Monday, December 3, 2012


I have a thing for manger scenes.  If I wasn't already so overburdened with stuff, I'd probably own far too many.  As it is I have two, not counting the "kid" ones that Maggie and James had when they were little.
They use to love to unwrap the people and place them in their various locations, arguing, in true Christmas spirit where everyone should go.  Now they don't much care and I miss James's antics of the last few years when he would put pieces in crazy places and see how long it took Maggie to notice.

I don't know what it is particularly about them that endears me - other than the feeling that I might have more in common with the people there and their messy state than the people I go to church with.
I was thinking how far flung we are, our culture, from that scene now.  How little we can possibly relate on a practical level to that event.  Spiritually though there is still opportunity to ask what our own lives look like in relation.  Are they like the Inn, too full, of gifts and activities and people to pay much attention to Jesus?  And who am I most like in the scene?  Mary, pregnant with hope amidst the confusion of a sometimes (most times?) unpredictable God?  Or am I the Wise Men, traveling years to find Him, the one pearl of great price (Matt 13:46)?

This year I will pull out our nativity scenes, not with Maggie and James who are too busy, but with Julia and Ellie.  Making new memories.  That change alone makes me feel that the last few years have made me most like the shepherds - utterly surprised by the turn of events!
I want my life to be the un-immaculate barn that the blog name represents - the stable - the place not too full for Jesus.  A place that while messy (and it is one messy life I'm living right now) is also able to welcome this King of Glory.
This Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Christmas a la Julia

The last week of November a common refrain from Julia was, "I don't want it be Thanksgiving, I want it be Christmas!"
One day, having heard this about a dozen times, James says, "Julia, do you even know what Christmas is?"
"Yes," she states with complete confidence, "it's where you go outside and you get a tree and you bring it in the house and then you take it back out again."

Sunday, July 22, 2012


If you have never read Ann VosKamp's book One Thousand Gifts, you should.
I found it life-changing, and I am pretty persnickety about books.
It really cheapens it to say that it is a book about learning to give thanks because it is so much more, but in it she writes about how numbering the gifts of God changed her.  Maybe I will do that here some, since writing "real" posts seems overwhelming right now.

Tonight I am thankful -
For ocean shores.
For ninety minute walks every day with friends who do not fear to go to dark places with you and shine the Light of Truth there.  So, so thankful for that one.
For toddler toes, happy, in sand.
For many teenagers in my living room, no matter what town we manage to go to!
For long car trips safely made and without hardly a tear.
For laughter, too rare lately, erupting like a crocus in spring.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Toddler Tales

Today someone mentioned that they were going "number two". 
Julia asked, "What's number two mean?"  I explained to her that that was something we said when we meant we were going poo-poo. 
She was quiet for a few minutes. 
"What's number four?", she asked.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grace, Grace, Grace - there is a theme here

Here is something I have noticed:  we, Christians are quick to preach a gospel of grace, but are not necessarily a gracious people. 
Sad, don't you think, that we who have been given so much grace, mete it out so sparingly? 
I include myself in this chastisement. 

Sometimes when God has given us a revelatory vision for some area of our lives we think that we now have a corner market on the right way to do something.  We forget that Solomn, the "wisest man", unwisely had 700 wives (1 Kings11:3).  We forget that David, a "man after God's own heart" (1 Sam 13:14) had a heart that also led him into adultery and then murder to cover it up.  We forget, in short, that there was only One who got all of the answers right.

"My grace is sufficient for thee ... " (2Cor 12:9) is on our refrigerator.  The emphasis in our heart, I tell one of my children for whom people are important, is the word My
Sometimes other people's grace won't be sufficient. 
They won't meet your needs - they won't understand the circumstances of your life - they won't listen to your explanation of why you chose what you chose.  But He knows.

Thank God, He knows.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Game Face and Grace

I have several close people in my life who are in the midst of some lonely private struggles.  I feel like I have been in my own lonely private struggle for a while and so I find myself particularly sensitive to these souls right now.   Job losses, prodigal children, difficult marriages, difficult pregnancies, difficult transitions, widowhood ... there are things you expect to be lonely, but some of the worst times are when other people either don't know or can't know the struggle.  Satan loves it when we are in those places.  It is a battle of the mind to remind yourself of Truth on a regular basis.  
"Children are a heritage from the Lord"  (Ps 127:3) 
"Seven times a righteous man falls, seven times he gets up"  (Prov 24:16)
"The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry"  (Prov 10:3)
" We know that all things work together for the good to them that love God" (Rom 8:28).

The other day I called one of these friends and said to her amidst my own tears,  "please just tell me that the Lord is going to make something beautiful of this!"   She did tell me, of course, and it was a little better.  It has made me think though, how we all need to be doing that for each other, even before the person asks, because who knows that they are not in their own private hell that we know nothing of.  Maybe the grumpy clerk in the store or the driver who just cut you off is just trying to make it through the day.  Maybe more than our chastisement they need our mercy.

We are studying Ephesians in our small group right now, and two little words have just stood out to me for a month now:  " .... impart grace..."  (Ephes 4:29)

Oh how I would love to be one who imparts grace wherever I am ....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Forwards ...

I try very hard not to "forward" stuff to people.  Not because there are not things worthy of being passed along but because I have so much trouble managing my inbox that I feel guilty adding to someone else's.
I use to try to "clean it up" every once in a while - prune it down to a few pages, put things in folders, etc.  I have, on more than one occasion, even thought about just starting over and getting a new email address.
A couple of years ago, I had an epiphany.  I will just let it sit there.  It is over loaded and full but until MSN tells me it's servers can no longer handle it, I don't think I will waste any more time trying to make it "work for me".  The 131 pages of messages, the 760 unread emails, the 227 "flagged"'s all there! 

Anyway, the following is a link that someone dear forwarded to me that I am so, so thankful for that I am pasting it here.  I know you don't have time to read it, but I hardly ever write anything, so read this post instead.  At least the first three paragraphs anyway, because we are in that second struggle and it would be good for people to understand that sometimes.  She doesn't write all that she could about it, but for someone yet to adopt she does amazingly well.  Thank you Jen for writing, and thank you Rachelle for sharing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Teenagers

My mother has suggested that I write something about "the teenagers".
When I was pregnant with Julia, and people figured out the age difference that was going to be between the children, there usually followed the comment about teenagers.  When I had her, the assumption was always made that of the two ends of the spectrum, surely I found the teenagers more trying.  I always felt bad for these people, because I love my teenagers.  I don't just love them because they are my kids, but like them as people, delight in being with them, and miss them when they are gone.  I do not know if I will feel the same way about Julia and Ellie when they are that age, but I sure hope so.
I generally avoid the topic of Maggie and James for several reasons.
For one, I am pretty sure that teenagers, as a rule, don't want to show up in their mother's blog very often.
Two, one of my "pet peeves" with myself and sometimes parents in general, is our tendency to talk about our children's "issues" as if they were our story to share long past the age in which that is true.  I have a precious relationship with Maggie and James and would not want to write anything that would jeopardize that.  I don't, however, want to give the impression that everything is perfect or that we don't have trials or that the trials we do have don't have consequences. 
Thirdly is the practical reality that young adulthood is a season in your life when you are trying on different labels - different adjectives for who you are.  What people you love say about you, especially to others, can really stick.  At my age I can still remember many words that people used to describe me, some of them taking years to shed.  Even if they were not hurtful, they often became burdens.
The other day James really convicted me on this very point.  He said, "Well, mom, you have a perpetual ____, a perpetual ____, and a perpetual ____.  I wonder what Ellie will be."  He was not mad at me at the time, we were laughing in fact.  But I realized those blanks?  They were labels I had given each of them.  They were accurate summations of the thing about the three of them that most grates on my nerves.
I am going to be working on that.

So all of those things are considerations when writing about the messes left in the proverbial barn by the teenagers verses the messes left by the toddlers.

I would think, however, that it should be safe to publicly thank Maggie and James for the sacrificial ways they have lived at times the past two and a half years.  I am not saying this has been a bad thing.  God has used all of these changes to bring forth less self-centeredness in both of their hearts, and that is very beautiful.  I do note though, that it has occasionally been hard and they have gone far above the call of duty in many ways.
SO, thank you dear almost adults!  For making my morning coffee and my evening tea.  For taking your sisters to the trampoline so that I can finish some task.  For taking care of the dog and whatever she dragged home, or rolled in, or both. 
Thank you for making Julia and Ellie laugh.  For turning my bed down and fetching me an Advil.  For patiently waiting for an answer to your question.  For forgiving my snappy irritability at the end of the day. 
Thank you for lunch made and dishes done.  For fresh flowers on the table.
Thank you for cleaning the bathroom because some one is coming and "we wouldn't want people to think we live like this!".  For taking little people on adventures that involve ice cream and sprinkles and ducks. 
Thank you for hanging up your wet towels and folding the dry ones.  For chopping vegetables and marinating the steaks. 
Thank you for picking up the milk on milk day and your dad at the end of the day.

You are my very favorite first born child and my very favorite son and I love you both!

Children are a heritage from the Lord.....Psalm127:3

Friday, March 30, 2012

Under construction

I have felt tired a lot lately.  Not of the "not enough sleep" variety (thank you, God), but the other kind.  The feeling too old for my age type.  The weariness that doesn't just come at the end of the day, but greets you in the morning too.
I was asking the Lord, "Why?" just the other day.  He never fails to answer when we ask genuinely.

This morning was particularly trying with Julia and Ellie.  Really, lots of us were a bit testy, so I won't name any more names.
As I was getting Julia ready for her nap I looked at how tired she was, and has been lately, and thought; "it is very hard feeling like you have to defend your territory all of the time, isn't it?"

Which is when it occurred to me that that might be why I am so tired too.  What territory have I felt the need to defend?  My rights? My desires? My agendas?  Yep, those are always in the way of peace. 
An additional one, unique to the moment though was the thought that I, like Julia, was also trying to reclaim the old normal.  Longing for it to somehow return - with Ellie, of course - but return to where I felt we had been. 
It won't. 
It will be, as I told Maggie before they came home, a new normal.  All hellos seem to have a good-bye involved too, have you noticed?  An element of grief mixed with joy.  I've never seen it pure one or the other in this life.   

Just acknowledging that in the midst of the delight of having Ellie home, there is an element of mourning too is somehow relieving.  Letting go of the relentless pursuit to "get to normal", well that might take me more time.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A date!

Today Serge and I had our first date since they returned from China! 

We headed off in the truck to take an old mattress and box springs to the transfer station (a pleasant euphemism for the dump).  After unloading that on the "tipping floor" we got sandwiches at Zero's subs and then headed to Lowe's for mortar.  He asked me why I didn't wear the pearls he brought back for me from China.  "Gee, honey, I don't know?"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Updating - or not really.

I have been wanting to write something for awhile....praying for one of those God given bursts of brilliance(ha,ha), but nothing has come.   It is hard to explain how it is that I can have a million thoughts bouncing around in my head and in my heart but somehow nothing to say at the same time.  Nonetheless, that is where I am.  And Ginger will understand what I mean by that even if no one else does.

I think part of the problem is, there are a number of little sad motifs in our life and I am not always sure what to do with them.  Some of them are not really my story to tell, although they affect me deeply.  Some things I just don't have the words for yet.
I don't really want to bother writing a blog though that might "inspire" a few but predominantly annoy most with it's well-staged photos and ever-happy writings.  If God is to be glorified in this, or in any other aspect of my life, it has to be on His terms.  And, His terms, do not, for the most part, look particularly neat or organized or pretty.  Any ten minutes of Bible reading will show you that.  He actually seems most apt to show up in some of the ugliest moments, in the most unlikely circumstances, in short, in the messiest places of our lives.

So, we are plugging along.  I think people are adjusting.  I think that is very much still a present tense verb in our lives.  I think that it includes all six of us.  I think it could have been a lot harder than it has been.  I also think it has been harder than I thought or, more accurately, that different things are hard than I expected.  By grace perhaps though, there is little time to think about it.  Mostly, I feed people.  Then I clean up after them.  Then they are usually hungry again.  Sometimes I just skip the part about cleaning up. 

While I am on that topic I want to thank three more people who have contributed to the mostly endless endeavor of feeding us!  Kathy, who has a sewing blog, but really ought to have a cooking blog, brought us a chef salad with this scrumptious homemade Parmesan peppercorn dressing that I virtually licked out of the bottle when we finished it up!  Amye, who is particularly good at finding great recipes, brought us chicken and rice and steamed carrots and something called Scottish Oat cakes, which were an absolute delicious tasting cross between bread and cookies.  Sharon brought what she termed comfort food.  A delicious chicken casserole and salad and cookies!  The most comforting thing though was having someone else think of it and fix it, don't you think?  Thank you sweet people for loving on us in such sweet and tangible ways!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A different kind of relationship

Here is the thing I think people should wonder about:  How is it different parenting an adopted child as opposed to your biological child? 
Maybe not people in general, but perhaps I should have thought about it more. 
Serge and I were our usual selves on this matter (that being a compliment in neither case on this point) and assumed it would be the same.  We were called to adopt, we would get her, we weren't going to change our mind after we had her no matter what ergo our feelings would be the same for all four of our children and our parenting style also the same.

It isn't - the parenting style part.  I love Ellie.  If the house is burning down I am going to grab her as fast as I grab Julia (although at the moment she would likely fare better as she is still in our room....).   But she feels, in many ways, like someone else's child still.  Less so as times goes on - perhaps to ultimately not feel even a tiny bit that way I pray - but definitely now. She has habits that I am not use to, she smells different to me, she eats things I would never have fed my children, she has needs I have never had to meet before.  I would be lying to tell you those things don't make any difference. 

A small example, we never let our kids suck their fingers or thumbs.  I do not have any Pharisaical hang up on the matter, you go right ahead and let your children do whatever you want, I simply can not stand to hold some one's hands with drool on them.  Even my own children.  So it was just not something that I ever let start.  That was what pacifiers were for.  Pacifiers have two ends - the drooly side for the child and the handle for the adult.  I am a fan of that kind of division.  Ellie, however,  sucks on her fingers, well mostly sort of chews.  I do not like it but hesitate to hinder it, after all perhaps it was the only comfort she had, right?

And, that, in a nutshell, is what makes parenting Ellie different than the other three.  The theme can range from the significant to the mundane - from would I let Julia cry in this situation to would I let Julia eat that cheerio off of the floor.  Any tears they do cry come with a lot more baggage.  No matter how good the decision is for the child or for the family, you always say to yourself, how many unnecessary tears has she already shed?  All of the decisions you make tend to breed this kind of second guessing.  Would I make the same choice if it were Julia?  Am I putting Ellie in the car seat first because her protest is less vocal than Julia's today?  It can be endless and downright silly.

Except that it isn't.

So we pray for Grace and Wisdom and then some more Grace - for Ellie and for the other three.  Without which we are most decidedly doomed to failure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Week One!

It has been one week of having every member of the family in the same hemisphere!  A friend asked me if it felt longer or shorter than that.  I am not sure.  I have been surprised at how tired I have been.  I didn't even fly half way around the world, and yet I feel jet-lagged some days!

I could complain about the little things that I knew to expect would drive me crazy.  Like the fact that the suitcases remain on the living room floor half unpacked. 

Or that I rarely return people's phone calls (did you notice?), although I very much appreciate them. 

Or that I feel like all I accomplish on any day is to feed people.  It is a nearly endless stream of feeding and cleaning up.  We use so many dishes it is unbelievable!

Second breakfast all cleaned up.

Lunch just finished.

Monday was my maiden voyage with two toddlers by myself.  It took 25 minutes to get in the car with everything and only two-thirds of us cried at any point so I think I will consider it successful.  All we needed to do was pick up James from chemistry class, thank goodness.   

Yesterday my parents came for a visit with a cooler of food.  Not just any food, but my dad's food, which is incredible. 

Everyone I know who has eaten anything he makes thinks he should have opened a restaurant.  It is true.  Marinara sauce and meatballs (carefully separated to appeal to both the vegetarians and carnivores in the family), twice baked potatoes, seafood creole, chicken salad and even bread!  All of it frozen in meal size portions for future use.  My mother says food is my dad's love language - apparently he loves us a lot!!  She brought flowers she grew for the table and her usual enthusiasm for all that we are doing.  I am so blessed to have such a great relationship with my parents.  It helps that they think all of my children are amazing, even the newest one.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How it's going....

Everyone wants to know.

It is going well, I think.  It is an adjustment, of course.  The guys are very jet-lagged and that has been harder than I thought, even though everyone told me it would be.  Julia has done well with Ellie.  Sometimes she looks like the hostess with the house guest that won't go home, but most of the time she seems pretty good.  Ownership of certain items have been well declared, but once noted are usually shared with Ellie freely.  Ellie has some odd eating habits compared to my other children, but that is to be expected and they are easily forgiven their inconvenience because she has let me sleep through two of her three full nights home

We have enjoyed visits from Nona and Pepere (Serge's parents) and our friends, the Powells.  Thank you to the friends who have been feeding us!!  Mary who humbles me by showing up at Serge's work with her own two children under three and enough homemade lasagna to feed a crowd.  Michelle and her six children sharing amazing black bean chimichangas.  And Christine, a fellow adoptive mom herself, bringing us roasted chicken and vegetables. 
Adopting is not the easiest way to get people to bring you meals, but boy do we appreciate it. 

There are more difficult things to say, of course, and as soon as I find beautiful words for them I will write.  I want to be honest in all ways.

Some of Maggie's photography to make the blog pretty ...
  Julia "helping" with Ellie's bath.

Good Morning.

Serge falling asleep giving Ellie her bedtime bottle!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Package Delivered"

That is what Serge said to me at the airport last night (this morning) when their plane landed at 1:35 a.m.  They were exhausted and emotional and it was wonderful!  We all were finally in bed by 3:30a.m.! 

Thank you precious people for praying for us and all of the aspects of this trip.  Thank you to you sweet people who tried to greet us at the airport - Matt and Tom and Sherri and Tom and Margie and Ken and Trisha - oh how I wish that had been the homecoming but Ellie looked overwhelmed enough so maybe this was best.  Thank you Caroline for going above and beyond the call of friendship and hanging with us until the end!!!  I can not imagine this journey without you. 

And, yes, we would love for you to visit or call.  If we decide to sleep, we will turn off the phone and lock the doors.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Are we Nuts??

Don't answer that in the comments section.

This morning I woke up suddenly with the audacity and foolishness of this whole idea looming largely in the rear-view mirror.  It is a distraction from going forward.  I wish I could talk to Serge and have him tell me that it will be good, the way he usually does.  But he can't because we are in "black out".

Last night Maggie and I watched Apollo 13 because it had been well over a year since I have seen it, and I don't like to go too long.  I think it is one of the greatest movies ever made.  How they make it suspenseful when you walk into the theatre knowing the ending, amazes me.  I don't know what year it was filmed in but it was before special effects were the only thing people cared about.  There is no loud music except the orchestral swell in the climax.  No flashing from scene to scene.  During the "black out" in the movie, there is silence.  The camera pans, not flits, to show the faces of the people in the room waiting to hear if there will be voices from the men.  There is a still suspense.  And when they make it, I cry, every time.

Anyway, suspense is what I feel today.  This little "souveneir" from their trip?  How is she going to fit into this life I already feel that I can't manage?  What is re-entry going to feel like?
Shakey at best - and loud - with a splash down sure to bring nausea and relief all at the same time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making Room for Ellie

Some pictures of our evolving life ....

Yesterday Maggie and Julia made cupcakes for the "welcome home" dinner and I worked on some floor pillows for the girls' room. 

As we were snapping pictures I thought "Oh wow!  I always wanted one of those blog posts that looked like this!" 

You know the ones where people post all of the amazing things they make out of stuff from their recycing bin?  I was being very impressed with my idea of taking the pillows from the guest bed (it is no more, but that is not a hint) and using them as snuggling, reading, climbing pillows for Julia and Ellie's room.  After I had finished two of the covers, I discovered that they were actually too small for the pillows that I had.  No problem - I will just make the pillows smaller (sort of Depret-Guillaume size them - which is the opposite of super-sizing).  This was easier to do with the fiber fill pillow than the three down ones.  Frankly, it looks like we butchered chickens again in the backyard, but they are done!

We are collecting a lot of duplicates ...

I have been praying that while we are making all of these physical adjustments, our hearts are making room for Ellie.  I feel like James and Serge have a head start on that compared to us.

We had our last conversation with Serge and James this morning - until they are back with us in person.  Tonight they will begin their very, very long journey home.  Leaving their hotel at 8:30am their time to arrive home at what will feel like 11:30 am the following day.  Twenty-seven hours of traveling is a long trip - even if you weren't bringing a toddler.

This was from today's conversation.  Serge wasn't looking that bad until he started talking about how many hours Steve had been working for him these past 2 weeks.  I had been avoiding answering his questions about how busy they had been in his absence.  This is what he looked like when I told him how many people Steve had been seeing each day.

We expect them to land at the airport at 10:40p.m.  I was hoping it would be earlier in the day and we could have a party there.  You are still welcome to come and see them, but I realize most of our friends are in bed by that time.

Monday, March 5, 2012

More Pictures

Just pictures tonight as my words are all used up today!

Ellie after a bath.  I did not post the pictures of the previous discussion between the two guys over whether or not she still smelled after the last diaper change.....

All dressed.

she's out!

So am I tonight! 
To all of the people who have emailed, or called, or facebook messaged, or written ... I am so sorry for not responding yet.  Thank you for being interested in our lives - we are humbled - really, truly humbled!

Photos from China - at last.

According to Maggie most people only want to look at photos on your blog. 
Hmm?  I think that is simply the visual person that she is that thinks so, but just in case, I will put up these random photos that James finally sent, along with the tidbits of information I have picked up in our Skype conversations.

This is Ellie waiting for her doctor's appointment.

Lunch and Skype for the guys - Ellie is napping. 

The three of them somewhere in Guangzhou.

A sign on the Great Wall!  The boys just thought this was really funny.

This is the worm James found in his yogurt one day.  Every day for lunch they have a couple of yogurts each that they grab from breakfast along with the packed snacks from America.  I am not sure if he ate around this or not, but next day he was still eating the yogurt, so I guess it did not bother him too much.

These are the worms you can buy for medicinal purposes.  Serge says they are supposed to be good for your lungs, but they are very expensive.  (I think he was thinking about buying them....)

I don't really have a story for this one.  I suspect James took it to show Maggie.  But since there are so few pictures I'll leave it there anyway.

This is Helen who is their guide in Guangzhou.  She has taken them shopping and to a couple of museums as well as helping with all of the adoption paperwork there.  They have had really good experiences with all of the guides for which we are quite thankful.

I know, difficult to see, but so cute.  This is Ellie looking up through the glass desk while we were skyping the other day.

Tomorrow they are going to adventure to the zoo on their own.  They are getting to eat plenty of western food now - about every other day - in Guangzhou.  Apparently there is a very good brick oven pizza place - they enjoyed the first pizza so much that they ordered a second one.

All of the Chinese comment that Ellie has "big eyes".  Helen thinks she may have some Indonesian in her because her hair is more brownish than black as well.  She looks Chinese to me, but I have not seen her in person.  Just interesting to think about.  I wonder how important that will be to her when she grows up?  I never thought it important to myself.  Then again, I do not have the question marks attached to my life that Ellie will inevitably have.

As of yesterday, they have finished the adoption paperwork such that when they land in the Chicago O'Hare airport, Ellie will officially be a U.S. citizen.  Now they are waiting for the U.S. visa so that they can bring her home.

I am sorry that this is so fragmented and random but that is kind of how our conversations are.  Also I can only work with the pictures that they send me, however odd they may be?!  I have two more posts "in my head" that I hope to get time to put here soon.  The picture loading takes a long time and we are busy, busy, busy trying to finish those lists before they get back home!