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Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Morning

Some highlights of Christmas 2008....

Opening gifts:

German Pancakes for breakfast:


And, finally, one of the sweetest moments of our Christmas morning. It rained non-stop the week before Christmas. Since I've been sick all week, and with the rain, we haven't been riding to the cemetery. We were happy to wake up to the sun shining on Christmas morning, and decided that after the morning activities we would leisurely ride over to the cemetery. There, we found that someone had left a Christmas card at the twins' gravesite.

So sweet.

So precious.

We were so touched. I don't quite know how to explain what it means to know that there are people out there who would have loved our girls so much, had they had a chance to live a little longer... people who love them even without having had a chance to meet them. Moments like this make this mother's heart so tender. 

Family Therapy

There isn't anything that helps me find healing faster than being with family. The last couple of weeks have provided many experiences with family, and friends who are like family, that have helped me get through this month. I had a chance to see two brothers and two sisters (plus their families) for a few days, as well as my awesome friend Christy and her family. I also got to spent an entire afternoon with this amazing friend learning all about making Christmas treats. I have added some awesome recipes to my favorites that I'm looking forward to making again next year. Thanks, Rachel! This month has been filled with some good memories that have helped to make the season more merry and bright.  I haven't been toting my camera around, so I only have a couple of photos.

We stopped by the Christmas Box Angel statue.

Mandi and Audrey:

Audrey with her favorite Auntie Meg (seeing as she has only one of those):

The Pioneer Woman

A couple of months ago my sister, Mandi, told me about a cooking website she had stumbled upon - The Pioneer Woman. I have since become a regular visitor and have been more motivated than usual in my meal preparations. I have simply rediscovered my love of being in the kitchen, and have loved trying new recipes. Her recipes have never disappointed. Try them yourself. I dare you.

So far, I've tried these recipes (and, LOVED them all): 

Mexican Lasagna

Pasta Primavera

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Blackberry Cobbler

Carmel Apple Pie

Apple Dumplings

And, while searching through her recipes, I've drooled on my laptop on more than one occasion.

You'll find that the Pioneer Woman includes her own, step-by-step photos, but here are a couple of my own, proof that I actually have tried some of the recipes listed above.

Carmel Apple Pie:

Blackberry Cobbler:

Heidi's visit

(Heidi came from November 28th-Decemeber 2nd... sorry I'm so behind.)

Back in May of this year my best friend from childhood, Heidi, called to let me know that she was planning a trip out to California with her husband. He had some business meetings and she would come spend a few days with me. At the time, as you know, I was expecting the twins. And, her trip out here just happened to be the same week as my official due date (December 2nd). We were both looking forward to having her trip revolve around two newborns.

Well, even though she ended up coming under different circumstances than what we had hoped, I probably needed her more under these particular circumstances. It was a huge blessing to have her here on those particular days. I've never been one to believe in coincidence. I like to think that there was more going on behind the scenes for Heidi's visit to come on those precise days. Her presence, her love, and her friendship comforted me through some of my hardest days.

Heidi, thanks for coming. Thanks for our visit to the cemetery. I will always remember that brisk morning... and the things we shared in those moments together. Thanks for the poinsettia. It has been the perfect addition to the girls' gravesite.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Celebrating Christ

I have a lot to catch up from these last few weeks of absence. Not tonight, though. That comfy half of the couch that I call mine is being held... with a waiting, cuddly Marc. I couldn't bear to miss out on that on a night like tonight.

But, I couldn't let tonight pass without checking in and wishing you a very merry Christmas. We are most definitely celebrating Christ at our house - perhaps more completely than any other Christmas past. We are so in awe of that perfect Christ-child, who would grow into His intended full stature and become the Savior of the world. Since He is not here, it is in our hearts that we come before Him, adoring and worshipping. So grateful for Him. He is the reason we have hope. He is our Prince of Peace.

He is the reason we still are a family of four.

Unless, of course, we count Einstein and Watson....

From our home to yours, wishing you a Merry, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thoughts of Christmas

It's late and I should be in bed, but there seems to be a build-up of thoughts and feelings lately that have corroded my sleeping habits. So, I gently laid a kiss on Marc's cheek and rolled myself back out to the Christmas tree with it's welcoming, white glow.

I've always loved the peacefulness of the Christmas tree. Right now ours just has the lights on it. We haven't pulled any of the other decorations out yet. It's been a slow start this year. Just as we were warned, the holidays have added a new layer of difficulty. 

There are the obvious reasons - mainly, the dreams we had of how Thanksgiving and Christmas would be with our twins. We had so many dreams... and really, we still do. But, for now we're sitting in front of our Christmas tree listening to Bing Crosby and Perry Como, eating apple pie, watching movies like Holiday Inn - and while I'm so grateful, especially for the "we" part, it's still more than a bummer that we don't have two little bundles of joy to distract us. We got the tree up too fast, we're sleeping in too late, and have way too much quiet time. I know for many people that probably sounds like a dream come true... but, I've never felt so sad to have such a quiet house. It's definitely harder than I expected it to be.

But, there is another aspect of the holidays being hard that I hadn't anticipated. There are so many distractions that leave me feeling agitated... strangely enough, they are the same distractions that usually make me excited about the holidays. Searching out the most perfect gifts, getting out all the decorations, wrestling my way through the crowded stores (okay, you're right, I don't get excited about that one)... but, really, usually there is an excitement that comes with doing all the normal traditions of Christmas.

I guess a lot of it is that I've become so aware of how tainted my own view of Christmas has been, and still is. As much as I want to think that in past years I celebrated Christmas for the right reasons and with the right spirit, I'm realizing this year that it's a completely different experience. Because our life isn't normal anymore, none of the usual things seem normal either.

Laying in my hospital bed on the night of July 16th, holding my two daughters within minutes of being born, in awe of their perfection, my heart was tender, but at peace. Panic didn't exist in that moment (though, naturally, it was there in the moments prior and has come multiple times since). Instead, on that mid-summer night, I found my thoughts urgently turning to another night in another place and time, when another baby was born. For possibly the first time in my life, the story of the birth of Christ really mattered to me on a very personal level. It became so much more than just a nice story. Even though I had always tried to make Him a personal part of my life, it always felt a little too abstract or something.

There's nothing like death to force you from abstract to reality. All of a sudden, there we were saying good-bye to Elliana and Emmaline. It was different than saying good-bye to grandparents. Maybe that's because in my mind I had always figured that if for some reason there really wasn't a heaven, then I could feel satisfied that after 90-something years, at least they had lived a good, long life. But, in this case, I needed to know like I never had before that it was all true. Those stories of the Carpenter of Galilee - were they just a fairytale, or possibly exaggerated history from 2000 years ago? Did Jesus really do what He said He would do? And, did it really extend to the whole human race, including our precious girls? Did he overcome death for them? Would we really see them again? Are they really ours forever?

In what should have been a moment of sheer terror and panic, there was the strongest assurance that filled our hearts that it was all true. Our experience in the hospital with our daughters is so sacred to us that I won't get into the details here, but the feelings that dominated were ones of gratitude for the Son of God, the Savior of the world. His birth, His life, His death, His victory over the tomb... all of it mattered more than it ever had before. It wasn't abstract anymore. This was real.

It mattered that Jesus was born, that He lived a perfect life, that He willingly laid down His life, that He victoriously raised Himself up again. It matters because through Him I have hope of dreams yet to be fulfilled in this life and in the next, and an indescribably joyful reunion to look forward to.

Since July I've been learning over and over again - He is real. His peace, His healing, His comfort. It is all so real. And, even though He has always been just as real, His reality is so much stronger in our hearts than it ever has been before.

For that reason... this Christmas is different. And, I'm honestly hoping the change will last.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A long overdue thank you

We have been blessed with the greatest families and friends. They have been so faithful in standing alongside us through all that we've experienced, lifting our hands when they hang down and strengthening our feeble knees.

We started this blog mainly to help us with our adoption quest. Along the way, over the last year and a half, we've been blessed in so many ways. Especially over the last few months, we've felt overwhelmed by the faithful support we've received from family, friends and strangers, for all the prayers that have been offered on our behalf all around the world.

We don't express our gratitude nearly enough to all of you. Please know that your prayers and love, the comments, the emails, the phone calls, have all helped our hearts to heal... and in addition, the gratitude we have then felt for your love and support has brought even more healing.

The journey we've been on has had some incredible ups and downs. We've felt a profound gratitude for YOU. Yes, YOU, the one who is reading this right now. There are many who have followed our journey from the beginning, some who have joined us mid-way through, some who we've met in person, some who have chosen to remain anonymous. And, we want ALL OF YOU to know that we have felt your love and support, whether you've expressed it to us or not.