Saturday, December 29, 2012

Birthday girl!

During the week before Christmas, our sweet Anya Rashi turned 6!  With a birthday so close to Christmas, we celebrate with our family first, then wait until after Christmas to celebrate with extended family and friends.

Birthday breakfast, with zebra candles.

Specially-requested french braid ponytail!
"Peace, man," on the way into Sunday School.
Our kids get to choose the day's menu on their birthdays, so we started our day with turkey sausage and white-chocolate-chip pancakes (with candles, of course!).  It was also the day that our kids' Sunday School/youth worship group helps tell the Christmas story, so it was a day for a special dress and hairdo too.
Anya Rashi singing with classmates.

Songs and sign language from preschoolers through 6th graders.
Anya Rashi's choice for dinner was Chicken Makhani, jasmine rice and clementines, along with roasted brussels sprouts for the adults (and a "no thank you" helping for the kids!).  Her choice for a birthday treat was cherry cobbler.  She is not really a cake or ice cream fan, so it's always fun to see what she thinks is the BEST possible treat!
After dinner, it was time for presents, and some sweet brotherly help putting together the Lego Friends sets she received.  The boys were so helpful and enthusiastic -- it was really fun to watch.
A little help from our resident lego experts . . .

Treehouse and bunny hutch
 built and ready for play!
And then after all that fun, some dear friends stopped by with a surprise gift -- a beautiful hand-made wooden bunk bed for dollies!  We were so surprised and delighted, especially because it was made with such love.  Anya Rashi set to work creating an animal hospital, complete with doctor kit, baby bottles and medicine.
Maggie and Ellie with Anya Rashi.
They go to our school and church, and are so sweet with our younger girl!

Future veteraniarian?
We had such a fun day celebrating our sweet daughter!  I should probably change my blog language to reflect this, but she is now insisting on being called "Anya" rather than her full name.  (Maybe because it's shorter for writing in school?) 

Anya, you are growing so fast and understanding so much -- you are smart, kind, hilarious, and creative.  You are one of God's greatest gifts in our lives, and we can't imagine our family without the sparkle you bring to it.  We are so grateful that we get to be your parents, and we look forward to many years of watching you continue to grow into a young lady.  We love you so.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"When you are overwhelmed, remember that you are overshadowed"

This weekend, we celebrated our daughter turning six.  She experienced all the simplest joys of childhood -- eating a favorite meal, opening a few presents from her brothers and parents, blowing out birthday candles.

This weekend, we were able to watch all three of our children sing, dance, and worship in church.  I love this annual service at our church, when all of the Sunday school classes, dressed in their holiday finery, remind us in words and song why we celebrate Christmas.

But this weekend, I couldn't help seeing everything through a lens of grief for 26 families in Connecticut, and also for the family of the young man who caused their agony. 

I know that this tragedy happened amidst all kinds of other tragedies across the globe -- wars, refugee crises, famine, preventable illnesses -- that ended the lives of thousands of children that same day.  But I think that the intentionality and deliberateness of one person taking the lives of children is what caved in my heart.  And also the fact that I had sent my kindergartner off to school that same morning, just like those other families, with the expectation of seeing her live through the day.

As I watched the rows of children in church singing about another Child, I wept.  Part of me thought about the blessedness of my children being safe and alive at that moment, while part of me wondered how likely it might be that someone could shatter that illusion of safety any moment with gunfire.

And then, after the children finished and walked down the aisles, I longed for something to renew my hope.  And hope was breathed into my heart.

Our guest speakers on Sunday were Stuart and Jill Briscoe.  They have been in ministry over 40 years, and weathered a good many storms.  I love how they teach, and love their British accents too.  Jill shared a poem from one of her books that breathed hope in the midst of pain. 

I have been thinking about one particular phrase (the title of this post).  Jill talked about when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was visited by an angel and agreed to obey God even though it could've meant divorce, public humiliation for her family, being an outcast, or even being stoned for adultery.  The stakes were high as she considered what Gabriel said.

Then Mary asked a question -- not "Why?" or "Why me?", but rather "How?" 

How in the world would God accomplish this strange and dangerous thing?  What did it mean? How would it end?

And the angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'  Luke 1:35

Jill focused on that phrase -- at the very moment Mary was overwhelmed with questions and impossibility and uncertainty, she heard that she would be overshadowed by the power of the Most High.  The trustworthy, mighty, perfect God would overshadow her.  And that gave her the courage to give her "yes" to God . . . to trust Him in the face of what would surely be a dire situation.

When she was overwhelmed, she was overshadowed.

When we are overwhelmed, we need to remember that we too are overshadowed by the power of the Most High.

When we try and imagine parents' pain as their tiny ones are laid to rest, remember that He overshadows those families with love, grace and holy tears.  When we struggle ourselves with anger and grief at young lives cut unjustifiably short, remember that we are overshadowed by the One who can bring healing, mercy and justice.  When we are overwhelmed by evidence of evil, do not forget that we are overshadowed by the One who already has the final victory over evil, hell and the grave.

When we are overwhelmed, remember that we are overshadowed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

5 years together

You weren't too sure about us . . .
You fell asleep in the taxi on the way to the hotel.

Beautiful smiles on our 2nd day together!

Poor baby -- you were so shell-shocked and afraid that first day.

Our first morning together -- you've found your smile again.

Auntie Alicia reads you a book at the hotel.

In the garden outside our hotel.

Home, sweet home -- with your big brothers.
I can't believe it's been five years since we first met you, Anya Rashi.  You've grown and changed so much . . . and you've changed our lives forever.  You add so much curiosity and laughter to our family, and it is one of the greatest gifts of my life to be your mother.

You are a joy, and I wish we could somehow let your birth family know that you're thriving and well.  We think of them and pray for them often, and wonder what their circumstances are now. 

And now our lives are about to change again, as another sister joins our family.  I can't wait to see you as a big sister!  You have so much enthusiasm for life, and I know you are going to be K's teacher and friend.  You are irreplaceable in our hearts, and we are so, so grateful to God for weaving our lives together.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas brought us a great gift!

Today is St. Nicholas Day!  In the small town where I grew up, many of the families were of Dutch ancestry, and we all celebrated St. Nick's Day.  If you weren't Dutch and were new in town, you likely started celebrating St. Nick's Day because your children probably came home from school crying because they didn't have a visit from St. Nicholas.  :o)

This morning, our kids woke up to stockings filled with gold/chocolate coins (to remember how St. Nicholas loved Jesus and gave his money to poor children, or to pay dowries for poor girls).  They also found Hello Kitty and Star Wars Pez dispensers, gum, candy canes, and their annual ornament (so they will have a collection for their own Christmas tree when they leave home).  K's stocking was filled this year, too!

But after the kids left for school, Peter and I got the best gift -- we received two unexpected new photos of K from our agency!  We thought we might only have her referral photo until the day we met her . . . but there was another agency visiting her orphanage, and our wonderful case worker asked them if they could squeeze in time to take a picture.

I want SO BADLY to post her photo online . . . but I will be a good, rule-obeying mama and not post any pictures until we have guardianship.  I can tell you that she looks healthy and curious, and has huge eyes with llooooonngg eyelashes!  Her hair is very short (as it was in her 10-month-old photo), and I don't know if it's naturally short, or if they keep all of the children's hair short for health/ease of care reasons.  I can't wait to show the kids her new pictures after school . . .

A Child is Born

And I wanted to share another book recommendation -- it's a Nativity book illustrated with people of color!!!  Baby Jesus, as you can see, is a lovely shade of brown and has brown eyes, Joseph looks like an African man, Mary has brown skin and black hair, one of the Wise Men is Asian . . . it's a Christmas miracle!  ;) 

Seriously, I love this book.  We found it at the library last year, and it's one of my favorites ever -- it's also well and lyrically written, so it's a joy to read aloud.  It's a terrific antidote to the many books that depict the Holy Family as blonde-haired, blue-eyed Caucasians, which is not very likely, since they lived in the Middle East, for crying out loud. 

There are new and used copies for sale on Amazon, and one of them will be under our Christmas tree for K this year.  And one other funny detail -- on the last page, there's a large illustration of the whole manger scene . . . and Anya Rashi spotted one teeny, tiny detail:  baby Jesus is making the peace sign with one hand.  Too funny -- she pointed it out every time we read the book, and even mentioned it while riding in the car one day this summer.   Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Preparing for Christmas


We are fully in the spirit of Christmas!  Yesterday, Aaron's and Nathan's boychoir sang in one of my favorite Christmas events -- a concert in the traditional English nine lessons and carols format.  There are nine readings from the Bible, from Genesis, Isaiah, and books in the New Testament, followed by traditional carols.  It is a solid 1-1/2 hours of gorgeous music, contemplation, readings and prayer, and exactly what my soul needed.  As a bonus, Aaron and Nathan had solo parts, and Nathan was chosen to read the passage from Genesis.  They did so well, and we are very proud of them for using their gifts -- but most of all, for their desire to glorify God with the talents they've been given.  They both have a clear understanding of the Gospel, and were excited to play a part in sharing it.

Anya Rashi and I found this book at the library this week, and it's a new favorite.  In the story, Tyler's family breaks their tree-top angel while decorating for Christmas.  As they look for a new angel, he realizes that there are no angels that look like him -- no boy angels, and no angels with brown skin.  Tyler also notices that the nativity figures at their church have blonde hair, and don't look like they're from the Middle East (that's often a pet peeve of mine with illustrated children's Bibles too!).  With some help from a friend, they come up with a creative and heartwarming solution.  Since welcoming our beautiful brown-skinned daughter into our family, I've noticed over and over how many books, toys, commercials, tv programs, etc. do not include people of color.  And Anya Rashi notices too.  This book gives voice to a desire many transracially adopted kids have: the desire to see other faces that "look like me."  We give it two thumbs up! 

This week will be a busy one for Peter -- our church's Christmas musical will run from Wednesday through Saturday.  He is in charge of the show, and the live nativity and petting zoo beforehand, and there are lots of last-minute details to occupy him.  This year, tickets are completely free -- and we are praying that many who can't afford to do other things for Christmas will come and hear the message of hope that was offered to everyone when God "took on flesh and dwelt among us." 

P.S.  Does anyone have advice for posting video that's from my own camera/computer on Blogger??  I know how to post videos from YouTube, etc., but I tried with a video of Anya Rashi today, and it didn't work.   :(