"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Banquet of Love

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” ~ Jesus the Christ

This is a verse that has been heavy on my heart the past week. Do you know why? This past week, we have had a person from nearly every single of of these categories to our house, and to our table. Nick’s sister and her family visited us last week, Nick’s parents came on Saturday for his birthday, we had new friends come over on Tuesday and on Sunday we had our neighbor friends come by. We are blessed to have so many people who care about us, but I know that I am missing the mark on a few things.

Anyway, this post is not about my self condemnation, but about offering up what little I can to help people who are forgotten by the world. This is my way of inviting those who are in need to my table.

I want to share with you one beautiful little girl and an adopting family.

The little girl that I want to share with you is on Reece’s Rainbow, Chrystyna. She has FAS, but she was recently transferred to a location where she is receiving wonderful therapies. Please keep her in your prayers! She is an older child, and she doesn’t have much time. Please look at this little treasure and see her potential and NOT her diagnosis. These kids are so much more than their labels.

The family that I want to share with you, is the Alan Family.

If you were to ask me which family that adopted through Reece’s Rainbow that I would like to meet, hands down, I would pick the Alan family.

They originally adopted their oldest daughter with cerebral palsy, who we all call “Moxie” in 2012, and later that year, upon Moxie’s request, went back for three more adorable kiddos, two little boys with FAS and a beautiful little girl with Coffin Siris syndrome.

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Anyone who reads this blog, knows that the children with cerebral palsy have stolen my heart, especially the ones who are sent to laying down rooms.

The Alans are just wonderful, wonderful people, not just for saving Moxie and her brothers and sisters, but because they are rich in love. They are patient, loving, grace extending parents to four little girls and boys who spent a significant part of their early years in institutions. I love their hearts!

I received Renee’s permission to repost this from her blog, but it’s a little bit about Moxie’s story, sweet, funny, determined, SMART AS A WHIP (her IQ is in the 120s) Moxie…

This is when Renee took Moxie back to the EE and he old orphanage to pick up her three brothers and sisters.

[Moxie’s old nanny] told us this story of Moxie, of how Moxie laid in a crib/playpen all day long, never moving, because she couldn't.  How sometimes, Moxie would be too close to the foot or side of the bed but couldn't manage to use her feet or arms to push herself away and would have to just lay there, smushed against it.

Then she told me how Moxie wanted to see the sun.  Oh my goodness- it dawned on me- we were told about this very thing when we first came to adopt Moxie, how she begged to go outside and see the sun, and the nannies finally went and told the psychologist, and that she examined her and decided to move her downstairs to the better groupa!!!  This nanny knew about that- she had heard it herself! She then told us how she would take Moxie outside, letting her lie in the stroller in the sun, content.

Sweet Moxie spent the first part of her life in a laying down room before she was transferred to a class where she was taught things and received more care. However she was very close to being returned to her laying down room when the Alans committed to her, not because she wasn’t bright, but because she couldn’t properly move because of her CP.

Moxie eventually began telling her parents about her life in the laying down room. About crying out and no one coming to her. About begging to just go out and see the sun, to escape the bars of her crib for a few hours. About having an itch that she was unable to reach because of her cp. About being fed laid down, unable to properly to swallow with her CP, and having to choke down what she could get. Little Moxie is only 8 years old and has the bones of an 80 year old woman due to malnutrition. NO child should have to go through that.

Moxie started asking if they could go back and recue more kids with CP, like her. She wanted to go back and save them and help them. What a brave, smart, funny, precious little girl! By the way, she is walking and showing everyone just how much ABILITY she has Smile.

So the Alans are going back. They are going back for FOUR little boys and girls with cerebral palsy. They need their FSP to read $40,000 to be fully funded in order to rescue these precious and deserving kids.

I don’t advocate often for families, but I want to advocate for this one! They are just so wonderful, and know that you donation goes to help bring a child home, RIGHT NOW. You are meeting a very tangible need.

These three, plus one child that they have not selected yet, are the blessed babes who get to be a part of the Alan family!

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You can donate to the Alan family HERE.

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PLEASE and Thank you.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2013 In Review

I am having a really hard time writing 2014 on my checks! I can still remember being a little girl to young teenager and looking forward to the millennium, and now we are 14 years past that and I am THIRTY… it’s also hard to believe its 20 years past 1994, which I’ll always remember as the year that I bought one of my all time favorite video games on New Year’s day in 1994… King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride. I know a lot of die hard fans of the series hated it, but I was 11 so I thought it was awesome!

Sometimes I miss being a little kid. And also playing video games because what thirty year old mom of two has time for that?

Sing it sister!

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” – Job 2:10

Nick and I are in agreement that 2013 was the hardest year on record. I have a hard time blogging under stress, hence the lack of posts for this year. I would like to say looking back that we grew and we are better for it, but we are still struggling in many ways so I don’t feel like we are quite to the point of being better, stronger people. In fact I was chatting with a new friend and she mentioned a disorder called adrenal fatigue… some don’t think it’s a real thing, but after reading about it, it made a lot of the pieces fit together on how I have been feeling. It is something we will definitely look into.

2013 started with a lot of hope because we were expected sweet Gemma, but we were also very anxious because we knew we were moving, but we didn’t know where or when.

Many of our lowlights happened one right after the other…

  • I got sick in Russia right as I was supposed to fly home. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be allowed to fly! BUT it did mean that Nick was able to accompany me home.
  • Nick had an emergency appendectomy in Russia, while I was 36 weeks pregnant with Gemma in the states with Isla. We were so scared he wouldn’t make it home for Gemma’s birth, and I hate that he had to go through that all by himself in scary Russian hospitals. I also had a terrible migraine that lasted for DAYS right when he was going through that. BUT Nick’s problems did mean that Nick was able to be with us much more than he would have been around Gemma’s birth because he was on medical leave.
  • Gemma had to go to the hospital at 3 weeks and spend 5 days there with a fever. That was so scary and she had to get a spinal tap, and have so many tests run on her. We didn’t know what was wrong. While we were there the Doctor thought something was wrong with her ovaries too that we had to follow up on. Thankfully she was ok with no lasting issues. THANK YOU JESUS!
  • We found out we were moving to Midland. That is definitely a low light for me. I will not lie, I did not want to come to Midland. I wanted Houston or Covington, and I was pretty devastated when Nick was offered a job in Houston, but then strongly encouraged to come to Midland WHILE Gemma was in the hospital I might add (and no we will not let anyone pressure us into a decision like that while we have sick child again THANK YOU VERY MUCH – you LIVE and you LEARN). I know many of you are thinking “Put on  your big girl pants!” I have and I am every day, but I’ve followed Nick and his job 6 times in our 8 years of marriage and just this once, after our stressful spring, I wanted to go home for a few years. I cried every time Nick mentioned moving to Midland after he accepted the job here. That original job offer in Houston was such a tease!
  • Then we found several lumps on my thyroid. We were afraid it was cancer. I would very much like to live to see my girls grow up, and we had all of those Doctor’s appointments right at the time that I just wanted to get back to Russia with my husband. Thankfully I was ok.
  • We also had to house hunt in Midland’s crazy market. NOT FUN, although we did end up with our second choice house, which was probably the better one for us, even if it was more expensive.
  • We said good-bye to beloved friends in Russia. It was so sad. I can’t even think about those friends without getting sad, so I try not to think about them.
  • Immediately after moving to Midland and our stressful flight and transition back, my husband left us all alone in our new city for TWO weeks for a work trip… something I swore my husband would never do to me! That does not make for a smooth or easy transition.
  • We’ve had some other family issues that aren’t right to go into on a blog, but you know how crazy extended family stress can make everything even more difficult.

It’s really hard to think of much other than the difficulty when I look back on 2013 and its very easy to conjure that scared, panicky feeling that I experienced non stop for the first six months of it. I am still not over it, and as I said before, I plan to do something about it, either see a therapist or find a support group through my church. My friend recommended this book called “After the Boxes Are Unpacked” right when we moved to Russia. I skimmed it then, but now is the time I think I really need it. Of course a few of those items had an immediate silver lining, and some we won’t fully understand until we are in heaven…

Of course we had some big high lights…

  • GEMMA’S BIRTH! And she is just our treasure. We are so in love with her. I had always sworn that I would not move around the time we were expecting a baby, and when I found out we were moving, I had such anxiety about it. And then all of the other stuff above happened. I was really worried about post partum depression just because I was so hormonal with Isla and life was pretty serene. I just knew with my general mood of the time of Gemma’s birth, something would happen and I would have a lot of emotional difficulty. That did NOT happen at all with Gemma. She was an easy baby (slept 12 hours a night at 6 weeks) and such a joy, and my hormones were rock solid after her birth. There was only one time in the immediate weeks after her birth that I teared up because I felt a little overwhelmed, but that was it. Everything around her birth and early weeks was perfect and heavenly.
  • Nick was only apart from us for about six weeks total while we were in the states for Gemma’s birth and he had to work in Russia.  That is much less than we had anticipated. I don’t do well without my husband, and I know he misses us something fierce when we are gone.
  • It was fun spending the late winter and early spring at the Thistle Patch with my mom and dad. It was over 3 months, but I still felt like I barely spent time with my mom… I could always use 3 more months with her, and then another 3 months, and another, and another…!
  • We bought and moved into our house in Midland. We love it! If I can ever get it clean then I will take pictures and show it to you… I know that I am not the only voyeur out there who wonders what other people’s homes look like.
  • Isla started preschool. She loves it! I love that she has so much to do and kids to play with. I never worry about whether or not her personality and/or skills are being stunted like I used to in Russia.
  • Our trip to visit Virginia, North Carolina and then a brief sojourn into the Smoky Mountains… which I have never blogged about.
  • Our visit to Balmorrhea state part… never blogged about that either.
  • Reece’s Rainbows Angel Tree! I love Angel Tree time Smile.

Conclusions about the year…

So as I said, I cannot say this was a year for great growth, for now I am going to call it a muddle though year. I still don’t feel like I did much more than survive!

A high point was realizing how strong my marriage to Nick is. Our marriage didn’t get stronger, it was already strong and we weathered this past year as team. I am so thankful for him. He is steadfast, patient, loving… maybe I don’t need a therapist when I have HIM? I will never say that nothing will happen to our marriage because I know too many marriages that I thought were rock solid and then they fell apart. But I will say my faith in my marriage strengthened. God knew what he was doing when he designed marriage.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.

It has made Nick’s career path clearer as well and what I will tolerate. Surprisingly, after surviving this past year, I can truly say for the first time that I am up for going wherever Nick wants to go and his company wants to send us! I used to think we had some control over it, now I have been educated, and its all good. I can do it, and if we never end up back in Houston, I am ok with that. I have said good bye to my hometown, never to return (unless its to visit or if we are really relocated there Winking smile). It has made clearer that we need to make sure our little family unit is very strong because we might never have parents and grandparents to depend upon.

I feel like this year I have come into my stride with motherhood. I am so glad that I had my second for many reasons, but not the least of which is that I think that I am a better mother to my first for having had my second. I am much more patient. I love spending time with my girls. I hate being away from them, even for a few hours. Our bonds have strengthened.

What we hope 2014 will bring…

  • A pregnancy. Not right away, but in a few months, we would love to be pregnant again.
  • Contentment. I have struggled a lot with being content in Midland and with my general lot in life. Its something that I want to spend a lot more prayer time around.
  • Clarity around my work with Reece’s Rainbow… I am also hoping for surprise wealth to fall in my lap so that I can fund every single adoption happening. Smile I can  dream, right?
  • Focus and growth in the areas that I am strong in. I’m tired of being well rounded. I’d like to be really good at at least one thing.
  • More time to bake! I love baking and cooking from scratch.
  • More time to read!
  • Many new friends and opportunities to reconnect with old friends.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Our Very Merry Christmas

I have a THOUSAND things to do, but it occurred to me that I have been a little too serious lately, and so when I feel that way, it always does my heart good to sit down and blog about joy.

We had a wonderful Christmas!

First of all, we were getting close to Christmas and Asher and Prince were still not to their $1000 goal, so I prayed that they would so that I could fully enjoy Christmas. They both got to goal and then some by Christmas eve, and Asher went even further on NYE… but this is about Christmas so I won’t blog about that.

Our Christmas officially started on the 23rd. Nick only had to work a half day, and we had planned to go and check out our local drive in movie theater! It sounded like SUCH a fun, good idea… HA! Maybe those of you who have tried similar situations with small children are laughing at me right now. I am laughing at my foolishness right now!

This was something we had talked about doing for a while. It’s only $14 for our family to do a double feature, which is an awesome deal if you ask me. We wanted to it in the summer, but the movies didn’t start until 9 because of the later sunset, and the early movie was never a kids movie for some reason. I am not sure what genius made that decision, or half of the movie pairings we have seen for that matter, but it hindered us from going. This night, they were showing Walking with Dinosaurs and Frozen, and Walking with Dinosaurs started at 7 so it was perfect! Nick and I loaded up the girls, some popcorn, blankets because it was a little chilly and headed to the drive in.

Our plan was to back in and lay down the double seats in the back row of our Trailblazer, and let the kids roam free… what a terrible idea! Our back hatch is not big, and we had so much stuff in there with the blankets and whatnot. The first movie was so miserable, and not miserable in the “We know we will laugh about this later miserable”, no, “Daddy and Mommy are being very impatient with EVERYONE because we cold and crawling over one another miserable”!

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Eventually we decided to put Gemma in her car seat, which she was not happy about! We also lost her binky in the rubble… thankfully she fell asleep by the end of Walking with Dinosaurs, poor thing.

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Eventually we three got settled and even though we still were not super comfortable, it was tolerable to watch Frozen. I’m glad, because while I don’t feel like I missed much with Walking with Dinosaurs, Frozen was awesome! If I had known Idina Menzel was the lead, I would have made an effort to see it sooner. When she sings, I just want to pull a Wayne and curl up at her feet and tell her “I’m not worthy”! God has blessed her with tremendous talent.

Anyway, NOW we can laugh about our trip to the drive-in, but it is going to be a little while before we attempt to do that with the kids again. Nick and I are definitely planning a date night with just the two of us Smile.

Christmas Eve we piddled, and I did Angel Tree stuff, and then we all took a walk around our beautiful neighborhood park. I LOVE our neighborhood. I pinch myself sometimes because I don’t know what I did to be so lucky to live here.

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This is one of the two ponds in our neighborhood. And also Nick and Isla. And also my thumb.

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These two giant geese are Lords of the pond. We have some lovely ducks from up north visiting, and they have not received a very warm welcome. Our little Lords are quite stingy with the food that they get thrown and make sure that nothing goes to any bird but THEM!

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Sweet Gemmy Lou!

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Isla wanted to be in charge of the wagon with Gemma… that was not one of our brightest parenting moments. Before too long, the wagon fell over and Gemma spilled out. Thankfully she was unharmed!

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Afterwards we went to church at our new church for Christmas service, more on our new church later! Of course we took selfies because that is what people do now… Of course I will share the BLURRY picture of myself. I love Christmas Eve service, especially the candlelight part. Isla kept waiting and waiting for Away in a Manger to play and she sung her little heart out when it came on. I admit that I always worry if our Christmas time is not Christ centered enough, but I hope that we will always be together on Christmas eve at church to remind us the true reason for Christmas; that God in heaven left his throne, and became flesh in the form of a tiny baby, destined to make peace with all mankind.

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After church we came home and ate dinner – lasagna and other sides, and I surprised Nick with Molten Chocolate Cake… turns out it is SO easy. I don’t know why I took so long to try and make it. I thought it would be super complex, and it was not! The lasagna is a tradition that we are bringing from Nick’s side of the family. As the cook, I am happy about that! It is MUCH easier to makethan ham or turkey.

Then it was time to open presents!

Isla and Gemma didn’t get much. Isla really only got puzzles, Inchimals and Monster's University (so cute!) and Gemma got one new thing and some of Isla’s recycled toys. We are recycling a lot of Isla’s toys for Gemma and plan to give them to her for birthdays and other things. We don’t need to get the girls a lot of toys between both their grandparents, their great grandparents and their aunts and uncles! I would worry about them getting spoiled but they are such sweethearts. I got a Kindle, a countertop composting bin for when I don’t want to take the compost out every time I cook, and a cook book (LOVE). Nick got the TRX work out system, a shirt and pants, and an outdoor thermometer since he’s so into the weather.

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Isla is one that I don’t think I will need to teach gratitude to! She was so overjoyed with each and every gift, and thanked us profusely! She has such a good little heart. Our favorite quote of the night… “Oh I LOVE it… what is it?”

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After opening presents we watched Monsters University and then put Isla to bed. I thought she would be EXHAUSTED and fall asleep immediately since she hadn’t napped and we let her go to bed so late. I checked on her for an hour and every time she was wide awake and wanted to let me know that she was waiting up for Santa and she hadn’t heard reindeer on the roof yet! I know she was tired because we realized that we hadn’t set out cookies so I offered to let her get out of bed to help me really quick, and she said I could just do it. She was too tired to get up! I am SO glad we decided to do Santa, now I live in terror of the child who is going to tell her Santa isn’t real and ruin all our fun.

After she finally fell asleep, “Santa” brought the girls their presents. Cookie actually helped Santa with the girls two big presents, a little pink baby grand piano (see, I told you, we don’t need to buy the girls gifts… even with us buying the minimum I feel like we are already bordering on decadence) and a white rocking chair. If it hadn’t been for Cookie, the girls would have just received stocking stuffers from Santa, but Cookie does love to spoil us. Isla received nail polish and some Schleich toys, and Gemma some grasping toys.

When I was little, I mentioned that we used to live in the Netherlands. It is a custom there to get people chocolate letters in the initial of their first name, so that is a tradition that I am continuing with all of us. And also, Nick and I received chocolate seashells, my favorite and I pretty much ate all of his Smile. Next year we’ll just ask Santa for two boxes for me. Mom and Dad received new glasses for our kitchen. Mom and Dad’s Santa presents were a surprise since Santa and Mrs. Claus set them out while the other couldn’t see them. Nick received new collegiate shirts since his are getting old and faded and packets of heirloom seeds. I received Game of Thrones: Season 1 and Season 2 on DVD… don’t think less of me. I loved them and I was so surprised! We’ve already watched them once and I want to watch them again with commentary before season 4 starts.

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Christmas morning, Isla came and crawled into our bed and forlornly informed us that Santa hadn’t come because she hadn’t heard reindeer! We told she must be mistaken and to go and check the living room. We heard the funniest shriek of “HE CAME!”

Second favorite Isla quote of Christmas… nothing about the piano but “OH I HAVE A NEW PINK STOOL!”

I did not get a single good picture of the mayhem that followed…

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And that was our Christmas. Now we are sad knowing that it will almost be an entire extra year before we get to celebrate again!  We, Wanns are pretty lucky though, just one month after Christmas on January 25th, we get to celebrate another special to us birth, the birth of Nick. Exactly one month after that, we will celebrate yet another special birth, sweet Gemma’s FIRST birthday Smile. So I think we will make it through the next few months of winter funk at least!

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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