Thursday, December 29, 2011

Noonday Collection *GIVEAWAY*

I Luv Uganda. 
(Shocking, I know.)

So does my friend, Lori
Lori is biological Mama of 3 kids with her loyal hubby, Sean.
Plus she fosters.
Plus she is awaiting news of a child to adopt from Uganda.
Plus she is a Noonday Collection Ambassador  
which means she helps raise money for women's industries in Africa
by selling some BEAUTIFUL, covet-worthy stuff made there. 

Lori is the best kind of nutty there is, if you ask me:
flat-out-sold-out serving others in Jesus' name. 

Lori has oferred to give ONE of my blog readers a
$50 
gift certificate for checking out the 
gorgeous
jewlery, accessories, sandals, and home decor
and leaving a comment here on my blog.
Simple!

{My FIRST ever blog giveaway...I'm kind of in love with it all. *sigh*}

Here are some of my favorites, just to whet your appetite...











Winner announced January 1!

HAPPY NEW YEAR y'all!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Realization of Dreams

"...tears stream down my cheeks as I read (Isaiah 60) today. 
All I can think is maybe this time next year maybe Rissa will be home.
It seems too wonderful to hope for 
but it is my dream.
O, that God would hasten you home 
where you belong.
I love you,
Mommy."
- from my journal, December 21, 2010



"I miss you so incredibly much...
it's almost enough to choke me. 
I feel so acutely that you should be here - 
eating bits of honeycake and crawling around with new blocks & a babydoll...
my deepest prayer - the one I am afraid to trust the Lord with because it seems barely plausible -
- almost impossible
is for you, Rissa to be home by Christmas next year. 
Now, I accept that just may not actually happen.
I do.
But it's my desire, still.
God - please allow me to trust You.
Please give me the grace to ask of You in faith.
Please show my Your goodness by meeting my needs the way You see fit.
The Truth here is that I need more of YOU. 
Help me want more of You, God...
Merry Christmas, my daughters.
All the love in my heart is yours,
Mommy."

- from my journal, Christmas morning December 25, 2010









Monday, December 19, 2011

Hope



On Thursday night, December 15 a spectacular thing happened.

Hope came home. 


As a mama of a Ugandan babe, this is of course exciting.
Our entire Florida-Ugandan Family congregate at the airport EVERY time 
a new family steps off the tram in our international airport
with a Ugandan child -
formerly an orphan,
now a closely-held, 
wide-eyed and overwhelmed,
 dearly-beloved son or daughter.

It's tradition!
We whoop
we holler
we bring balloons and signs and cameras 
We make a loud  huge deal.
By Wednsday there were 13 Ugandan children who have stepped off this 
tram and into our community of love.
On Thursday, though....
that number became 14.
Our Hope came home on Thursday.

Back on August 11, my friend Janna and I were having a normal playdate at her house.
We'd been separated much of the summer with one family travelling (them)
 and one family cocooning (us).
Our kids play well together and love doing so.
Janna had her 3 kids - I had my 4. 
We talked for about 4 hours while LEGO's and cars and babydolls were thrown about.
We ate salads
The kids had sandwiches and snacks.
It was all very normal.
It was nice.
Familiar.
And then something sincerely supernatural happened.
God spoke up.

Janna mentioned that she and her husband were ready to begin the adoption process again 
but
wanted the Lord to be clear.
Wanted to adopt from somewhere they felt a signifigant connection to.
They didn't want to just choose out of the blue.
And they wanted to adopt a sister for their youngest, a girl among 2 older brothers.

*This? Completely flew by me.
I was all: "Oh! Cool!"
And that. was. all.
(God must have been shaking His head at me.)

20 minutes later...

I "randomly" mentioned I was praying these last 2 weeks for a little girl.
"Do people ever tell you about orphans and ask you to pray for them?",
I asked Janna,
since I know and respect her greatly.
"What are you talking about?", she asked. 
"No. No one's ever done that to me.", she added.
I told Janna that this little girl lived in an orphanage and was recovering from malaria.
I told her we were unsure of her age but thought her about age 1-1/2 years old. 
And I told her we were unsure about anything else about her
including:
 her status
her limitations
her health
her background
her adoptability
and
her availability.

Then I told Janna her name....Hope.

And with that one word I watched Hope be born in her mother's eyes.
I watched Janna's face lift and lightbulbs click on.
I watched confusion cloud her eyes and then - clarity settle.
And I heard her say to me:
"So. 
That's our name. 
For our daughter I have started praying for.
Hope."

She said it like a question, almost
like she was asking permission to tell me Something Big.
I was floored.
It was my turn to be confused. 

Slowly the wheels in my head started turning 
and I knew I needed to head out, 
wrangle my kids home, 
and make some phone calls.

When I got home 10 minutes later
there was a message on my voicemail.
Janna had called her husband, Scott.
She told him the precious little she had heard about Hope
He said: "Well. Let's go get her."
The voicemail I arrived home to that day,
only 10 minutes after leaving her house
 spoke these words to my stunned ears:

"Esty, I have talked to Scott. 
And we want to do everything possible we can do to Lord-willing 
bring Hope home to be part of our family forever."

That was all they needed. 
An invitation from the Lord. 
And they raced to their daughter and never looked back.

Now, it was not all over after that.
After that came the most mountainous trek of faith I have ever witnessed.
After August 11 came a race against the clock
and a challenge of hope such as I have only been a part of 1 other time.
And that was with my Rissa.
But this?
This was different...
because I was the witness, not the parent.
But I was allowed to be party to miracle after miracle.
For Hope.
For Janna and Scott
For me.
This little life has seen something extraordinary.
Hope came home.
And here's what it's done to me:
Hope coming home makes me unafraid.
I can't explain it 
but after watching it all
up close
every step
one miracle at a time
I can testify this truly:

 "...and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
~Romans 5:5




Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two

I know there is Another Daughter.
I have always known.
And I have written to her here
as well as in a journal
I keep with my Bible
here at home
in which I have always written to her sister, Rissa, too.
I have always known there would be Two.

I have always seen them together.
I don't know if this is because they will
look alike
be alike
be close in age
or whatever
but 
I know there are Two.
I have always known.



One of them is home.
One of them is not.

Yet.

this is not an announcement.
it is just fact.
documented here as a record
for her so she will always know:
there have always been 
Two.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Next

I am pulling together this year's blog into a book again, for my children to read.
Well...for them to read in The Future, anyhow.
For me
 this blog
 has always been about leaving a trail for them
for explaining
 these little lives.

As I gather the threads and loop all the stories of this year into 
one long-spun, lumpy ball of yarn
I wonder to God:

"Where are we going Next?"

You'd think I'd be satisfied.
You'd think I'd be exhausted.
You'd maybe think you'd like to roll your eyes at me.
And I'd maybe like to do that as well.

Lately I have felt quieted. And that's immensely unlike me.
I don't even really mean verbally quiet - more like
 mentally idling...
a car parked with a running motor...

I have found myself

 paralyzed.


For this year
 this
 1
little life 
I live 
was a big year.


2011's story was the climax in an 8-point story arc.

It was NEWS.

We ADOPTED our baby. Everyone tuned in and got stoked!
It was AWESOMELY exciting and I mean for no one more than for Andrew and I.

And it still is.

And we have continued to see some incredibly miraculously powerful things happen...
things I will write down before this year is ended...
we have been privy to so many MIRACLES...
we have stood in the direct oncoming traffic of God's grace...
we have NEEDED Him...
we have been changed...
we have been scarred by Africa...
and we have been left totally off-kilter. 

A best friend said it pointedly if not passive-aggressively recently:
"You're so 'activist' now."
I guess I maybe am.
Most of this year's Christmas gifts are Free Trade Approved 
meaning no one was harmed to produce what makes us "merry and bright".

Good grief, I never thought of that before! I never even gave it a moment's notice!

I am off-kilter.
I feel paralyzed.
I feel unsure how to step off the speeding train we have been on
hesitant to take a 
single
step
away
from this journey because it has been a paradigm-shifting event.

It's like being at a rock concert for an evening
and trying to hear a whisper afterward. 

I am straining to hear
but as one friend smirked at me the other day,
I have aparently become a "miracle junkie"
accustomed to seeing something stunning happen
 so I
have become afraid to 
blink 
so as not to miss it happening again.

It's a problem.


And I am walking through it.
I find myself asking the Lord:

"What's Next?"

Because I know that I counsel others:
"You can't mess up God's plan"
and 
"Just keep walking"

but somehow
I am afraid I can mess up God's plan

{as if I were that talented}

or I am afraid to take a solitary step in any one direction

{as if I could ever escape God.}

I know.
It's ludicrous.

But it's where I am.

I have been sinking cozily into Jesus Calling still, 
comforted by it's daily insistence that I am 
loved
safe
cherished
approved.

It is insulating me for what's Next.

Whatever that is.








Monday, December 5, 2011

The Holiday Tour of TN *by the numbers*


Miles travelled in "Summer" (our trusty Toyota Sienna) in one week: 1,546 

Hours of travel in van: about 26

Hours we made it without a DVD player on board:  roughly 16

Amount spent on a "Phillips" brnd 2- screen portable DVD player from random Best Buy in Georgia: $100

Season of "The Muppet Show" bought for DVD watching: Season 2 (was a big hit, by the way)

Homes who hosted us: 5

Kids who got ill with strep throat: 2 (Ethan and Graham)

Length of time waiting to be diagnosed/get amoxicillin: approx 3 total

Lengthy, out-of-character naps taken by Ethan on his sickest day: 3

Trip to South Tunnel, birthplace of Margaret "Nina" Taylor Johnson (Andrew's grandmother in Heaven now) : 1

Tunnels we braved to find while walking the train tracks: 1

Uncles who braved the black tunnel to trek on to the second tunnel: 2

Rounds of "Trivial Pursuit": 1

Times Daddy won "Trivial Pursuit": 1

Goodies Mimi baked/cooked for us: countless

Birthday parties for Rissa's 1st Birthday: 2

Bites of cake she tasted before she really dove in: 1

Hugely oversized, fluffy, pink unicorns acquired by The Birthday Girl: 1

Stops at Starbucks for more caffeine: about 1/2 a dozen

Days we "did school": 0

Hugely oversized "Star Wars" LEGO sets the Uncles bought for the adoring nephews: like, 6?

Hours it took for LEGO sets to be assembled: at least 8

Average temperature: 55 degrees (boooooooooo)

Snowfall witnessed in inches this trip: 0 (booooooooo)

Hugs: millions