Thursday, December 31, 2009

Are You Following Me?

Last Sunday, my dad preached a sermon about 7 things that hold believers back or hinder their growth in Christ. I missed the last half of the sermon because Li'l Empress had a runny nose and we ran out of tissues to staunch the flow. But something that he said really stuck with me and I'll be brewing on it (and the rest of the sermon when and if his sound team gets is up on their website!) for quite a while.

"Are you safe to follow?"

It wasn't really the main point of the sermon, but it drove into my spirit as an arrow. Am I living my life in a manner that makes me a safe sister in Christ for others to watch and imitate my faith? Am I living my life in such a way that I WANT my kids to follow me as I am following Christ?

I'm not one for making big resolutions every year. I regularly fail at my attempts on my own to eat healthier, exercise more, forgive more easily, extend more grace readily, and so on. In fact, I'm convinced that, unless the LORD gives me a goal and a plan for a particular area in my life which needs improvement and unless I surrender my Self to His workings and His power, any efforts of self-will or self-control on my part to "be better" are as filthy rags. And believe you me, I need no more dirty laundry around here.

However, I believe that for the year 2010, I am going to seek the Lord for just how HE wants me to become a safe believer to follow. I am going to commit to prayer and seek HIS wisdom on the areas that HE desires to pare out of my heart and the cleansing that HE wants to make in my spirit and my mind. I desire to be a safe believer, for anyone to follow. I want my kids to be able to trust the footsteps they see me walking. I want younger moms to know that they can rely on me for direction and wisdom that comes from the Lord. I want other adoptive moms to know that they can follow me as I follow Christ's hearts for our little ones as they grow into and attach to our families. I want what comes out of my mouth and out of my heart to be HIS words. HIS WORD.

I want 2010 to be the year that
I KNOW I became a safe believer to follow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Before Santa's big arrival . . .

After Santa snacked out, assembled,
and arranged . . .

It was a Merry, Merry Morning!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Do You Realize?

Merry Christmas
to you and your family!

While you and your loved ones go about your day, celebrating the traditions that you hold dear and enjoying the bountiful expressions of love amongst you, think about the words of this song for a little while.

Do YOU realize?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wrapping It Up

  • Why can't all wrapping paper have the cheater's cutting graph on the back?
  • How on earth do the presents pro-create and multiply after they've been purchased and placed in Santa's workshop (which is cleverly disguised as my closet)?
  • Who has been eating the tape? Do those bows look like appetizers to YOU?
  • Is there a disgruntled little elf with a grudge? I think he's been snipping my ribbons and bows while I sleep. I could have sworn that ribbon was long enough for that package last night.
  • Do all pens have black souls? Do they conspire together to all run out & dry up at Christmas time?
  • Does the proportion of last minute gifts to be purchased EVER match the amount of wrapping paper left in the bin?
This, my dear bloggy friends, is a little peek into my final preparations for The Gang's Christmas celebration. Or rather, a peek into the musings running through my mind at frantic speeds and chaotic patterns during my final preparations for our Big Day. It's not pretty in there.

I'm off to finish my "Master To Do List of Holiday Cheer." Wrapping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, and more cooking. Then more wrapping. I think the bag of Toys R Us goodies just gave birth to another litter. I heard the devious little giggles from the closet early this morning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buy A T-Shirt, Help A Family

I have a long list of adoptive-mommy blogs that I read. I love reading about their back-stories - how they got to the path of adoption. I enjoy following the families as they travel to places all over the world to meet and bring home their precious children. I am regularly inspired by their faith in their calling, by their determination to build their families through the journey of adoption. I particularly enjoy the thrill of those families who are forced to rely upon the Lord for every step of their process. Whether it's asking God for wisdom to seek and advocate for proper care for a special needs child or laying it all out there and begging God to provide the finances for their adoption, I love reading about the miraculous things HE does for those who call on Him. It's so encouraging - and informative too. It gets my creative juices flowing for the next time we consider adding to The Gang through adoption.

I've been following this blogger's journey for over almost two years now. In the midst of what ended up being a four year wait for their little daughter in China, they were called by God to adopt a darling little boy from Ethiopia. As you can imagine, two adoptions in four years is extraordinarily difficult. Financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. My favorite thing about this blogger is the raw and real manner in which she journals their family story. They are weeks away from receiving Travel Approval for their sweet little Kiera. But they are in need.

You see, when you are caught up in a long wait, there are multiple additional financial burdens added JUST because legal and governmental documentation expires. It's a fact that all of us in the adoption community grumble about, but it is what it is. No one really understands how on earth "fingerprints" can expire, but the documentation must be renewed. To do that costs money. Home studies expire. But they must be renewed to be able to still wait for a referral. It's bureacratic, it's political, it's for the safety of the children, it's for homeland security, it's insane. We all know it, we all suffer through it, and we all come out the other side several hundred if not thousand dollars lighter in our checking accounts. But there is NO. WAY. AROUND. IT.

And that's not the only financial responsibility. There are agency fees, orphanage fees, medical documentation fees, immigration fees, and so on. No matter the length of the journey, international adoption is an expensive journey. See what I mean by saying that two adoptions in four years is difficult? And they have been BUSY doing their part: fundraisers, gargantuan yard sales, on-line stores, trimming their budget (in her archives, you can find a really neat 30-day challenge they did on learning how to live on less!), and working additional free-lance jobs from home.

I say all this NOT to invite judgment or criticism or even "how to fix the mess" type of conversations. I say all this NOT to allow questions of motives or questions about the merits of even choosing international adoption. I say all this to help you understand. The blogging community, particularly the adoptive-parents' blogging community is excellent at spreading the word. At sharing one another's burdens. At getting the word out and doing something about it. And at stepping up to pray and intercede for the life of a child. Those are things that YOU can do for this family. Now. No big effort on your part. You don't even have to leave your comfy computer chair. With a few clicks and links, you can help spread the word about a family who needs your support. If you have questions about their journey, I encourage you to skim through their archives and read more about them. I don't pretend to know them in person. But I have followed their story for a long time now and have had some personal correspondence with her that rings very true with me.

But if you want to do more. If you need to do more, you can go here. You can look over these adorable t-shirts and you can do some last minute Christmas shopping. You can cross some gifts off your list AND help this family bring home their little girl. Won't you just take a peek and see? I promise you, the blessing of doing something far outweighs the excitement of a new t-shirt coming in the mail. But the t-shirts are pretty darn cute, too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Portraits of a Snowy Saturday

Final Update: 8:00 Sunday a.m.
We got a total of about 10" of the white stuff.
Church has been cancelled. Pancakes are on the griddle.
Coffee is flowing freely. I have to be careful though.
My beloved creamer is running low.
And the only creamer at the store on Friday was vanilla.
Ick. I may need to make an exchange.

The Boss is prepping the older boys on the fine art of shoveling and clearing the walkways. They'll be thrilled to know that they have to do the neighbors' property too, since the neighbors are out of the country till March. He hasn't dropped that bomb yet. The Li'l Empress is sounding worse today. Any one have any good tips on how to teach a two year old how to cough it up? Thank goodness all that "stuff" is pretty loose. It's just hard to hear it all rattling around while she "half coughs." Ick, again. But a different kind of ick. Of course.

UPDATE at 5:45 p.m.:
Here's the same view at 4:45 p.m.
Quite a difference, and bound to be drastically more
different at the next update, if it keeps up like this!

The Boss decided to head out just now for a little bit of shoveling. So far, it's about 5" of accumulation. The snow is really light and powdery. Normally he'd wait for the older boys, but they're away at a party with some friends. At the rate that the snow is falling for the last two hours, who knows when they will get home. I really dislike having any of my little Gang members out of the nest during storms and such. They scoff at my worry, but I remind them that Mommas like their babies home. No matter that those babies are 15 and 14. . .

UPDATE at 2 p.m.:
This is our side yard at 1:45 p.m.
Not much difference from the 8:15 a.m. shot.

The Gang is a little frustrated with the light cover so far. But still hoping for an increased pace and volume of the white stuff. The Boss and I snuck out before noon to use up the K$hl's cash. A nice clerk had mercy on me and gave me an additional 15% off even though I forgot my coupon for power hours. I scored some really warm, hefty winter boots for myself, at a cool 50% off. It's been about 5 years since I've had proper foot gear for the elements. I figured it was about time. So now, even I feel ready to brave the storm. Except, this storm looks like it might turn into a non-event. I'm off to wrap gifts for the nieces and nephews. The little ones are playing out in the dusting with The Boss. Li'l Empress is snuggled in for a nap - poor thing, I think she's getting another cold. UGH. No cold, wet snow for her today. Maybe tomorrow . . .

This is our side yard, at 8:15 a.m.

We're all bracing for what the forecasters say could be a brutal storm predicted to blanket most of the East Coast. The winds are picking up and the sky is completely white. The contrast of the bare, dark trees is lovely. I think I'll update the same view every couple hours, just to be able to capture the progress of the first "blizzard" of the season.

The kids are all hyped up about the snow. Li'l Empress has been running from window to window, yelling, "'No, 'no, 'no!" and pointing to anyone who will exclaim with her. I've got a new stew recipe to make for this evening and a couple cookie recipes I might try. The other little gang members are already eye-ing up the hot cocoa, before they've even suffered cold-chapped cheeks and frozen toes. The Boss is getting ready to venture out to use our $20 K$hl's cash - we just couldn't get there sooner and it goes totally against our grain to "waste" free money. Otherwise, we're hunkering down for the weekend and taking this as God's perfect plan for slowing us all down to enjoy the Christmas-y atmosphere together!

I'll be back later with more pics. Stay warm, stay dry and enjoy a wonderful snowy day home with your family.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Fun on Friday - Week 3

My Shaggy is by far the most "Christmas-y" of the Gang. Every year, he is the first to start the Christmas music - although he's adamant that it not be played before Thanksgiving Day. When I start my Christmas list making, he's positively twitchy to see things in black and white like, "Bake on Saturday," or "Christmas shopping with The Boss."

On our family tree-decorating night, he's singing along to the carols at the top of his lungs and making peace among the siblings whenever squabbles arise over whose ornament goes where. He doesn't mind watching the same couple sappy holiday movies over and over with me, and when Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" comes on the radio, he gets a dopey grin and sings along in Spanish. It's quite entertaining and really, very sweet. The best of it all is on Christmas Eve. He gets so antsy with anticipation that he can hardly concentrate. He definitely can't sleep. He's even named this phenomenon: "Christmas Spasms." He's probably going to kill me for telling all of you this, but I really get a kick out of it.

Well, Shaggy's holiday spirit has come to all new heights of joy this week. Behold, his "eggs in a basket Christmas breakfast."

I just love that kid!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Cookie Frosting Night

Such attention to detail. . .

. . . eerr, make that Frosting Eating Night!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Desperately Hopeful"

That's how Steven Curtis Chapman
described himself on Monday morning,
when sitting with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America.

You can see the clip, along with some
other footage of their time together, here.
(the option to choose that story
is under the large video feature)

What a wonderful summary
of the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Desperately hopeful!

Monday, December 14, 2009

That's What I'm Talkin' About!

It was a good night to be an Eagles fan.

(Although I confess, I headed to bed in the third quarter.
After sleeping through the half-time analysis.)

Let's go all the way!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Give Away Like No Other I've Seen

Get yourselves over to BooMama's site.

And enter the amazing give away she's hosting.

You will NOT believe the loot.

Go ahead, go there now.

And have yourselves a great Saturday when you are done.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Fun on Friday - Week 2

Well, I didn't set out to create a series of Christmas Fun posts on Fridays. But with as crazy & busy as we all are right now; and with the tendency for holiday stress that we all lean toward, I thought you might enjoy this little exchange.

Head to this post now.
But do not, I repeat, do not attempt to drink
your morning coffee
(or Diet Pepsi, you know who you are!)
while reading this post.
Your keyboard will thank me.

Incidentally, if you've never been to Dawn's site before, I must tell you that I HIGHLY recommend it. Not just because of the wonderful humor that you get to experience in the above post. But also because she is an excellent resource on many, many things related to building a family. I've recommended her before, but I will say it again. This site is definitely worth putting on your subscription list, whether you are interested in adoption, pregnancy, birthing, fertility/infertility issues, or general parenting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shaggy's Sayings

Overheard recently in our home, amidst the sounds of carols and the smells of baking. . .

Momma: "I LOVE Christmas baking season!"

Shaggy, in the exact same tone: "I LOVE Christmas eating season!"

And later, when telling The Boss about my first day of baking . . .

Shaggy: "Did you SEE the list of things she's baking this Christmas?"

Yes, I wrote a list. It's a sickness, I know.

The Boss: "No, what's she making this year? Same stuff as normal, right?"

Shaggy: "The roster is amazing!"

When biting into his first taste of Christmas baking . . .

Shaggy: "Mmmm, these are so soft and delicious. Like little bits of Heaven in my mouth."

At this point, he didn't need anyone else in the conversation.
He was doing just fine by himself!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Merry Christmas

I know it's been around a while.
But it bears repeating.

Merry Christmas . . .

a lovely intro to this song,
by the artist who wrote it,
can be found here . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another View Of Attachment

I know I promised a post soon on what I learned in taking A Year Off. But a couple other really noteworthy posts have come to my attention lately. Basically, they are variations on the themes I shared with you. My point in sharing all these things with you is to further spread awareness about just how HUGELY important it is for each family to find their own groove when forging the bonds of attachment. I'd really like it if you head over to there and soak in what this precious mom is sharing.

Go to this post now.
Then come back and let me know your thoughts.

Special thanks to my friend, Stephanie for sharing this perspective with me. I've got another link or two up my sleeve that I think might be of benefit to some of you who are interested in adoption. I'll let you know if they pan out for sharing.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do You Believe?

Bloggy friends of mine have entered a contest to help finance the final stages of their adoption journey. It just takes a vote or two on your part (you can vote daily if you really want to!), which also enters you into a contest to win a $500 gift card.

Please go HERE to check out their blog.


Do YOU believe in Christmas miracles?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Fun On Friday

Okay, so it's been a bit of a heavy week or two here. What with all the looooong posts on attachment and the pictures of sick kids and all. So I'm sharing a different kind of Christmas cheer today.

When I was a little girl, someone bought us the album (yes, the real vinyl album) of songs from Peanuts and the gang. Now, whenever I hear this particular song on my local radio station, I know that the Christmas season has officially begun. It's not very spiritual, but it is chock full of happy memories of dancing around my royal blue bedroom with my younger sisters in our matching Christmas nightgowns. The song makes me happy. So very happy. I hope it makes you happy too!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Go Tell It On The Mountain!

I'm so excited. I mean, I always love Christmas, with all the cookies,and eggnog, the lights, the music, the colors. The anticipation, the cookies, the eggnog. Did I mentioned the eggnog? But seriously, I really am feeling so buoyed up in my spirit right now. Why now, in particular, you ask? Well, I'm more than happy to tell you about it . . . and I'm so glad you asked!

I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge Oprah fan. I mean, I watch the shows that interest me, on occasion. And I almost never miss her big "Favorite Things" show. But other than that, I'm not a regular. Sometimes, I luck out and get to oooh and aahh over a favorite celebrity, but really, that's about all I tune in for. Honestly.

Well, since she announced her impending retirement and since the Christmas season always provides some good viewing, I've been "dvr'ing" her show. Yes, I programmed her in. This way, if I record something that's worth my 40 minutes of laundry folding time, I can sit and enjoy it while I match the gazillion socks I washed that morning. And boy, am I glad I didn't miss Monday's show. (Well, I actually did miss Monday's show. But like I said, I "dvr'd" it so I got to sit yesterday afternoon and watch it.) It was a continuation of a show from last week, about Heroes (honoring everyday heroes, including Capt. Sully from the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight last year). If you didn't see it, you really ought to catch it in re-runs. I especially loved the tribute to the mail carriers. It was so nice to hear regular folks talking about "doing the right thing" just because it was the right thing to do!

So anyway, Monday's show was the second half of that Heroes show. It was a concert of duo acts, singing a Christmas concert for the heroes in the audience. The pairings were unusual but they really worked: Tim McGraw with Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige with Andrea Boccelli, and Sugarland with Jennifer Hudson. The music was beautiful and inspiring and artistic.

But what struck me the most?
What excites me more than
anything else at this time of year?

It is the ONE time of the year that the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST is poured forth without censure and without reservation. From Oprah's stage. From television channels all over the world. From radio stations across the globe. In malls, in grocery stores, in the post office. In beautiful traditional classics. In smooth jazzy tunes. In fun, joyful celebration. Where ever you go from Halloween till New Year's, you hear the stories of the birth of the Savior.

So the next time you are walking through the mall or hunting down that perfect gift in your local W@lM@rt, remember that for this season THE WHOLE WORLD is singing of THE. ONE. PERFECT. GIFT. Go ahead, sing along with all your might. His Word promises that it will make a difference. And you know what, while you are singing, pray that that Word goes forth and changes hearts. Pray that hearts are open to hearing the story and receiving it. You don't even have to preach it. Oprah's guests will preach it for ya!

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV)

10 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,

11 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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

This has become an all-too familiar scene
on our couch these last few weeks.
This week it isn't Baby Blue Eyes.
But the pitiful look in his eyes
captures well how we all feel about
this nasty virus STILL lingering.

This week it's her turn,
even though she's smiling here.
Here, she's just imitating her big brother.

Trust me, when she sees me coming
after her with a tissue for her nose,
that little smile disappears.
And so does she!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Christmas Giveaway 2009

The ambitious, generous gals over at 5 Minutes for Mom are at it again! There's a whole bunch of great giveaways posting daily there. Take yourselves away to their site and start perusing the options. Personally, I'm loving the "Jewelry That Celebrates Life." Except, wearing one of those necklaces with charms for all five of my Gang might be a bit cumbersome. Good thing they only include one charm in the prize package. I'll have to train for the additional four I'd need. I'm willing to suffer for the cause should I win one, though.

I know I'm a bit behind the times, as this has been up and running for a while now. Would you believe, I had 99 posts from 5MFM sitting in my Reader queue? It's been a busy few weeks, what with all my Gang members taking turns being sick. And now, they're starting on Round Two of free-flowing boogies and hacking coughs. Lucky, lucky me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Speaking of Attachment - Part 3

So, I'm close to wrapping up my little series on our journey through attachment. Let me say again, that we are no experts. I've done a lot of reading. I've done a lot of talking with more experienced moms and adoption workers. I've done a lot of praying. What we settled on isn't necessarily how we started the journey. It's more a matter of what shook out after sifting and trying things out happened those early months. It's what we came to after we spent time learning our daughter's temperament and personality. We're still fine tuning things.

That being said, you should check out this post to get the full picture, if you haven't been following along already. The first two posts generated some good discussion. I'd love to hear more from you all and share some ideas or tips among us that might help someone along the way.

This last concept I'm sharing is one that took me a little while around which to wrap my brain. When I first felt the Lord asking me to consider "Taking a Year Off," I was almost scared. I mean, a whole year with nothing but the bare necessities on our calendar? It sounded so extreme. But when I approached The Boss with the idea, it became very clear that the Lord was asking us to strip away all the non-essential from that calendar and that To Do list and our weekly routine. That He was asking us to focus our time, attentions, and efforts on "cementing" Li'l Empress into our family, and to allow all 7 of us to adjust, transition and find our way to our new, healthy dynamic.

So, we set about putting things in place to accomplish this task. I wrote a post about it in this post, before we left for China. When we arrived home on Sept. 27th, 2008, it was the beginning of a new way of living our daily existence for all of us. We intentionally shrunk our world to just the 7 of us (as the most vital members of Li'l Empress's new world) as frequently and for as long as we could possibly get away with it.

This meant that we did church & youth group, but not many extra services or events. We tried a small group with our church but it was really hard on all of us. We kept the four kids in public school for the year, but I stopped volunteering in the classroom, in the library, or in the special committees for the whole school year. The kids did not participate in any extra-curricular events until late spring, and then it was only one night a week for a local soccer league. The Boss continued to go to work (I mean, the mortgage still has to be paid, right?!), but he was very intentional to work from home whenever the opportunity presented itself and he tried to establish one day a week where that was his norm.

I gave up the moms' group that I had been leading for several years. (That one hurt. I really enjoyed the fellowship and the mentoring.) I also gave up the bulletin. The original intent was to give it up just until the new year, but my sweet friend who took it over for me gave me a couple extra months and I took it back in February. I had really missed it, and enjoyed picking it back up and digging in to it and the other related projects it generates. But I will admit, getting back into the swing of writing on a deadline and proofing for errors and cross-checking details was much harder than I'd anticipated.

In addition to stripping "stuff" from our calendar, we created a Family Night that was not previously part of our normal routine. Before traveling to China, we'd never been so busy that we needed to create a regular event of it, but now that we were being so intentional, we decided that Friday nights were our sacred time. We played Wii, we baked cookies, we watched silly movies. We ate our combined body weight in popcorn over the winter months, I think! We even did some crafts and board games. (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate kids' board games? And crafting with my little ones? OY! I am so not regularly "that mom.")

Those things we did created some designated bonding time and a sense of identity for all of us, but especially for Li'l Empress. As the months went on, it was as if I could see her "clicking" into her role in our dynamic and settling in to what it meant to become part of "The Gang." I remember sitting with The Boss on the couch one night in particular and watching her play cards with the big kids, just giggling and flirting with Shaggy. She was picking up some of our mannerisms by then. And she was definitely getting the hang of her mischievous side and how to express it. That night, it clicked. This was our new normal. This was our family.

During this season, we also made the difficult decision to limit the amount of company we had in our home and to limit the travel we did to other homes. This was especially hard, as we love to entertain. For the most part, we shared our limits with my siblings and their families and a few of our closest friends. We did an occasional sleepover here with the kids' friends, since we were home anyway. But we really concentrated on keeping our circle of places where Li'l Empress could feel safe to a small boundary for that first year. It's really paid off now, because she feels completely safe here in our home, even when we have company that she doesn't know. It's as if she knows she can trust these visitors to love her and care about her because they've been allowed into her safety zone.

Finally, we intentionally limited child-care for Li'l Empress to just the 6 of us as much as we possibly could. There were a few times that my sister watched her for me, but once the older kids got out of school for the summer we even stopped relying on that. Our purpose was to really anchor within her the idea that we are her first line of care, that she would always have her needs met and that we would do so consistently. Before she came home to us, we counted that she had 5 other "care scenarios" in which non-permanent people were meeting her physical needs. For a 13-month old, that's a lot. We're fairly confident that the quality of care she received was excellent - she's always been in great health and had no traumatic experiences to overcome that we know of (besides the manner in which she even came to us in the first place, obviously). But still. 5 sets of folks who have come and gone in the life of a little one who is only a year old. That's a lot. We set about to "re-wire" her ideas about family and help her understand that she could attach to us all and that we weren't going anywhere.

Of course, this has meant that her transition to the nursery program at our church has been a bit of a struggle. Now, after praying about it and talking with some other moms, I'm okay with that. To me, it's not a deal breaker. She sits well with us in church and loves the music and the worship time. I guess, with four older kids, I also have the perspective that says all too soon she'll be waving "bye" to me as she runs off to play with her friends, maybe without even a second glance at dear old Momma's face. I'm okay with delaying that eventuality a while!

Our goal in all of this was to intentionally and methodically help Li'l Empress concretize the concept of OUR family identity and how she fits in to that. To help her KNOW in her little knower that she is ours. That she belongs. That we are her FOREVER FAMILY. And that she is our daughter, completely. I am proud of how all of The Gang came alongside this particular method of doing that. And I'm proud of how well she has grasped that concept and let it take root in her heart. That anchor will serve her well in years to come.

I think I will do one more follow up post, about the additional things that this "Year Off" taught me. It was much bigger than I had originally grasped it to be. I'm so grateful that the Lord prompted me to consider it. And I can't wait to share what else we learned!