Wednesday, December 29, 2010

naptime...or concert?

josh's falls asleep during the four second process of laying his head down on the pillow.  but my mind just doesn't shut off as quickly as his does so i end up going to sleep way later than him each night. 

clearly, izzy is my child (evidenced by the fact that a) she never sleeps and b) she loves christmas carols).  

15 minutes after going down...

45 minutes after going down...  (my favorite part of this one is toward the end of the song when she belts, "with a jelly, happy soul...")  hee-hee.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

if you could have just heard the squealing

a drum set from nanny and pop for his birthday and a red electric guitar from grandpam and papaw for christmas...if anybody's looking for jack, you'll find him on cloud nine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

no, you didn't get left off the mailing list

i love every part of the christmas card process.  i love taking the photo, designing the card, and ripping open the box when the man in brown delivers the cards to my door (ok, i can't stand addressing all of the envelopes, but that doesn't sound very cheery, now does it?).  but last year as we were saving up money for our adoption expenses, we made the decision to forgo the paper card portion of the season in lieu of a cute little online ditty that we could share with all of our family and friends.

but then the christmas photography rush came, and our plans never made it past the first thought.

well this year, i'm proud to say that while i don't have any witty year-in-review letter to share with you like i had hoped to, i do have a picture.  on a card.  on the internet.  whoo-hoo!!!!

(you can click on the card to make it big enough to actually read.)

since the christmas letter didn't make it to fruition, i thought i would link back to a few of our favorite posts from 2010.  some make me laugh, some make me cry.  but they're all a part of our story.

january.  the month i was really funny.  i don't know what got into me (or, more importantly, where it's gone since then), but january's stories make me giggle.  the new year started out with a bang (and not necessarily a good one) that i documented through song here and here.  i wrote a blurb about our not-always-so-reverent family worship time, and for you fellow adoptive-mommies-in-waiting, "god's voice in the waiting" is a must read.  while the baby we really want home isn't here yet, we did add one member to our family early this year.  she's a gem.  and yes, i did dress her up for the photos.  :-)

the "overheard at our house today..." posts are true reflections of what goes on in the house of the five lewis crew.  this one makes me crack up every time i read it (as long as i'm not trying to eat at the same time).  and although this conversation with myself wasn't technically an "overheard" post, it's definitely telling of some of the real parts of life around here. 

july 30 was one of the best days of our year while august 13 was the worst.  i could link into so, so many other posts during the weeks following judah's death - moments i forgot, days that i ugly-cried, the gift of answered prayers - but this is the day i want to remember and celebrate the most. 

what a year it has been!  the blessing of a beach trip with friends and a mountain trip with family, the scares of a car accident and a hospital admission, and the pain of growth.  we've climbed to the mountaintop and we've tumbled into the valley.  it's our story, and we're trusting the lord to bring about great good for us and great glory for himself through the events of this past year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and much love to you all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit

jack:  izzybell, do you know christ?
izzy:  yes.

jack:  do you know jesus?
izzy:  yes, i do.

jack:  do you have a head?
izzy (giggling):  yes.
jack:  well then, hold your nose...i'm gonna bathtize you!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

the sixth stocking

every year we hang the stockings across the mantle on our fireplace as we decorate for christmas.  and for two years now, we've hung six stockings -- five for us, and one for him.  last christmas, i hung the sixth stocking with a heavy heart as i accepted that not only was he not going to be home with us for the holidays as we had hoped but that we weren't even close to the day when we would finally hold him.

we were over a year into the adoption process but what seemed like an eternity away from our baby. 

2010 has proven to be quite the year for our adoption journey.  if we were disappointed with the slow pace of 2009, we've been sometimes overwhelmed with the heart-extremes of 2010.  on june 26, judah entered this world, a child born out of unimaginable circumstances but loved by the mother who spared his life.  on july 30, we learned he would be ours.

i know this photo by heart.  i stared at it and several others like it for what seemed like hours when we got our referral paperwork.  his tiny five-pound frame, his bloated belly, his big brown's all etched in some sweet place in my heart.  he was ours.

but within a week, our agency had contacted us to let us know that he was sick.  it didn't seem serious at first, but within a couple of days, judah was fighting to take even his next breath.  on august 12, our family did what we had done every other day, and we prayed for judah's life...but even more than that, we prayed for god's glory.

judah died the next day.  august 13 will forever and always be a day of extreme emotion for me.  on one front, i lost my child that day, and unimaginable pain accompanies that loss.  several very loving and well-meaning people have said, "well at least you didn't have him home yet" or "at least you hadn't held him yet."  i totally get where they're coming from, but what you have to understand is that the lord had been growing an intense love for that baby in our hearts for 21 months at that point.  holding him or not holding him...he was as much a part of our family as i am.

the other side of that story, though, is that judah, by his death, was fulfilling the name we gave him in his life.  at the moment i learned that my baby had left this world, he was bowing at the feet of our savior doing what my soul longs for.  to praise

but there was another tapestry being quietly and intricately woven at the same time as this one.  on october 12, i remember seeing a different baby's face for the first time on my computer screen, and in a way, being afraid to fall in love with it.  even now, three months after judah's death, the tears fall freely.  but something happened when josh and i looked to see this baby's birthday.  yes, june 26 was judah's birthday, but as the lord would so sweetly have it, it was also the day that micah was born.

as the weeks have gone by, i've surrendered my guarded mind to my bursting heart, and i've fallen madly in love with the baby we've named "who is like our god?".  the lord has proven himself sovereign, faithful, loving, and merciful during these past two years, so a name that reflects the lessons of this journey seemed perfectly fitting.

so why all of this now?  this morning we received news of our court date in ethiopia.  in 56 days, we'll finally hold the baby we've prayed for for so long.  in 56 days, we'll be melting with love for the baby our arms have ached for for two years now.  yes, in 56 days, we'll meet our son, micah.

a couple of people we've talked with throughout the day have asked specifically what they can do for us as we prepare to travel.  and at this point, we really would ask you to be in prayer for logistics.  separating parents from children, dealing with multiple countries, languages, and airlines, and attempting to weave our way through seemingly endless red tape is enough to make a person crazy (crazier, perhaps).  our journey to this point has been anything but smooth, and while we're not expecting a perfect move from point a to point b, we are praying for peace, and we're asking the lord to quickly reunite our family (all six of us) for our joy and for his glory.

we'd really love to have a little one home with his stocking next christmas.  :-)

in love he predestined us for adoption as sons through jesus christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the beloved.
eph. 1:5-6

Saturday, December 4, 2010

this hurts my heart and makes me miss a baby in ethiopia

**make sure to pause the music at the bottom of this page in order to watch the video**

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

black friday re-think

many moons ago, my mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and i started a tradition of waking up at dark:thirty in atlanta on black friday and hitting the area malls (plural) to knock out all the shopping for our christmas lists.  we got amazing deals, we found gifts that everybody would like, and we had more fun than any women should at 4 in the morning.

but things are a little different this year.

yes, our whole country is in an unrivaled economic state (at least in my lifetime), but for us, it's even more personal than that.  through judah's death, all of our families' eyes have been opened to a world that's vastly different than ours here in the united states.  a world where dirty water and substandard medical care lead down a path of destruction.  a world where common childhood illnesses literally end children's lives.

so what do you and i do with that?

what i'm NOT suggesting is that we all boycott christmas gifts this year (not that that's a bad thing, though).  :-)  as a matter of fact, the other crazy ladies and i will be visiting kohl's bright and early on black friday again this year.  but...our families have all pitched in on a few ideas of how to spend our money more wisely, and in many cases, for the great good of others.  i'd love to share...

  • think about drawing names rather than buying for every single member of your family.  this is taking shape in a couple of different ways across our extended families, but it's a great way for each person to have something to open without the unnecessary "pile 'o gifts" that often appears this time of year.  plus, the leftover money can be donated to your favorite charity in your family's name!!
  • skip the mass merchandisers and buy from shops or individuals who are selling for a cause.  a portion of the sales from allison lewis photography go to support the child survival program that compassion international helped us set up in memory of baby judah, and i've been selling christmas cards to help raise money to bring micah home.  but if you're not in the market for swanky christmas cards or photos, my friend, lora, has put together a killer list of everything from jewelry to artwork to coffee cuffs.  and the best part is that every item on the list is being sold to help bring a little one home to his or her forever family (including lora's own hopesuds all-natural laundry detergent).  click HERE to peruse and shop from her master won't be disappointed!
  • mine and josh's hearts have been really heavy for the stuff-itis that permeates our culture, and we've made a lot of decisions to try to guide our children's hearts to things that are not of this world.  one of the ways that we've done that is by keeping christmas very "small" (read: a couple of inexpensive gifts per child) with their third gift being the picture of the new child we were sponsoring through compassion international that year.  the rest of the year (and beyond) is then spent exchanging letters, pictures, handmade cards, stickers, and questions about each other's lives a continent away.  what a precious opportunity to teach children here about the lives of children there.  it's fun, it's eye-opening, and it's educational.  but most importantly, it helps turn our children's hearts away from themselves and toward the needs of others.  
  • we're detouring from that path a little this year, and i'm uber-pumped about our kids' last gift this christmas.  compassion has launched a new "gifts of compassion catalog" in which they list gifts ranging from a $10 mosquito net to a $5,000 major surgery.  we're wrapping up the catalog and then letting our kids each choose one gift (from the front half of the catalog!) to give to a child in need.  we've got bets on what we think they'll each choose: we're guessing jack will pick a soccer ball, abby will choose a new mom health kit, and izzy will go for a chicken.  :-)  i'll be sure to post the results after christmas day.
i pray that you have a wonderful and blessed thanksgiving.  and as you're shopping on black friday, just remember that instead of that "lovely" christmas reindeer sweater, you could be buying someone a goat instead!

"do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  for where your treasure is, 
there your heart will be also."
matthew 6:19-20

wordless wednesday (thankful)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

wordless wednesday (monster truck rally)

(courtesy of a killer family hand-me-down -- thanks sestilis!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

abigail eleanor lewis

it was around 1:15 on the afternoon of november 11, 2004 when i went to plop my 37-weeks pregnant self down on the couch for a rest and suddenly realized that something was different.  way different and incredibly unpleasant.

yep - my water had broken.

i had just cleaned the house so i acted on instinct and threw a towel between my legs as i ran to call josh -- from the bathtub.  i'll spare you the details but after a flip of the calendar day, a very long labor, and an incredibly difficult delivery, i was holding the most beautiful thing i had ever seen in my arms as josh and i bathed her in our tears.  now six years later, i still think she's captivating...

...but that has a lot more to do with the gorgeous heart that i see growing in her than any beauty she possesses outwardly.  josh and i played a little game tonight where we threw out adjectives or descriptions that came to mind when we thought of oldest daughter, and here are a few of the abby-isms that topped the list:

a helper
full of emotion
a happy learner
beautifully maternal

this past weekend our families gathered together on a gorgeous saturday morning to celebrate abby's sixth birthday, but before they got there, she and daddy spent some time reading through the bible that we had given her as her gift.

she set out to memorize all the books of the bible, and while she didn't have it mastered before the troops arrived, she did have quite a handful of them memorized (including "deuteromony").  :-)  once her cousins arrived, eating lunch was everybody's activity of choice...

but dining on cothran's cake (courtesy of my parents who have bought probably 113 cakes from that little bakery) was a highly-anticipated sequel (especially for grandpam who drove four hours from working in florida just to get some!)...

and, of course, abby topped off our little gathering by opening a few much-loved gifts while her cousins patiently watched from the sidelines...

and before i go, poor baby sam didn't make it into any of the other pictures, but she's just too precious to be left out...what a cutie!

do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in GOD’s sight is very precious.
1 peter 3:3-4

Sunday, November 14, 2010

the downward plunge

shortly after i posted last night, abby woke up kind of whimpering and saying she didn't feel well.  she felt nice and toasty so i took her temp -- 102.  she wasn't complaining of anything in particular so i just prayed quietly in her ear, stroked her hair, and rubbed her back until around 1:00 or 1:30 this morning (i had been up working until around 12:30 so i wasn't in there that long).  when my eyelids began begging for mercy, i kissed her forehead, tucked her in tight, and crawled into my own bed for a good night's sleep.

or not.

at 2:00, i awoke from my few minutes of sleep to the sound of jack crying in his bed.  it wasn't a whimpery kind of cry like abby had done.  no, it was more like a screaming kind of wail.  i ran in there and saw him grabbing his ear, and as soon as he saw me, he said with his adorable unable-to-say-his-r's kind of language, "it hults so bad.  i got an infection!!"  i usually try to avoid doing much in the pill-popping realm, but we've done this kind of infection before -- the bacterial kind that comes out of nowhere, causes a high fever, and usually ends up causing the eardrum to rupture (poor little guy has had a hard go of it in the ear department).  so without a second thought, i dosed him up with motrin and put some numbing drops in his ears.

unfortunately, none of our efforts did much to help with the pain so josh and i took turns with him for the rest of the night and we hit the doc-in-the-box first thing this morning.  she took one look at his ear and said, "oh my word.  his ear is fiery red and the eardrum is bulging out into the canal."  (or at least i think that's what she said.  it was kind of hard to hear her over jack's screaming.)

all of this is to say that i had grand intentions of writing all about abby's big weekend tonight, but instead, i'm going to leave you with a few pics that tell a little about it.  coherent thoughts to come later.  :-)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the lewis family christmas kickoff

this is one of our favorite things to do each year (make sure to pause the music at the bottom of the page first)...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

a giveaway with a cause

go HERE to read more on my photography blog.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"who is like our god?"

so it's been a while since i've posted on here, huh? and it's really been a long time since i've written anything of substance.

well get ready because that's about to change.  :-)

i've wrestled greatly with how much of these past couple of months to share - or if i should even share them at all.   here are some of the thoughts that have been swimming around in my head...

"allison, don't be TOO honest with everybody. people love hearing about the happy ending, but some folks are afraid of the painful and ugly path it took to get there." 
"ooh, be careful sharing that part. don't want people to think you're weak in your faith." 
"YIKES -- that's deep stuff! you'd better keep that to yourself so you don't worry anybody." 
but the loudest voice echoed, "if you talk, somebody out there might question the lord's goodness and love."

so i kept quiet.

here's how it happened:  judah died on august 13, 2010.  you can scroll back through that month to read more about what all transpired during that time, but this is what occurred with me personally.  i shared a bit in the early days about how painful that was, but i felt an overwhelming desire to turn the tragedy of judah's death into a launching pad for action.  GOD was tremendously gracious in allowing us to connect with compassion international to set up sponsorships for a child survival program in the city in which judah passed away, and while i was wholeheartedly joyful in that...

i was wholeheartedly broken at the same time.

i couldn't shake the image of our five-pound son's face.  i constantly pictured his big brown eyes staring right into mine from the surface of my favorite photo of him.  i tried to escape the vision of his last breaths as he lay in the bed of a sub-standard hospital thousands of miles of red tape and poverty away.  his chest rose, his chest fell.  it rose, and it fell.  it rose again.  and then it stopped.  and as i would try to drift off to sleep at night, i would be gripped by the thought of death's stiff hold on his lifeless body.

i talked a lot about following in the meaning of judah's name -- "to praise" -- and i tried to show a strong, faithful presence when i wrote and when i talked with friends and family, but the truth is that in many ways, i felt like i was crumbling inside.  unfortunately (or, perhaps, sovereignly) judah's death came during a time of questioning for me -- a sort of crisis of faith, if you will.  not a "do i believe what i think i believe?" sort of crisis but rather a period of really wrestling with the truth of GOD's character and his promises.  i had been deeply burdened over a particular circumstance, and when GOD didn't show himself in that situation the way i had begged (and expected) him to do, i started searching for some answers.

i remember praying this: "LORD, help me to really understand your love, your sovereign power, and your character."

shortly after that, a nasty snowball of yuck began when the kids and i were in a car accident that totaled our van.  a couple of days later, we got word that judah was critically ill in the hospital -- and then he was gone.  there are several factors i can see that contributed, but it was ultimately my own choices that landed me in what is decidedly the darkest place in which i've ever dwelt.  eventually, my decisions led me to put my comfort and peace -- my hope -- in things outside of the LORD. 

no, i don't care to share beyond that at this point.  josh and a trusted friend know the story; they've bathed me in scripture, truth, and prayer.  one day i'll chat -- but today's not that day.

i tried to pray, but god was silent.

i tried to sing.  god was silent.

and eventually, much like the learned behavior of babies in an overwhelmed orphanage, i got silent myself.  i felt so distant from him that i couldn't even muster up the words to speak to GOD; and even if i had, i truly believed at that point that they would once again be met...with silence.

i just kept reading lamentations 3:31-32, 24:  "for men are not cast off by the LORD forever.  though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.  i say to myself, 'the LORD is my portion; therefore i will wait for him.'"  i didn't know what else to do -- but wait.

ok, now that you're probably thinking i've lost my mind, heart, confidence, faith -- or some combination thereof -- let me share with you the rest of the story...

little by little, i began to feel the LORD drawing me back to himself.  at that point, i had truly reached the end of myself -- there was absolutely nothing left.  as the epitome of a type-A, independent gal, my emptiness made me feel, well, empty.  i wasn't used to not being able to fix things, not being able to find the answers...and i certainly wasn't used to putting on a mask of "okay-ness" so that nobody knew i was falling apart.

slowly and sovereignly, GOD began to do a couple of big things in my heart and life.  he gently acknowledged what i was learning, that no, i couldn't do this on my own -- not life, not death, not anything.  but just as huge as that was his intimate lesson in grace.  it was already obvious...i had screwed this whole thing up.  but he lovingly and graciously drew me in, forgave me, and began to make me whole again.

how have i been a believer for 21 years and i'm just now feeling like i'm even scratching the surface on the amazing grace of my GOD?

hmmm..."LORD, help me to really understand your love, your sovereign power, and your character."

october 12, 2010.  60 days almost to the minute of finding out that judah was gone.  we received a call from our social worker telling us about a little guy in ethiopia who desperately needed a family.  yes, yes, yes!  send us his information!  as we opened up the email, we learned of his birthday -- june 26, 2010.  judah's birthday.  is this baby a replacement for judah?  absolutely not.  what he is is a gift and a blessing from a GOD who sovereignly chose him for our family before any of us even had breath.

and his name?  it's a little reflection of something that i've been learning a lot about lately...

micah.  "who is like our god?"

my ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
job 42:5

Sunday, October 24, 2010

life: as it really is (why makeup should be non-negotiable)

i'll probably regret posting this, but it just makes me laugh so hard that i wanted to share the giggles.  when josh and i celebrated our tenth anniversary last month, we took a few photos to commemorate our special day.  this was one of them...

my precious husband insisted on having a copy of what he graciously refers to as his "smokin' hot wife" so he could put it in his office.  i had the photo printed, and he sweetly put it by his monitor.  now fast forward to this past week when i was in a continual routine of coughing my lungs up, putting them back in place, and then starting the cycle all over again thanks to a nasty bout with bronchitis.  i gathered my wallet and keys and walked downstairs to tell josh goodbye so i could head out to the doctor.  he stared at me with a look of pity, but there was a curious little glimmer in his eye as well.  finally, he placed something in my hand, told me to stand still, and took this:

and that, my friends, is life: as it really is.

Friday, October 22, 2010

i had to chisel the dirt off my little people

we had a field trip today with our homeschool group to sunshine farms in somewhere far, far away, alabama.  now remember that i used to teach preschool special education...i've done the pumpkin patch/farm thing many a time in my life.  but never quite like this...

authentic was the name of this game, and we had a blast from the moment we drove onto the farm and saw a cowboy herding cattle until we said goodbye to the pumpkin-bales on our way home hours and hours later.

some of the highlights were petting the horse (mr. genuine cowboy offered abby a ride, but she responded with a look of terror, a quick-latch onto my leg, and a polite "umm, no thank you")...

milking the somewhat odd contraption otherwise known as a "cow"...
playing in the cotton bin (good thing the kids were up-to-date on their cotton lessons)...
wading through the corn pit...
riding the tractor-train...
and sliding down the ginormous inflatable slide...
plus, izzy enjoyed just vegging out in the grass watching the farm cat run around the field...
after all the fun we had at the farm, jack did some vegging out of his own when we got home...
 sleep tight, little people.  sleep tight.