Sunday, May 31, 2009


Several years of my childhood were spent growing up in Starkville, MS. While we were there, we were blessed with some amazing neighbors who, through the years, became more like family than friends. It's been more than 20 years since we moved away, but we've all kept in touch and have visited with one another many, many times. Mrs. Carol (who could totally pass for the next Martha Stewart...minus the criminal record) e-mailed us not long ago to plan a surprise birthday party for Beth (not to be confused with my sister, Bethany...although they've been friends since birth). It took all of a week for the party to lose its surprise status, but it was a ball of fun, laughter, and "strolling down memory lane" all the same.

Our family, my parents, and Bethany and her family all scooted down to Starkville from our various Alabama cities. Once we got there, we spent the first who knows how long chatting and catching up with everyone outside. Please note that it took my mom all of about three seconds to get a grandbaby on her hip!

From there, it was time to eat!! Our family always loves to dine, but when Mrs. Carol and Mrs. Mary Sue have been in charge of the menu, we have to wipe the drool from our faces. These ladies have amazing talents in preparing and serving beautiful (and even more delicious) meals. Once upon a time...oh, about nine years ago...they went above and beyond anything I had ever experienced when they catered a gorgeous wedding reception for one Josh and Allison Lewis. Delightful!!!

The "kids" (which included everyone under the age of 50...I might get myself in trouble over that one) all sat inside to eat in the dining room. Now remember, I live in a house with three children aged four and under.

I'm used to noise.

But we were a particularly exuberant bunch that day! It was only when I stepped out onto Mr. Bill and Mrs. Carol's brand new front porch where the grown-ups were eating that I witnessed the stark contrast to the madness I had just left.

They were enjoying a peaceful meal with the quiet tweeting of birds to accompany them in the background. I'm pretty sure I could hear the tinkering of china as they partook of their delicious lunch!

After we all stuffed our tummies, it was back outside for some playtime. The kids had loads of fun on the swingset that Mr. Bill built.

This isn't the house they lived in when we were next-door neighbors, but they had this same swingset in their original home, so it was particularly fun for me to watch my little ones swing in the same seats I used to sit in. And of course, Mr. Bill is as good a pusher as ever!!

Once they were done swinging, the bigger little ones (did you get that?) decided to take a stroll through the immaculate garden...

...while the littler little ones (confusing, isn't it?) stuck closer to home.

Emma got tired after a while, so she quickly turned into a little cuddle-bunny.

But all it took was a couple of notes of "Happy Birthday", and we were all back at the house and ready to eat again!

Beth is a special girl, and we were happy to be able to celebrate her 25th birthday with her.

Besides the food, there were two other highlights of the trip for the kiddos. The first was Engineering 101 with Mr. Jeremy. He took pieces of leftover wood from the deck and made all sorts of fun things for the kids to enjoy. Who knew that holding a piece of wood out for a child to walk under could be so much fun?!?

But it wasn't all about Mr. Engineer and his mad skills...Jack gave him a little guitar lesson as well!

The other big treat of the day was playing with Ziggy, the puppy dog (although I don't know if Ziggy would agree that it was all that much fun!)

If you haven't noticed many pictures of the Beths, that's because they spent most of their time looking through old photo albums and reminiscing about their days together (although I heard quite the frequent unnecessary comment about me in my somewhat awkward preteen years!)

Wow...what a day! We ate, we played, we laughed, and we ate some more. The only thing left was Snoozer Time...and Bailey was happy to knock that one off the list!

Whenever all of our families were together, we used to take a photo of the five girls together in order of height on a staircase. Since we're all grown women now, the stair picture doesn't work quite as well, so we huddled up for one last shot before we headed back home.

Goodbye until next time. We love you all!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Never Knew

Josh's mom sent us this video a couple of weeks ago, and we loved it!! Hope you do, too. :-)

(click on the link and make sure your speakers are up)

Friday, May 22, 2009

If This Doesn't Warm Your Heart...

Jack and Izzy have been a little under the weather this week. It's no big deal...just a little goopy nose here and there. It hasn't really affected Iz that much, but Jack's had a harder time because he sucks his thumb when he's tired or not feeling well.

And where there's a stuffy nose, there's a sad thumb-sucker.

So here's the story. My dad and Josh have spent weeks and weeks down in our basement finishing it to be a bonus room. (And in case you didn't know, "bonus" means spare bedroom, playroom, and photo equipment storage room all rolled into one!) Well, after a final push from the contractor, the room is just about ready to go.

I put Jack down for his nap yesterday and headed down there to paint one of the walls ("tomato red" in case you were wondering...could that have anything to do with my obsession with tomatos? hmmm...) But just a few strokes into my project, I heard Jack crying over the monitor. I headed back up the stairs to check on him. He was lying in his bed whimpering and completely pitiful because he couldn't get to sleep without sucking his thumb. This was our third day of this, so I knew the nap probably wasn't going to happen. So I went ahead brought him down to the main floor with me and laid him on one of the chairs in the living room to watch "Curious George" with Abby.

Back downstairs.

I was in a precarious position trying to edge the ceiling when I heard him crying again. I yelled that I would be right up, and I kicked it into high gear to finish the patch of wall I was working on.

More crying from Jack.

More "I'm coming, buddy!" from me.

Then it got silent. Which usually means trouble, but I was hoping he was too pooped to get his "creative" juices flowing. Now I'm all about creativity, but you've got to remember that Jack's ideas are fueled by 150% boyish behavior. You don't know what he's capable of!! :-) Not long ago, I was in my bedroom getting dressed when I heard Abby calling for me. I walked all over upstairs, but I couldn't find her. And we're not talking about a huge area, people. It's just our bedrooms and our bathrooms. But she was nowhere to be found. I could hear her yelling, but I was at a loss as to where she could be.

Then Jack walked up to me with a mysterious little grin on his face. He took my hand and pulled me into their bedroom, where I found this:

Look real closely. That's Abby inside the box, and that's Jack with a smile of elation that couldn't be wiped off his face if I tried. He's got such a sweet heart, but gracious...he is all boy!! Who thinks of stuff like this?!?

But back to my story. I was downstairs painting and Jack was upstairs. Silent. I thought better of my "assume-he-just-settled-down" theory, so I crept up the staircase and peeped around the corner to see this:

Jack had gotten out of his chair and gone over to the couch to cuddle up with Abby (although he only made it halfway up there). I absolutely adore the relationships I see developing between our children. There's something special there, and it warms my heart!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

School, Weddings, and Babies, Oh My!

Do you have that friend whom you've known for what seems like your whole life? The one you did everything with, shared everything with? Well, this past weekend I had the extra-special treat of having that friend here with me for a few days. Alicia and I have known each other for something like 18 or 19 years now, and we spent the first many years of that time nearly inseparable. We haven't lived in the same city since I moved away for college in 1996, but we've always kept in touch despite the distance between us.

Alicia and I have been through countless experiences together. I actually dug out an old box of photos and found picture after picture of goofy things we used to do...BUT, I've decided to spare us both the embarrassment of posting those. But as proof of our sharing many of life's biggest milestones, here she is with me on my wedding day.

She actually caught the bouquet as I threw it at our reception (although rumor has it she almost knocked out a few of the other girls standing nearby as she dove for it)!

Obviously her strong efforts worked, because I was honored to stand beside her not long later as she married another of our high school friends, Brandt.

With our long history together, it goes without saying that I was thrilled to see Alicia and Brandt when they arrived on Friday. But they were toting a new addition that I hadn't been able to meet yet. Their son, Harrison, is exactly one month younger than Isabel, and HE IS PRECIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I told them it was so neat to see them as parents, and they're doing nothing short of an amazing job with their sweet son. He's an absolute JOY! He's got so much personality, and he had us cracking up the whole time they were here.

Brandt and Alicia were singing in a wedding on Saturday night, so while they were gone to the rehearsal and dinner on Friday, we had the pleasure of keeping Harrison here. After dinner, we took him with us on our traditional after-dinner walk around the neighborhood.

Josh asked me if I ever thought as Alicia and I were riding to school together 15 years ago that I would be watching our four children play together one day. (They had just spotted a puppy dog in the yard beside them when I snapped this picture).

And it's especially neat that Isabel and Harrison are so close in age!

Abigail is definitely proving ready to add another Baby Lewis to our home...she couldn't get enough of little Harrison during his visit.

Jack loved playing with him, too, but he had pretty much checked out by the time we went on our walk. He had officially retreated to his Happy Place.

Izzy was sleepy, too, but Josh helped get her blood pumping through alternative means. (And no, Alicia, Josh did not do this with Harrison!)

We actually had one other pint-sized walker that night, too. For those of you who wonder where Nala's been, she's alive and well.

I say "alive and well", but looking at this picture, maybe I should just stress alive...

Brandt, Alicia, and Harrison--we love you lots and lots, and we're so glad we got to spend time with you last weekend. And yes, I'm going to send you these photos. :-)

Back to weddings, I had a session this weekend after Alicia left, and although I'll spare you the enormous amount of drama surrounding this session, I did want to share a couple of my favorite pictures from the day. These are the bride and ring bearer's shoes. I love the contrast...both in size and color. So sweet!

Josh and I are in disagreement about whether this shot looks better in color or a vintage tone, but since I'm the one writing right now, I'm going to post my favorite! ;-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Journey

Even as I'm writing, I'm not exactly sure why I'm sharing this with you. In all honesty, I don't even know who "you" are in many cases. But last night I felt like God was leading me to write this post, so I'm going with it now.

It's been just over two years since Josh and I began talking about adoption. And there's a reason that it took us until the end of 2008 to act on what God was leading us to do. I would love to say that we felt that pull, and we immediately took action. And I would love to tell you that God spoke, and we quickly obeyed.

But that wouldn't be the truth.

In reality, this has been a process of faith and growth which began long before "adoption" was in our vocabulary. If I had to say when I could first feel God changing my heart, it would be when we lost our second baby in September of 2005. Prior to that time in our lives, I would have labeled myself as fearful, anxious, and a bit of a control-freak. It's not that I thought my way was better than anyone else''s just that I needed to feel like I had the say in the direction of my life. And although I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, that included keeping the reigns out of God's hands as well.

I want to share something with you. It's a bit long, and it's also somewhat "detailed" at times, but this needs to be said. It needs to shared. I wrote this in my journal on October 21, 2005:

I had already taken several pregnancy tests (including most of the 10 that I ordered off of the Internet!), but in my overwhelming need and desire to have answers--to control--I decided to take one more. And there it was...the faintest of lines. It was so faint that I wasn't even sure it was there. So of course, in my never-ending search for answers, assurance, and peace, I took another test the next day. That test looked pretty much the same as the first one.

And so it began. My consuming fear and worrying.

Now every woman worries when she first learns of the tiny life inside of her. Some ease up a little after the first ultrasound. For some, it's after the first trimester is completed. Yet for others, it's not until that tiny life has grown into a 7 1/2 pound baby that can be held in her arms just moments after delivery.

I'm not really any of those women. I am the woman who thinks. All the time.

I overanalyze every little twinge (or panic when there is no twinge). I scour the Internet for answers as to why I don't feel one ounce of morning sickness.

Something in me demands answers, demands control.

During the wait for my first doctor's appointment, I took several more pregnancy tests. (Josh called the countertop where I had them lying the "pregnancy test graveyard".) We told several family members and close friends that we were expecting again. But I remained guarded.

Then it happened.

On Thursday, September 1, I began spotting a little. It wasn't significant, but I called my doctor who said that as long as it didn't get worse or I didn't start having pain, it was probably nothing to be concerned about. I slept very little that night, and I kept begging God to make it stop. I know that God doesn't promise this, but I kept thinking that if I prayed hard and often enough, He would do what I asked.

I finally dozed off early Friday morning as the sun was coming up. When I awoke a short time later, I was lying in blood on the bed. And then I felt it. I felt the pain that I had prayed to never feel. The world seemed to disappear around me. I looked at Josh and through my tears, cried "It's over."

I was having a miscarriage.

I couldn't even say that word. I hated it! Wasn't there something that could be done? People are kept on this earth every single day with machines that breathe for them. Machines that live for them. Why couldn't someone help me?

Over the next few days, I cried most of each and every day. I cried at anything, everything, and nothing. But I vowed to trust God and His plan, and I prayed over and over for Him to teach me what I needed to learn. Natalie Grant sings a song called "Held", and in it she says, "The wise hand opens slowly to lilies of the valley." I had never really understood what that meant until I could feel God slowly healing me and teaching me to trust Him and praise Him--even now!

My pain slowly transformed into peace and contentment. I began to understand that God loved me enough to take my baby. I know He could have spoken the word to stop it, but that was my will, which is sometimes so far from His perfect will.

God used this baby and our loss to teach me about faith and about really trusting Him. I've always said that I'm giving God control in my life, but God used this experience to gently and lovingly show me how much I try to do on my own. Contentment doesn't lie in a dozen pregnancy tests, the Internet, or any book I may read. Those things come only from Him and His perfect, flawless will.

Our baby was only with us a short time, but what a powerful impact he had! God used this baby to truly change my life!!

A woman whom I love dearly wrote me not long ago with some struggles she was facing in her own life. She was discouraged at feeling alone and somewhat forsaken in her trials. I wanted to share something I wrote her back (please excuse the lack of capital letters...I'm all about saving time during the busy hours of non-naptime, and in another time-saving effort, I'm just cutting/pasting my e-mail response to her):

the presence of tough times in our lives doesn't mean the absence of god. god knows all things, but it's so much more than that. he does all things as well.

that's a tough pill for us (even as christians) to swallow sometimes. but yes, he's the creator of life as well as the one who takes it away. he's the one who provides for us, but he's also the one who allows us to want. he's the one who authors every single event in our lives. and sometimes it's impossible for us to grasp how magnificent he is and to understand why he would lead us down difficult paths at times. my only "understanding" comes from isaiah 55:8-11:

"for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the lord. as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what i desire and achieve the purpose for which i sent it."

god does everything with a purpose. birth, death, riches, need, joy, name it. sometimes he does it to change the direction of our path (as in a job loss/change), sometimes he does it to teach us something (as the tremendous lessons we learned in faith and grace when we lost our second baby), sometimes he does it to bring himself glory and honor (like you see in many examples of an individual or family praising god through the midst of struggle). there are countless reasons why god moves in the way that he does...many of which we can't even grasp.

but the filter it all goes through is one of love. he loves us deeply...he wants the best for us...and he never, ever, ever leaves us.

deut. 31:8 says "the lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. do not be afraid and do not be discouraged." so if you're feeling left or forsaken, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that's not truth. god himself promises you in his word that will never happen.

I don't want to give the impression that God only uses dramatic, hard circumstances to grow us. But I definitely want to convey that He does choose to do just that at times. James 1:2-4 tells us this: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

That one experience back in 2005, as painful as it may have been, was the launching pad for a radical change in my life. The week after my miscarriage began, my Aunt Lola sent this to me from an essay she had recently read by a woman who had lost a baby of her own:

So God taught me about faith. He grew in me the ability to know intimately someone that I have experienced but not seen, felt but not touched. In His wisdom, His gentle ways, He brought my heart closer to Him through the time I had with my baby.

That passage is so neat to me on many levels. Not only did God also draw me closer to Him during that time, but I'm now sitting here three-and-a-half years later madly in love with a baby in Ethiopia that I have neither "seen" nor "touched". Proof that God works in mysterious ways! He used this lady's words to speak to me so deeply on one level years ago and then once again as I read them today.

Thank God for testing my faith during that season years ago! Praise Him because that was the first step in a long journey of joys and trials that has led us to today. It's a path that is leading all the way to Ethiopia to bring home our baby!! And without the lessons I've learned and the faith that God is growing in me, this is a magnificent journey that I would never have had the courage to take.

Several of you have asked recently about how things are progressing with our adoption. I spoke with our home study provider today, and she's finalizing her paperwork to be sent in to our agency this week. We have a few more loose ends to tie up here, and then we'll be ready to send our dossier for authentication and then on to Ethiopia!! HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

And we've waited a long time to announce that...

(can you hear the drumroll?)

Isabel is finally a walker!!!!!!!!

And considering she was one week shy of turning 16 months old, I think it's fair to say that it was time.

She started out pretty slow, and we really had to work at convincing her to "Come here, Izzy! Come here!!" (Of course, I don't know if I'd be very receptive to being spoken to like a puppy dog either.)

She played dramatic coy for a while...

...or gave us nothing more than a teaser.

But finally she gave it her all, and she was up and moving (and then back down again!)

Our favorite Izzyism when it comes to walking is her seriously overactive right leg. It's running a marathon while the rest of her body is trying to take her very first steps.

She takes a spill here and there, but she always hops back up and tries again.

We have this goofy tradition around here that started way back with Abigail. I'm not sure exactly how it got going, but we don't put shoes on our little ones until they're walking. I think the teeny tiny shoes for infants are adorable, but I've never been very good at remembering to put them on.

So at 16 months old, I'm proud to announce that Isabel is finally wearing shoes. And she looks like such a big girl!!