Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas this year did not happen the way we thought it would.  Just a couple of months ago, we thought we'd be spending Christmas in Ethiopia, meeting our daughter for the first time.  I have to say that it was hard for me to feel like celebrating.  After all the time we had put into this adoption, it seemed that we were finally near the finish line.  Now the finish line has fallen off the horizon, totally out of view.  If we had known two years ago that this path to adoption would lead us to the heartbreak that we have been through, I don't know if I would have wanted to do it.  I certainly would not have approached it with the hopeful optimism that I approached it with back then. 

I've thought a lot lately about the story in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with God.  God tells Jacob that he has struggled both with man and with God and that he (Jacob) has overcome.  I feel like I've been doing a lot of wrestling and struggling lately, but I don't feel like I have gotten much resolution.  We had the chance to see the Christmas program at the church James grew up in while we were there for Christmas.  One of the songs the choir sang was "Take my Life and let it Be."

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee,
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee,
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart; it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I will confess, that song brought hot tears of anger to my eyes.  While I know that God has a purpose for all things, it has been hard for me not to be angry with Him.  We both feel that the call to adopt was from that Lord, and we both would willingly go anywhere on this earth that He sent us to.  We both believe that the church is called to be the hands and feet of Christ, and serving as a part of His body is our delightful duty.  We poured ourselves into this adoption.  We answered the call to adopt.  We gave of our time, our money, and our hearts, and all we have to show for it so far is broken hearts.  Just because you are willing to be obedient to God, it doesn't mean that your life here on this earth will be full of happy endings.  It is certainly painful to wait on the goodness of God. 

During the season of Advent this year, I wondered what it was like for Mary to obey God when it very well could have cost her life.  Getting pregnant before you were married was quite a scandal in her community.  Was she scared?  Did she doubt God?  I don't know, but we do know how the story ended.  She was faithful, Joseph stayed with her and she saw her Son bring redemption.

Have you cursed at the wind
Have you cried to the heavens
Have you fought with this mercy you don't understand?

Monday, December 13, 2010


We got some sad news from Ethiopia.  Baby D passed away.  We do not know when it happened or what her cause of death was.  She was dealing with several medical problems, so it could have any of those issues or perhaps something else that we were unaware of.  While we are sad about this, we knew that this would be a likely outcome.  While we were trying to make the decision as to whether or not we should continue with our adoption of Baby D, we had wondered if she would even live to the end of December - when our court date was.  We do not know for sure if our agency will continue to work with the orphanage where Baby D was, or if there will be any consequences for any of the staff their that may have played a role in Baby D's demise.  We are confident that our agency did what they could to advocate for Baby D, but since the staff at the orphanage were not their employees, our agency could not control what may or may not have happened there.  We are so thankful to have closure in this situation.

 This has been a difficult road.   At times we felt so helpless, knowing that there was little that we could do for Baby D so far away. . .except pray.  I have been through a myriad of emotions -  anger, sadness, impatience.  We had been praying since September, when we got our referral for Baby D, for God to be the father to the fatherless and the Great Physician that His word says He is.  At first, I was angry with Him.  Because He didn't heal her in the way we wanted her to be healed.  It was through death that He chose to heal her.  May she be found safe in the arms of Christ.  Thank you so much to all of you who have prayed for us during this difficult time.

Peppermint Bark

After the success with the thumbprint cookies, I decided to try a new recipe.  I love a recipe for candy that doesn't require the use of a candy thermometer!  This is a recipe that I found at Owlhaven that I modified slightly.

 Preparation time: 10 minutes
    * 2 cups mints
    * 28 ounces of vanilla bark (AKA almond bark)

Melt the vanilla bark in a double boiler, or in a metal bowl over a pot containing a few inches of boiling water.  While bark is melting, put peppermints into a ziplock, then put that bag into another ziplock.  Pound mints with a meat mallet until most of the mints are broken.  Pour broken mints into a colander that you’ve set over a bowl.   Let the powdered candy sift down through the colander into the bowl.

When vanilla bark is melted, mix candy dust and half of the larger mint pieces into the bark.  Set aside the rest of the pieces.  Put wax paper on one cookie sheet, and butter the wax paper.  Pour the melted bark/candy combination onto the cookie sheet.

Spread with a rubber spatula so that the bottom of the cookie sheet is fairly evenly covered.  Don’t spread it too thin–the melted bark should be around 1/4 to 1/2  inch deep, though obviously the chunks of candy will prevent you from making it super even.

Pretty candy!  Once it is spread fairly well, sprinkle the remaining candy over the top of the bark, pressing candy gently into the surface of the soft bark.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, until bark has cooled and hardened.  Break into chunks and enjoy!

I recommend storing the candy in the fridge when it is not being served.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nursery in progress

 Despite being back on the waiting list for a child, we have continued to work on the nursery.  I really didn't want to be in this place, with a room full of furniture and no child to go with it yet.  I was ready to get my house back in order though.  We had bought some of the furniture this summer.  It had been downstairs in pieces in the dinning room and office.  James put it together a few weeks ago before Thanksgiving.

Finally put together!

James' aunt gave us this pretty daybed.  We have set it up in the nursery too.  I still need to get a dust ruffle for it.  It is a trundle bed. 

James' paternal grandmother gave us this little quilt.  It has letters and little teddy bears on it.  I think it matches the bedding nicely.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cookie Success

I can cook.  I can even bake.  Except for cookies.  Last December, I hosted a cookie exchange at my house.  Four of my friends came, and I served  them a lovely lunch of Shrimp Bisque and coffee punch that was just as good as anything you can get at Starbucks - if I do say so myself.  But, I had no homemade cookies to offer them.  The only cookies I knew how to make were sugar cookies - and that's just because my mother-in-law gave me a lesson on how to make them.  I've helped my mom make Snicker-doodles, but I had never tried to make them on my own.  Well, one of the other girls wanted to make sugar cookies.  I didn't complain.  I thought, "Surely, I can make something else."  I decided to try to make gingerbread cookies.  What.A.Mess.  The dough turned out to be super sticky and I came out with only one good cookie.  The girls were coming over in one hour.  I had flour all over myself.  I still needed a shower - and five dozen cookies.  There is a bakery up the street from our house.  I ran up there, flour and all, and asked them for five dozen cookies.  They had to scramble, but they got them together.  I told the baker about my unfortunate incident with the gingerbread cookies, and he was kind enough to give me his recipe. . .a year later I still haven't gotten up the nerve to attempt it though.

I had to give cookies another try. . .I mean, what kind of mom can't make cookies?  I found this recipe at the Food Network, and I made it last week.

Butter and Jam Thumbprints (From Food Network Kitchens)

Prep Time: 20 min.      Inactive Prep Time:  30 min
Cook Time: 18 min

Serves:  about 24 to 30 cookies


    * 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    * 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    * 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
    * 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
    * 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
    * 1 large egg
    * 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    * 1/3 cup raspberry, cherry or strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.

In another bowl, whip the butter and the sugar with a hand-held mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop and roll in sugar. Place about 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about 1/2-inch deep. Fill each indentation with about 3/4 teaspoon jam.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. (For even color, rotate the pans from top to bottom about halfway through baking.) Cool cookies on the baking sheets. Serve.

Store cookies in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

They came out great!

Friday, December 10, 2010

What to do about Santa?

James and I have talked about what we are going to tell our kids about Santa a number of times.  We're in agreement, we just don't know how the best way to handle our plan will be.  See, we are fed up with how consumeristic Christmas is.  We don't want to turn our kids into little consumeristic monsters, any more than they will inevitable become since they will be Americans.  We want Christmas to be about the Christ child.  The God-Man.  Deity mingling with fallen man to do a job that should have been ours, but we were inadequate for the task.

We both believed in Santa as young children, but I had the whole thing figured out by the time I was in kindergarten.  I have a few memories of writing letters to Santa and wondering if I would catch him in our living room on Christmas Eve, but not many.  We aren't at all upset over our experiences, but the whole thing about telling your kids lies about Santa, the Easter bunny, and the Tooth Fairy just doesn't sit right with me.  It seems to be a way to manipulate your child into behaving properly.  Attributes that belong only to God get handed to Santa. . ."he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake.  He knows when you've been bad or good . . ."  Santa is not God, God is not Santa, and only God is omniscient.  If you lie to your kids about Santa, the Easter bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, what else are you going to lie to them about?  We want our kids to trust us to provide them with honest answers to our questions.  We are going to tell them the history and folklore behind the story of Saint Nicholas and they can have their photo taken with Santa if they want to, but that's about it.  There will no gifts from "Santa" under our tree.  No cookies for Santa left out on Christmas Eve - the dog would eat them anyway!  Instead of those cookies, we're going to have a birthday cake for Jesus.

Before you start leaving me nasty comments,  I'm not trying to criticize anyone for how they have chosen to celebrate Christmas with their children.  This is just how we are thinking about doing things.

Since this will hopefully be our last Christmas with no kids in the house, we decided to try something new this year.  You know, give it a "dry run" before we had a kid in the mix.  I made these little advent boxes.

This is just a few of them.  There is one for every day of advent.  Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas, so this year the first day of Advent was November 28th.  Inside each box is something to read.  Some days it is the words to an old Christmas hymn that I was unfamiliar with.  Other days it is scripture.  I also included some of John Piper's Advent poems. These poems can be found at Desiring God.  We have been opening the box for the day at dinnertime, and reading what was inside.  It has been good for us, and it has opened up conversation.  I hope this will become a yearly tradition at our house.  I got the supplies for the boxes at Michael's.  Everything except for the ribbon came from the bridal department.  The boxes are little metal tins that they sell for wedding favors.

Here is a good article about how to address the "Santa issue": What we tell our Kids about Santa