Lots of Catching Up To Do.

Two months ago, my dad died.  9 days later, we left for China.  A few days after that, we met the little person whose picture we had been obsessing over for the previous 6 months.

It has been a lot.  So much BIG all at once.  Really, I’m just now starting to get a little less numb.  My brain just clicked into survival mode and stayed there a while.  Honestly, it already felt like I was in survival mode even before my dad died.  All of 2015 has been one big, intense, season of total insanity for us.

These have been the hardest two months of my life.  I can’t remember the last time I got a decent night’s sleep.  We saw my dad almost every week.  My boys were so close to him that they’re really grieving.  My older daughter probably won’t remember him, and my younger daughter never got to meet him.  I can’t put into words how heartsick I am about that. Plus I just miss him – how many people do you have in your life who are always on the sidelines cheering for you no matter what?  Not that many. The adjustment to being home has also been more of a challenge than I anticipated.

But, of course, in the midst of the hardest time of my life, God has been faithful, and there has been joy.  Our Both Hands project brought in the exact amount of money that we had prayed that it would, almost to the penny.  The two weeks in China were a sweet connecting time for my husband and I, just like we had prayed.  Meeting and getting to know our daughter has been incredible, and we’re so thankful to have her in our arms.  Even though it’s been 6 weeks, I still look at her sometimes in wonder that she’s actually here in my arms in the United States.  Seeing her start to blossom as a dearly loved daughter and sister can’t be described.  Our community has continued to rally around us for this entire crazy season, and I am so thankful.

I’ll share a few pictures now, and I’ll try to get caught up with travel, attachment, and all of that as soon as I can.

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*Airport pictures were taken by the amazing Beyond the Blue Studios

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so much better than hawaii.

We recently had our 10th anniversary. Over the years, when we thought we’d have “more money” by our 10th anniversary (whatever that even means), we imagined we might go to Hawaii for our 10th, or drive up the California coastline, which I really want to do someday.

But, here we are, with a toddler who has hardly ever been away from her mama, and in the middle of an international adoption. We’re living on a very strict budget day-to-day, and have just enough in our adoption account for our next payment and the postage to get it there.

I asked my husband to just be in charge of it. I was overwhelmed and didn’t even know what I wanted to do.

He found a guest house at an amazing ranch, driving distance (and close to grandparents!), for really cheap. We hiked, swam, read, explored, tubed the Guadalupe, window shopped, ate great food, lounged in the hot tub, and just enjoyed three solid days and nights of each other.  It was wonderful. It was totally not what I would have planned, and probably about 200x better because of it.

I looked up at him at some point during the trip and said,
“This is so much better than Hawaii.”

Living life with him is the greatest gift I could ever want.
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“Love’s flames are fiery flames – the fiercest of all. Mighty waters cannot extinguish love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Trip Packing for my Husband – the fun stuff

I usually pack for my husband.  It’s just easier since I’m at home and I’m the one who does most of the laundry.  I have been known to forget things, though, like socks AND church clothes on our most recent weekend out of town.  Oops.

He will be leaving soon for an international mission trip, and I was going to write a post about the more practical side of packing him for that.  Then I found plenty of good info about that on pinterest (search, “packing for a mission trip”), so I decided to skip straight for the fun part!

Gifts and Words of Affirmation are my primary love languages.  That means care packages, cards, and things like that are pretty much my favorite things on earth.  He’s going to be gone 11 days, so I started gathering little things for him here and there several weeks (read: pay checks) before his trip.  One day during nap time, I spread everything out on the kitchen table and started brainstorming.  I tried to mix up light-hearted and sentimental, plus mixed things from the kids in here and there.  I included little gifts or photos on some days and not others.  Some days I wrote out a long-ish letter, and other days just a quick note.  Here are examples of a couple of the more elaborate days, including a travel day:
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Then I put everything into an envelope, labelled it, and got it organized in something that won’t take up too much space.DSC_1595 DSC_1596

Also because he’s using a carry on, I had to be careful not to include anything that won’t get through the check points, and to just close those manila envelopes with the brad, so if they need to open them, it won’t tear them all up.  You can see in the top pic that several of the days are just an envelope or even a folded piece of printer paper.  Not every day is fancy!

Seriously, I love doing this for him.  I might enjoy it more than he does.  He’s sort of the King of Understatement, so it’s hard to gauge how he actually feels about things like this.  But, hey, he doesn’t wonder whether or not I’m proud of him and crazy about him!

Okay, here are some other ideas for what’s in the envelopes:
-scripture cards with the verses written out
-activities for the plane, like a deck of cards, puzzle book and pencil, etc.
-snacks/candy/gum
-a short note w/ a list of relevant scripture for him to look up
-travel sunscreen packet and lip balm for a day he’ll be outside a lot
-photographs of our family
-list of reasons why I respect/admire him
-notes/pictures/hand prints from the kids
-cards: miss you, sappy, funny, a little spicy, etc.
-notes encouraging his leadership on the trip, etc.
-mini photo album

Here are pics of a few pages of the little photo album I made.  These are at Dollar Tree, Target, or Walmart, and are really cheap.  I just used stickers and paper I already had, so it wasn’t an expensive project!  It was probably my favorite thing, and I kept it light and funny, so I think he’ll get a kick out of it.
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(And even left my scribbled out spelling error because I know he’ll laugh about what a terrible speller I am.  Ha.)

Here’s another fun thing.  I read on one of the blogs I found on pinterest that it might be a good idea to take your own pillow case.  I wrote a note, prayer, and Psalm 116:7-11 on a plain pillowcase that I had lying around.  I’m sure most of you reading are much craftier than I am and could do a cuter job with this:

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Okay!  I think that’s all I’ve got!  What do you do when your husband/wife is traveling, especially when communication is going to be minimal?  I think some of these ideas could be modified for a deployment or longer-term mission trip, and I’m hoping to do something like this for my kids when we travel to Ethiopia.  I’d love to hear your ideas!

If you’re really just here to hear about our adoption, don’t fret!  I know I haven’t updated in a little while, but we have been working hard on our dossier, and will hopefully be posting an exciting update soon!