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