mere months from 30 decided that he would try to skim board for the first time in his life. My best friend had her camera in hand at the perfect moment. If you could zoom in to his right foot, you would notice that it’s bending at a very unnatural angle. Clockwise from the money shot, you can see his sandy but cheerful face being wheeled back for an x-ray, and next he’s trying his hand at (some very expensive) crutches. Luckily, my man only sprained his ankle, but the doctor was shocked that nothing was broken. We spent the week learning to relax. We can laugh about it now, but the Lord really wanted us to just rest and not do too much. My parents were able to join us for a few days, and we got to spend some much needed time laughing, talking, and relaxing.

Because our best friends live so close to Seabrook, we were able to spend a few afternoons loving on their babies. These pictures were taken at the end of the week when Brad’s limits extended to the point of him hobbling around with only one crutch.

It was a wonderful trip that will forever be know as the vacation with the skim board incident. It was also the highlight of our summer. The problem with having your main vacation at the beginning of the summer is that the rest of it is a little anticlimactic.

Other than our trip to Seabrook, we’ve taken a few trips back “home” to visit family. This summer has been filled with a lot of sickness too. I’ve had my first serious encounter with food poisoning. I may have thought that I’ve had it in the past, even joking when food doesn’t agree with me. However, I wasn’t joking when I managed to land an adventurous trip to the Emergency Room, and I now know what true food poisoning looks like. It ain’t pretty, and the ER trip selfishly took a hefty chunk out of our adoption fund.

There isn’t much else that is noteworthy of our Summer ’12 other than the fact that we are still trying to prepare our home for a little baby.  We finally completed two projects for Baby Broccoli, but they deserve a post of their own.  So here’s a farewell to the daily afternoon thunderstorms, no excuses needed for ice cream treats, and to hoping that next year, we can introduce little chubby baby feet to the beaches of our beloved Seabrook.

Mother’s Day

I’m sure there are dates on everyone’s calendar that seem to loom above the rest in an I’m-dreading-you-but-I-know-I-need-to-act-happy-for-others-kind-of-way.  If you don’t have one, will you pretend for me, so I don’t feel like I have less than human emotions?

Mother’s Day has been one of those days for me for the past 5 years.  For the last three of those years, I’ve had a sweet little reason in Heaven to celebrate.  Do you know how hard it is to celebrate that?  I’m know some of you don’t have to imagine.

This year for Mother’s Day, Brad told me a few days before that he had to unexpectedly work all weekend.  We were both incredibly bummed, so he literally had to help me pack up and convince me to head to the Upstate for the weekend.  It was a sweet and thoughtful gesture on his end.  He knew I didn’t need to be home alone to ponder my thoughts.  I was able to conspire with my younger brother and his lovely wife to meet me at mother’s house to surprise her for the weekend.  I even stopped at my sister’s house on the way and kidnapped my youngest niece.

It was a relaxing weekend where we crafted, watched movies, and stayed up late talking.  The Bitty niece kept us thoroughly entertained too.  My favorite moment happened on Saturday afternoon. I wondered into the living room to see what Bitty was up to.  She had her back turned to me, and she was obviously getting into something.  I looked an realized that the basket of baby goodies that my grandmother had been saving for me was scattered on the floor.  As I walked up to Atalie, she turned around and said “Bibby, help please!”  In her hand was a pack of paci’s that she was trying to rip open.  I tried to explain that Nanny bought those paci’s for Bibby’s baby.  She was utterly confused, and proclaimed, “No! Ata’s paci!”  After several more attempts at explaining that they were not for her, she looked at me and said, “Ata is Bibby’s Baby!”  So I opened them I let her have a paci, or two.

This is the ONLY picture of her that didn’t turn out blurry because we were laughing hysterically!

Ultimately, the big smile on my Mama’s face was more than enough to help ease the pain that comes along on the second Sunday of every May.  I woke up that Sunday morning to my phone ringing.  It was my precious hubby calling to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.  In his voice, I could hear his compassion, understanding, and love.  We talked for just a few minutes before he had to go, and together we dared to hope that maybe, just maybe, this will be our last Mother’s Day without a sweet baby in our arms to help us celebrate.

pulling an Auntie shift

Anytime I get to play Auntie Lib is always a favorite of mine.  My sister asked me to keep the nieces while her and Nate went to plan their church’s summer mission trip in Boston this past weekend.  And by weekend, I mean Saturday through Wednesday.  My shift obviously included three school days, which I have managed to pull off successfully multiple times before.  My crazy fabulous Auntie skills came through again, regardless of the fact that I got very little sleep.

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of visual documentation from our glorious week together, and what I do have is from my cell phone.  The picture above is the only picture I have of all three girls together.  Atalie was on a major sugar high, Ave had just gotten home from school, and sweet AK stayed home from school with a fever that day.  But let me back up  and start from the beginning so I can chronicle a few of our adventures.

If I recall correctly, it had only been a few minutes since her parents had left, and this little honey was already asking for sugar.  She knows I usually cave to any of her requests.  A few things to note about this picture:  her hat (size 3-6 mths) worn over her hairbow, the hair band-thingy used as a bracelet, and her necklace that matched her outfit and her popsicle perfectly.  What you can’t see is the purple strand of drool from her chin to her knees.

The next notable event would be Averie’s soccer game.  The two year old packed a bag bigger than my pocketbook filled with snacks, jewelry, princess figurines, and my lip gloss that she found in my car.

AK took a book.  She read the entire time while Atalie and I cheered Ave on from the sidelines.  Atalie occasionally stopped eating and applying lip gloss to love on her sissy.  My duties that week included getting Atalie ready for her spring school pictures, and baking cookies for her class Easter party.  She looked super adorable (her pictures had already been taken at this point, don’t worry) and came home with a bag of goodies.  Before I knew it, she had proudly opened three suckers, and wanted to pose with her hand on her hip.

This trip was especially special for this Auntie because I got some quality time with each of my girls individually .  One night when the two youngest went to bed early, Ave and I were able to stay up and have some girl talk.  She is growing into a young lady so quickly that I wish I could slow things down before she is too grown.  But I cherish the sweet girl talks that we shared.  I hope she’ll remember some of the advice that I gave her, and come back for more talks even when she’s my age.  AK and I got some great craft time together. She’s got the family gene combined with a thoughtful giving heart, so she made her mama and daddy a welcome home gift.  She made a jewelry holder from an old frame and twigs, and painted a walking stick with her daddy’s favorite bible verse.  Ata and I spent some time playing pretend.  We put on make up and played (a lot) of princess-like games.

I can only hope that my girls have as much fun as I do when we get to have our “weekends” together.  We usually end up staying up a little later than they are supposed to, eating too many sweets, and dancing around the living room with scarves after the sun has gone down.

Just so I don’t forget, here are a few funny lines from the week:

Please don’t lick your sister’s home work.  Do you want another popsicle instead?

Don’t eat the lip gloss.  Ok, I guess you can put it in your hair.  That is a better option.

And my favorite:

(At 4:30 in the morning as Ave’s alarm clock is going off…)  (Libby) Averie!  Why is your alarm going off two hours early!?  (Ave) I just want to make sure I get up on time. (AK) Aunt Libby is here, you will be up on time and at school early.  Please turn it off!

family pictures

We had some family pictures taken about a week ago.  My cousin’s long time friend, Will was able to work with this big crowd.  He’s been to several Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers, so he knew our dynamic very well.  We took these pictures behind my Nanny & Papa’s barn.  They have a beautiful field full of goats, and their neighbors have horses.  There is also one finicky bull that resides in the field too.  These are a few of my favorites, and some out-takes too.

All the guys having fun.

My twin and is lovely better half.

The Brownies!

Siblings & Cousins

Baby brother & his beautiful wife

Don’t let this bull fool you, he didn’t want to be friends.

Finn, the dog, has taken his place as favorite child.

She wanted to highlight the joys of photography in a field. Use your imagination.

Heavens, aren’t they adorable?

 My darling sister-in-law, Elizabeth, took the pictures of my honey and I separately.  We wanted some pictures that we could use in our adoption portfolio.

It was a glorious trip that went by way too fast.  Time spent with family is priceless, especially since we all live so far away.