Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

It's been an unusual I can definitely say I didn't see coming. Looking back, here are the highlights (and lowlights) of 2012.

January: learning to trust God as my teaching assignment was changed midyear and I had to depend on Him entirely.

February: trying to get my feet underneath me in my "new normal"

March: going to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for BSF Leader's Retreat and finding spiritual refreshment for my weary soul.

April: celebrating Easter with a Chinese family at church who became dear friends.

May: making some decisions and saying goodbye (for a time) to teaching after 13 years.

June: sorting through the pieces and finding new routines with my family.

July: a wonderful family vacation to Oregon and San Francisco; seeing high school friends after 20 years.

August: canning, canning, and more canning as I was waiting for substitute jobs to start.

September: planning, planning, and more planning for the MKMEA Fall Conference.

October: MKMEA Fall Conference after 3 years of preparation; thoroughly enjoying substitute teaching, seeing our sweet Annie's face for the first time.

November: recovering from a nasty ankle sprain and enjoying my first Thanksgiving with my parents since the mid-90s.

December: still hobbling along and enjoying every moment of the Christmas season with my family; finishing final paperwork for Annie.

2012 started with a lot of uncertainty but is definitely looking up as we face even more changes in 2013.

The Race Marked Out for Me

Four years ago, I sat down and started a blog. You can read my first (not-very-interesting) post here. I started this blog as a substitute for journaling. I've never been good at keeping a journal, but felt compelled to find a place to document what God was teaching me, as well as the little (and big) memorable moments of our family's life.

I don't consider myself a gifted writer, and my thoughts are more often than not a stream of consciousness thread of the jumble in my mind. In my entries, I've tried to be real and honest; sometimes this includes writing about the good, the bad, and the ugly. After all, aren't all of our lives shaped by these moments? In writing about the bad and the ugly, I try to be as loyal as possible to those around me. After all...this is my story, not theirs. And occasionally I fail and cause unintentional hurt as I process through my own "stuff."

Many of you who read my blog come in for the occasional peek. Some only read the entries I post on Facebook. Some are regular subscribers who, for whatever reason, feel I might have something interesting to say. And many of you know me personally and intimately beyond the snapshots that show up in my blog. You are the ones who know that I'm so much more than what you see on wilson24-15. You are the ones who have invested in me through the good, the bad and the ugly. I want to thank those of you who have come alongside me on my journey as I figure out what exactly God wants me to do on this big blue ball.

So as I think about my journey, I am reminded of the verse we studied in church yesterday:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

I need to run the race marked out for ME. Each of our courses are different. Our stories aren't the same. I feel torn in so many directions trying to please so many people. Those who don't understand why I would leave a "good" job for the sake of my family. Those who think I ran away. Those who don't get why we adopt internationally. Those who don't get why we don't text on our cell phones or have cable or ... the list could go on. I've heard many of these messages this year (and probably been a bit presumptive and felt these attitudes when they may or may not have been there.)

And so, I'm going to try in 2013 to fix my eyes on Jesus...the perfecter of my faith (because I'm not there yet). I'm going to try to run the race He has established for me and stop worrying about the courses other people want me to run.

While I've been processing all of this lately and feeling torn about what others desire of me, my heart kept returning to the verse that tells me what the LORD requires of me:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

And so I will try to keep these things in my focus: acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly. And when I fall...thank you for cheering me on as I pick myself up and keep running.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Ah! a favorite Christmas tradition. I remember when I was little and my dad would read this story out of a die-cut book every year on Christmas Eve.

The first year each his daughters got married, his gift to our husbands was a copy of the book "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." I love seeing my girl and her dad all snuggled up and reading this like I used to with my dad.

'Twas the Night Before Dad's Birthday

Dayna was hard at work creating the perfect story for Dan's birthday earlier this month. She was so cozy and comfortable while she was writing, I had to snap these pictures. (Don't know how comfy Dan was, but he looks pretty happy.)

Her story was called "'Twas the Night Before Dad's Birthday."

Advent Calendar

We tried something new this year - my inner crafty side took hold with an idea I'd found almost a year ago. I made this nifty Advent calendar and filled each day with a slip of paper (instead of a toy or chocolate.) Each slip had an activity inside. (December 1 was "Make an Advent Calendar".)

Some of our ideas included:
  • Go to an Advent craft fair (the kind where you make, not buy)
  • Have an indoor snowball fight (think white socks)
  • Make a snowman, inside or out (since we had no snow that day, we settled for inside: mix 1 box of cornstarch with 1 can of shaving cream. Mix, mix, mix, get really messy, and store in an airtight bowl for about a week.)
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Read a Christmas story
  • Play a board game
  • Decorate cookies
  • Act out the Christmas Story
  • Make Christmas cards for servicemen & women
  • Go to Christmas services at church
It was a lot of fun filling our month with activities rather than "stuff".

To make the calendar:
  1. I bought 24 small paper mache boxes from a local craft store
  2. Painted the boxes with acrylic paint
  3. Picked 5 corresponding 12x12 (although you can go 8.5x11) scrapbook papers
  4. Cut papers slightly smaller than lids
  5. Place calendar stickers on the lids (scrapbooking section)
  6. Mod Podge papers to lids and let dry
  7. Glue gun a strong magnet to the back (I started with adhesive magnets, because that's what I had - not very successful.)
  8. Bought a jelly roll pan at Wal-Mart (the cheapest place I could find - you may also check Goodwill or other thrift shops.)
  9. Arrange boxes
  10. My pan didn't have holes in the handle, so Dan drilled some for me.
  11. Tie a colorful ribbon or scrap of paper
  12. Enjoy the Advent season

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Things are moving along...on December 13 (Dan's birthday), we received our LOA (Letter of Acceptance) from China. At this point, we have gathered our updated home study and filed it with USCIS (Immigration Services). This update reflects our change in income since I took a leave of absence. Close on the heels of filing this immigration update, our agency filed the I-800 on our behalf. This documentation will approve us to bring a specific child (our Annie) back into the US as a United States Citizen. We are now gathering our paperwork to apply for an immigrant Visa for Annie.

Our current timeline could be anywhere from 7 to 13 weeks. Honestly, 7 leaves me in a bit of a panic...although I know if we're called that soon, God will provide and we'll be okay. We've got a lot to do between now and then.

We are also working on putting together a care package to send to Annie while we're waiting. Dayna picked out a precious outfit for her, and we have a blanket waiting to be personalized.

We've been blessed by the generosity of friends and are on the final push of finding creative ways to raise the last of our funds. We know God is faithful and wouldn't have brought us this far to leave us hanging.

It seems things are happening rather fast right now, and the paperwork is almost as consuming as gathering our dossier...but we know that every day is one day closer. Can't wait to meet this little one.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Praying for the Russian Children

This little bit of news seems to be slipping in under the radar. I'm not sure of all the ins and outs, but it seems that the Russian Government is playing a dangerous political game at the cost of their neediest children.

It seems an odd way to prove you're not committing crimes against humanity by issuing what could equal a death sentence to so many children. I just don't understand why kids need to be the pawns in a political war.

Join me in praying for the orphans of Russia.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Annie

Here I sit, at the end of a long, but quiet day. As I shared in my last post, it's been simply a nice, peaceful Christmas season. But in the middle of the happy memory-making, I've found myself becoming a bit teary and pensive. You see...our family isn't complete.

I wonder who is wishing my sweet girl a Merry Christmas in a country where Christmas is not really observed. I wonder who tucked her in last night and gave her Christmas snuggles and kisses. I watched the Santa Tracker on the NORAD website to see Santa visit China. And while we're enjoying a final Christmas with Dayna as an only child, there is an Annie sized hole in my heart while we wait.

This song came out the first Christmas we had Dayna home. I loved it for its third verse...the verse of hope. This year, I've listened to it sparingly, for the sadness the first two verses bring. I need to remember the hope...and that next year, God willing, we will be a family of four gathered around our Christmas tree and peeking into stockings. Next year, Santa can deliver gifts to our friends in China...but our family will be in one place...right here, together.

So, sweet girl...the one who has captured my heart, even though I haven't met her yet...Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


The halls are decked. The cookies are made. The gifts are wrapped. The checkbook is hanging in the balance :)

I'm sitting here two days before Christmas Eve with very little left to do except enjoy my family. And this is a very wonderful place to be. I don't share this in any way to point out what a wonderful Suzie Homemaker I fact, things are pretty simple this year. I'm more sitting here in awe of a gracious Father who has wrapped me in His arms this year and continually whispered His blessings in my ear.

You see...Christmas of 2008 was pretty ugly. My uncle died on Christmas Eve, the family in Oregon was snowed in and stranded in various cities trying to make it home. Tensions were high. We tried to hold it together for Dayna and focus on the purpose of Christmas...but it was just a very hard year. We have some fun memories from that Christmas as well, but it really was one of those years where we just had to hold on and cling to God.

Christmas of 2009 was completely different for us. We spent it in a beach house in Oregon waiting to celebrate the wedding of my brother- and sister-in-law. It was a fun time...but with all of the festivities, there wasn't a lot of time to focus on Christmas.

2010...well, that was another tough one. Some things at school had happened right before the break. An angry parent had some pretty harsh threats, leaving Dan &; I with a lot of anxiety. I felt like I spent about 3 weeks looking over my shoulder with every step I took. In the midst of the stress...some ugly stuff reared its head again.

Then on December 15th of last year, I received a phone call that really was a turning point in my life. That was supposed to be the day I could celebrate the end of the stresses and bullying I'd been enduring at school. Instead, it changed everything. The rug was pulled out, and no explanations were offered. I spent last Christmas, again, under an incredible amount of anxiety. In hindsight, I know that the ONLY reason I was able to get through was the grace of God.

And so, here I am. It's December 22, and I'm celebrating the gift God has given me this year. A Christmas where my family can just enjoy each other and Christ. It's not to say that there haven't been things to cause stress this month. But in the scheme of things, they haven't been consuming. We've made some amazing memories this Advent season; enjoyed old traditions and possibly even started some new ones. We've snuggled on the couch and shared stories. We've drunk hot cocoa under a meteor shower. We've dabbed flour on our noses and rolled out cookies. The glue gun has been hopping, and the giggles still ring out from our walls.

We're enjoying this final Christmas as a family of 3. At Dayna's request, we're not traveling this year. Dan's parents will be joining us here tomorrow for 4 days. We're just enjoying the slower pace and taking the time to celebrate family and faith.

And even while I'm savoring every moment, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to look back on those last four Christmases and see God's faithfulness. Because the same Baby who is holding me this year and whispering words of contentment is the One who clutched me close to His chest these past several years and taught me to trust.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Date Night

Dayna and I were enjoying our "morning snuggles" on the couch this morning while looking at the Christmas tree. We have some of the most wonderful, quirky, heart-to-heart talks during these moments. Today's was a pure Daynaism worth putting in writing before I forget.

Dayna: Mom, did you have any brothers?
Mom: No, just sisters.
Dayna: So Papa was the only boy?
Mom: Yup, even our animals were girls...Lacey, Tigger and Cindy.
Dayna: Did Tigger ever have baby kitties?
Mom: No...the only one who had babies was Cindy.
Dayna: How did she have babies when there wasn't a boy dog?
Mom: Well, sometimes Cindy got out. She must have met a boy dog and they were romantic.
Dayna: mean they sat on the couch and ate popcorn?

Oy vey...I'm going to have some 'splaining to do soon.