Archive for February 2013

Thankful Thursday

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It’s Thursday and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that my Mother is celebrating another year of life today. Happy Birthday Mom!

I’m thankful that although we live hours apart, she is only a phone call or an e-mail away.

I’m thankful that she always has a listening ear and generously offers encouragement, advice or merely empathy.

I’m thankful that my Mom has always been a good example of a hard worker. On top of working full-time outside of the home most of my growing-up years, she still kept a very clean house, cooked, baked, cut all of our hair {and permed my sister’s and my hair, along with her own, as was the style of the day!}, made some of our clothes, taught Sunday School, decorated special occasion cakes, maintained a large vegetable garden and a beautiful ever-expanding flower bed, probably along with innumerable other things that never got noticed, because that’s what moms do.

I’m thankful for my Mother’s God-given creative talents and am happy that some of those interests and abilities have rubbed off on me.

I’m thankful that I was raised to know that God loves me and has a plan for my life.

I’m thankful that my parents’ highest priority for us kids was that we honor God with our lives and whatever we chose to do after that was entirely up to us.

I’m thankful that I was taught to be polite and to respect others. I don’t recall actually learning this, so I know it was instilled in me very early on.

Not until I became a mother did I understand how challenging it can be. In spite of that, I’m thankful that my Mom is still probably my biggest fan.

I’m thankful that over the years I’ve discovered that no request is too big. My parents have sacrificed greatly, rearranged their plans and made special trips if we needed their help.

I’m thankful that my family and I have a welcome place to come home to, any time that we want.

I’m thankful that my parents have been blessed to be grandparents. There is something wonderful about seeing your parents anticipate and then experience something for the first time. I’m thankful that I have been able to witness their joy as they have spoken of, or spent time with, their grandchildren.

I have been blessed to be a part of a great and supportive family. None of us are perfect, but we love each other and have the promise of being together even after death temporarily separates us, and for that I am thankful {beyond measure}.

Twice Adopted

Today my heart is filled with joy!

Last night Ken and I had the wonderful privilege of leading our children in prayer to accept Jesus into their hearts. As Christian parents, there is no greater joy. Of course, we don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know if our kids will wander away from their faith or always cling to it tightly, but we can pray that now that they have taken this step, they will grow in their understanding of the gospel of Christ and grow stronger and more knowledgeable in their faith. Having a strong foundation will be just what they need when faced with big decisions, as well as all of the smaller choices along their journey of life. I look forward to teaching them and growing along with them. No question will be off the table. The more you question your faith and find it true, the stronger it becomes. Ken and I won’t always have the answer, but God does and we can ask in earnest for His discernment as we strive to raise our kids in this world where I think it will be more challenging to be a Christian than when I was growing up.

Yesterday morning, I had no idea that by bedtime our kids would have both agreed that they wanted to make this commitment to Christ. We went to church and they were taught about Zacchaeus in Sunday School. Then during the afternoon we popped in the dvd  “Buck Denver asks…What’s in the Bible?” I cannot recommend these movies enough. They are by Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, and they take on powerful Biblical truths and explain them. They are humorous but full of skits that help kids AND adults understand the Bible. I think I learn something every time I watch one.

That, along with other circumstances of the day, led the kids to ask questions about God and heaven and one thing lead to another. We had talked about a lot of these things before, but yesterday both kids seemed eager to learn more. Our pastor had read from Psalm 139 during his message and I felt led to read that to the kids, as a confidence booster and encourager, especially with them being adopted. I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God knew them before they were born and had a special plan for their lives. They were not an accident. God thinks about them and doesn’t leave them, even during the night as they sleep or during tough times. They were loved before they were even created, as were we all!

I remembered an article in the Clubhouse Jr. magazine that we just received that talked about finding the Treasure of Jesus. Ken read the article to them and asked if they wanted to pray to ask Jesus to be their Savior. They both said yes, and to make it more memorable and to show our humble respect, we all knelt at the couch and prayed. Of course, our son first did a summersault and then tried to stand on his head {because he’s a 7-year-old boy} but he eventually got to a kneeling position and prayed. We told them how proud we were of them and that this was only the beginning. The magazine article had a certificate that they could fill in with their name and the date so I made a copy of that and they excitedly filled it in.

We let them know that now that they had started a personal relationship with Jesus, they could take communion at church. This raised a lot of other questions and we read about the about Lord’s Supper before bedtime.  I’m really anticipating the Easter season now that they will hopefully have more insight into the significance of it all.

Today I picked up a couple of inexpensive picture frames for them to decorate, which will hold their certificates, as a reminder of their decision. Our church has communion on the first Sunday of the month—which will be this coming Sunday–and we will continue to prepare them for participation in that. I think we’ll head out for a special lunch afterwards.

Meanwhile, a lot of life will go on as usual, with the usual disagreements and complaining, but I hope that we will now be able to speak to them on a little different level. They have been twice adopted–not only into our family, but now also into the family of God, and the Holy Spirit dwells within them, encouraging, comforting and guiding them to make wise choices. They now have an inward “holy compass” that will direct them on the paths of righteousness, should they choose to listen to it. How I will pray to the end of my days that they will.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!    1 John 3:1

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.    Galatians 4:4-6

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”    Romans 8:14-16



Presidential Discussions

Last night the subject of US Presidents came up around the dinner table. The kids had been talking about them at school since it was just recently Presidents’ Day. They said that they were able to vote for classmates for President and divulged to us for whom they had voted. We laughed and talked about how their friends would make good presidents.

Then came the serious look from Ken and we both knew what the other was thinking. I didn’t know if we should broach the subject now or wait, but Ken took the initiative and explained to the kids how they would never actually be able to be President of the United States. It was one of those unique situations that international adoption poses and a reminder that, as I mentioned in one of my first posts, our family is different.  As our kids grow up, we know they will be exposed to situations that may confuse them and undermine their significance. We don’t want to discourage them with hard truths, but we also want to be the ones to introduce them to these things so that we can discuss them and make sure they are getting a correct and healthy perspective.

Ken stated basically, that because they were not born in the United States, they were not eligible to be President. Then, to our surprise and amusement, our son announced, “Well Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and he’s President.” We chuckled at the irony of what he said and asked why he said it. He said it was because President Obama was African American. That allowed us to explain what that meant and to inform him that the President was born in Hawaii, which is part of the United States of America.

Then I noticed tears in my son’s eyes and my daughter’s head was down and she had a big frown on her face.  Our boy quickly recovered and the conversation continued as we talked about how there had been no women Presidents yet, but that there might be someday. We talked about how they could be Senators or do a number of other great things. But our poor little girl was heartbroken. She just sat with a frown and a blank stare.  My heart ached for her, but at the same time, I was so encouraged that she {and her brother} are so confident that they don’t see the Presidency as being out of their reach.

Seeing how distraught she was, we continued to name great people whom they could inspire to emulate, and her spirits lifted. I can only pray that their confidence continues to grow and that we can guide them appropriately so they can indeed go on to achieve great things in this world and for eternity.

Ohio Road Trip-Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad engine.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad engine.

This past weekend our family of four traveled to the Cleveland area to visit some dear friends. This was the longest driving trip that the four of us have made together—and it was successful! So that’s encouraging news. We hope to travel the country more as the kids get older, but they have not been the best of travelers up to this point. They were entertained with movies on our portable dvd player on this trip, along with occasional playing on the iPod and our new iPad. I also bought them each a little tablet of construction and drawing paper for Valentine’s Day which kept them occupied from time to time. No naps were taken—to my surprise—although I think Ken was ready to doze off a few times {and yes, he WAS the driver, so I made sure that didn’t happen}. Of course the great thing about the kids not napping  was that they were both out like lights once they were in bed. And that’s nothing to complain about!

This was our fourth visit to our friends’ home, according to our best calculations. Ken and I are always so impressed with the great things they plan for us to do.  Maybe it’s just because it is a new area that we are unfamiliar with, but it seems that there are many free or low-cost activities to partake in. We have been to a kiddie amusement park and walked on beautiful forest paths, spent a day at the beach and the zoo and visited a very kid-friendly nature center, to name a few.

Our kids are so easily entertained just playing with toys inside, or outside in the back yard, so we don’t over-plan our visit. This time, we went cosmic bowling Saturday afternoon, followed by dinner at Chick-Fil-A, where the kids had a blast in the play area while we adults chatted. On Sunday we headed to the Rockside Station where we boarded the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad passenger train for a lovely 45 minute ride into Peninsula. We practically had the train car to ourselves each way. The kids enjoyed hot chocolate and popcorn while watching the snow-covered landscape go by. The snow had just fallen on Saturday, so everything looked fresh and clean against the bright blue sky—it could not have been more beautiful. The Conductor even said that he thought it was the most peaceful day of the season so far. We saw several groups of deer, along with an eagle on her nest while another was perched in a nearby tree. Awesome!

We had a couple of hours in Peninsula to eat lunch and stroll around. My kids had $10 of their own money that was burning a hole in their pockets, so they each bought a stuffed animal—one raccoon and one skunk. They played hide and seek with them and each other on the train ride back and really got to move around and enjoy the trip in a way that would never have been possible if it had been during the busy summertime. The day was nearly perfect.

The crew was so friendly and full of interesting information. They even let the kids punch their own tickets.

The crew was so friendly and full of interesting information. They even let the kids punch their own tickets.




The four of us adults originally met each other in the Marriott Tverskaya hotel in Moscow in December of 2005 and had no idea that our lives would become so intertwined and what a bond would form between us. In short, both of us couples were in Russia for adoption purposes. Our first attempts in the city of Ulyanovsk ended in heartache and we each lost the children that we hoped to adopt. After much striving and paperwork, we were all able to return to Russia twice in 2007. We stayed for an entire month on the second trip and finally completed our adoptions in Astrakhan, Russia. Their daughter and our son are two months apart and have been the best of friends. We introduced our daughter into the mix in 2011 and fortunately, the three of them play and get along with each other great. We all wish we lived closer to each other, but that will probably never happen. Our son announced last night, as we were pulling into our driveway, home from the trip, that if we ever tell him we’re going to be driving to visit them again, he will be very excited. So again, this road trip was a huge success. Now, maybe we can someday make it all the way to New York to visit my sister and her family! That might be our next driving goal!

A Valentine’s Day Thankful Thursday

It’s Thursday, and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that both of my kids went to school today. They have each missed 2 days due to illness in the last week.

I’m thankful that I will be joining them in a bit to assist in their Valentine’s Day Party.

I’m thankful that we finished all of their classmates’ Valentines early and with much less complaining than last year—whew!

I’m thankful that my daughter has so many beautiful hand-me-down clothes to wear. She’s worn a different Valentine’s themed shirt to school every day this week! How fun is that?!

I am thankful for great friends, some of whom we will be seeing this weekend, who have walked through some of our lowest lows with us.

I am thankful that our time together this weekend will, Lord willing, be full of joy and not sorrow.

I am thankful for the luxury of being able to relax and enjoy laughter with friends.

I’m thankful that it’s not February 14th of last year, because frankly, that wasn’t a very good day. I was fasting for an upcoming surgical procedure so I was unable to enjoy a Valentine’s Day meal . As my family gathered around the table for dinner, I went into the parlor to make a fire and enjoy it by myself where I wouldn’t be so easily tempted by food. In my fire-lighting inexperience and hunger-clouded mind, I neglected to open the flue on our gas fireplace and as I introduced a spark to the now-gas-filled-air, my head and upper body were immediately engulfed in flame. Suffice it to say that…

I am thankful for eyebrows and eyelashes that grow back.

I am thankful for skin that recovers and wounds that heal, both physically and emotionally.

I am thankful for my husband’s presence on that evening and his quick thinking to get my melting fleece jacket off of me.

I am thankful for my hairdresser who was able to work me in the next morning to cut off a good portion of my singed and stinking hair.

And I am ever so grateful that my injuries were not much worse.

In retrospect, I can say that I am actually thankful for such experiences that remind me that life can change in a heartbeat, and the last words I’ve spoken to the people around me could indeed be my last words.

I am so thankful for my husband and the wonderful companion he is on this journey of life.

I am also reminded of this day in 2007, when Ken and I found ourselves on our knees with our faces buried in a dusty old couch in a Russian hotel room, praying for God’s wisdom and grace as we sought His will and intervention in our lives. We would be asking the Russian officials for another chance at meeting an orphaned child whom we might be able to adopt. Time was running out and we would be leaving the city the following day, yet we prayed that we would be leaving with the hope of returning for a child to whom we were yet to be introduced. It’s a long story, but God showed us His favor and on February 15th, 2007, we met the little boy who is now our precious son. And life has never been the same.

And for that, I am thankful.

The day we met.

February 15, 2007–The day we met our son.

Happy Chinese New Year!


The kids made these great Chinese dragons in their art class. I think they did a great job! When they are not in use I have them clipped to our art display board which, this time of the year, hangs over our big humidifier. When the humidifier turns on it blows air and the ribbons from the dragons’ mouths dance in the air–it looks pretty cool.

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, we went out for “Chinese noodles” as my daughter calls them, after church today, with our friend Jim who is visiting from Tennessee.

Speaking of Jim, we have had a great and busy weekend, including a revolving door of guests, lots of games, eye dr. appointments, playing outside in the snow, fighting sea/snow monsters, and even a serious light saber fight.


Trying out a pretty awesome game that Jim created.


The blue skies of Saturday made for a magnificently beautiful day!


Battling the sea monster which Jim painted on our pirate ship a couple of summers ago.


The light saber fighting was done with most of the lights out, so this was one of the only somewhat decent action shots I got.

Surrounding Beauty

I had to post today’s view from that round window that I mentioned yesterday, along with some other photos of the area surrounding us. What a beautiful drive as I took my son to school this morning. We talked about how God gives us the beauty of winter, maybe as a special gift for those of us who stick it out in the cold year after year. Something especially for us to be thankful for, directly from the hand of God. I appreciate it every year, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.







Thankful Thursday

Back in the 90’s I had about an hour commute to work and used to get up crazy early in order to head out somewhat ahead of the heaviest rush-hour traffic. About the only thing I looked forward to on those mornings was listening to the Moody Radio program: Mornings with Greg and Chris. Those two guys were like a great cup of coffee, waking me up and getting me going. They were right on track with my sense of humor and they often had me in tears before I got to work from laughing so hard. I would often try to remember exactly what they said at times so I could reiterate it to my roommate at the end of the day in case she missed parts of it. One of their regular features was Thankful Thursday where Chris would read a list of things he was thankful for while sappy music played in the background. They were generally very simple things, occasionally mixed with very profound things that often seemed to just flow from Chris’ stream of consciousness.  I e-mailed Chris to make sure it was ok if I copied his format and he said that I could “with his blessing.” And so I present, my debut version of Thankful Thursday.

{begin playing appropriate background music now}

It’s Thursday, and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for winter-time.

I’m thankful for the beautiful snow that has finally fallen and the peaceful feeling that I get while watching it come down.

I’m thankful that, unlike back in the day when I listened to Greg and Chris in the morning, I do not have to leave my house before sunrise and drive in the falling snow for up to 2 hours in order to get to my job, and then wonder how and when I will get home in the evening.

But my heart goes out to those who do have to do this daily.

I’m thankful that my children delight in the snow as much as I do.

I’m thankful for this season of my life when I often have dripping snowpants hanging from doorknobs and wet hats and mittens stuck on my mitten tree.

I’m thankful I have a mitten tree.

I’m thankful for the windows in my house, especially the round one at the top of my stairs which gives me a beautiful view of every season. I especially love its winter view.

I’m thankful for the new black snow boots that Ken agreed to buy me for Christmas.

I’m thankful that Ken is over his 4th cold of the season and I’m very thankful that the kids nor I caught any of them.

My daughter did however, as of this morning, contract strep throat, but I am thankful that I was able to get her in to see the dr. this morning and she is now on meds. I’m thankful that within 24 hours she will no longer be contagious and she is handling her illness quite well.

I’m thankful for a warm house and an attached garage.

I’m thankful that I do not have to work out in the cold and snow, and again, my heart goes out to those who do and who make the best of it.

I’m thankful for snow plows, and hope to see one soon.

I’m thankful that we have company coming this evening who will be sleeping in our basement, which has forced me to finally organize and put away all of my Christmas decorations that have been scattered around down there, waiting until I was motivated enough to spend time in the chilliness putting them away.

I will not have that daunting task hanging over my head now for another 11 months and this afternoon I can be on the main floor watching the snow come down.

And for that, I’m thankful.


Remembering a Friend

Last week I received word that a dear friend of mine from years gone by had passed away one month ago to the day. I was shocked, to say the least.  And very sad. I still am.

Jan and I worked together for 4 years, spending countless hours in the same office. We had so many similar interests, yet two very different world views, which we discussed in great length. She was 20 years my senior, but I loved and respected her as a comrade and we truly were buddies. We made each other laugh, hard. Oh man, she was a riot. I still can’t believe she is gone.

Jan had an incredible sparkle about her. She had a passion for the outdoors and exploring. She loved art, photography and animals. She owned horses and a Harley. She loved her family and she loved to laugh. One summer we took a watercolor painting class together at the college at which we both worked. We were the only two in the class—it was an early morning summer school course. We had a blast! She inspired me to be creative and take chances. Her husband took me for a (ridiculously fast) ride on his Harley after work one day. What a rush! They both enjoyed life and tried to live it to the fullest. My parents still have a couch which they purchased from them second-hand. How I wish Jan could join me for a visit on that couch now.

After I moved away, we kept in touch for a while. We actually wrote long-hand letters to each other. Then there were occasional e-mails and then for some reason, even those stopped.

I still thought of her and always thought that someday we’d meet up again and greet each other warmly with a huge hug and then laughing and reminiscing would ensue. We would catch up on the last couple of decades. I’d introduce her to my husband and children and she’d show me pictures of her grandkids. We would share with each other the fabulous adventures and heartaches that we had experienced. I’d tell her about my blog and she would follow me and we’d re-establish our friendship for many years to come. But that didn’t happen. She suffered a massive stroke and her life ended.

I am sad for my loss and my heart aches for her family. But, just as I learned from her during her life, I will also learn from her death. I am now the same age that she was when we worked together. May I live my life with such passion. I will take chances, be bold and reach out to others. I don’t want to live with regrets. I have lost other friends and am often reminded that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Personally, I trust God for my life and my eternity and will always encourage others to do the same. But I have to leave their decision in God’s hands.  I am thankful for the person that He created Jan to be and will always be so thankful that our paths crossed for a season. My life was greatly enriched because of her.

A True Farm Girl

I thought I would post some pictures from when I was a little girl. Lest anyone should doubt, I was a true farm girl, as you can see.  I just love these pictures. Thanks for taking them Mom! I think I remember the one on the swing being taken—I definitely remember that shirt. It was made of what I now know is seersucker material. So thankful for my life on the farm! What a great place to be a kid!