Just Reflecting

I am sitting in the office of the assistant director of an orphanage in China right now. She graciously invited me to sit in her office to do my computer work while the rest of the group is taking an orphanage and grounds tour. She put her wifi password in for me and with a VPN I can do whatever I need to here in spite of the restrictions on websites in China.

It is easy to forget that this is a communist country when I am here. I believe God called me to do what I am doing here and I know he works in ways we can't understand. Right now as I sit here I am praying for the children here, and praying that I am faithful to do what I can and not waste this amazing opportunity.

This is a privilege I do to want to become accustomed to and take for granted. I guess this post is a reminder to myself more than anything. It is easy to lose sight of the calling and the privilege in the midst of the busyness and the working.

China Update!

Douglas and I are doing well here in China. I only have a few minutes before we need to leave the hotel to go to another orphanage, so this is going to be mostly pictures. People rarely complain about too many pictures, so I'm not too concerned about that!

We have traveled by plane, high speed train, and bus to 3 different provinces so far. We are visiting our 5th orphanage today. I don't know how many children we have seen so far, but I do know we are leaving little bits of our hearts all along the way. We are seeing so many babies this time! More than we normally do. It is super sweet.

Douglas has stepped right up to filling the roll he came to fill and I'm proud of how well he is handling everything.

The team minus Rocky and myself

Making sticky rice

OK, have to run. Enjoy the pictures for now!

And This Week... CHINA!

I go to China regularly, but I still always hit this stage of disbelief just before I go. "One week from now our first day in the orphanage will be over..." It is surreal, like when you know you are going to be living in a different world for a little while.

I think that feeling is even more distinct this time thanks to the busyness and extra stress of the last month. I made 2 unexpected trips to Texas and said good-bye to one of the dearest people in my life. And it has been hard to really focus on normal things.

Updated Passport

But now, this week... China! And my oldest son is going. I love visiting with Douglas about all kinds of things. He is a sweet, chatty kid who is easy to get along with and travel with. He is very helpful and is always looking out for me and making sure I don't carry too much, etc.  He is exceptionally good at making little ones feel comfortable. And I get to take him to China! He has never traveled internationally (he has been to Mexico, but just a walk across the border type of visit) so I can't wait to see how he responds to everything.

I have dreams of taking each of the children on trips like this after they graduate from high school. Who knows what the future holds with my health and other factors, but I'm so happy that I have this trip with Douglas planned.

And a 10 year visa! Woo Hoo!! (I told him to cover the personal info with his hand)

Our flight leaves from JFK on Friday morning, so we will probably go up to Newark or NYC for the night on Thursday rather than disrupting the Friday morning routine for the children here.

We are still looking for a few donations, you can see our wish list here. Mostly these will be for trips happening a little later this fall, so if you can help, the items do not have to be here by the time I leave. I'll be getting them to the teams that need them. Thank you for what you have helped us with!

We will be posting trip updates on the Superkids blog and Facebook page as well as here. We are hoping to live stream to Facebook this time. I'm pretty excited about that fun option!

Please pray for us as we prepare to go and while we are in China. We appreciate it so much!

NanNaw's Funeral

Even as I write the words my brain still refuses to accept the words NanNaw's funeral together. But I want to record this here since my blog ends up being a family scrapbook of sorts.

My NanNaw's funeral was beautiful. It was exactly what she would have wanted with her loved ones gathered around to share memories and mourn, but to mourn with the hope of knowing Christ and believing in redemption and heaven.

All of us with J
Lto R: Back row: Josh, Jesse, Josiah, Papa, Ami, Keri
Front row: Sarah, Erin, Mom, Hannah, Levi
J sitting in front
NanNaw made each of us grandchildren a quilt and before the funeral J gave them to us. It was so sweet to hear him tell us how much she loved us and how hard she worked on those quilts for us. She still had one to make when she had her stroke several years ago, but she was determined to get Jesse's quilt done, and she did, even though it was very hard for her to do it. Needless to say, it was an emotional time, but a time I think we will all cherish in our memories.

All of the quilts on a table.

As I packed my quilt up to bring it home it not only looked and felt like "NawNaw's house", it smelled like it too. I wish I could preserve that forever.

My quilt
The memories of seeing her beautiful face for the last time here on earth and seeing my brothers and brothers-in-law carry her casket will stay with me forever. I know with time the bitterness will recede and the sweetness of the memories will be stronger.

My siblings and I.
For now I am thankful for family and for shared memories. God's design is beautiful even when love brings so much pain!

Gain And Loss

Last night my Nan-Naw peacefully passed away. We found out a few weeks ago that she had cancer, aggressive lung cancer. We are so blessed that all of her grandchildren had time to see her and tell her good-bye. My siblings and I were her only grandchildren, but we are pretty scattered from Pennsylvania to Missouri to Nebraska, so I'm thankful that we all had the opportunity to see her one last time.

Telling her good-bye

I know that in times of grief and loss we always (rightfully) focus on the good point of the person for whom we are grieving, but my Nan-Naw was truly extraordinary in the ways that meant so much to her grandchildren. She spent time with us. She and I spent hours talking on the phone after I moved away from Texas. She always had time. Always.

Her 80th birthday

She and J took us on trips, had us to their house one at a time, made Christmas a magical time, and did everything they could to make sure we knew they truly treasured us.

She wasn't thrilled when we joined the Mennonite church, but she and J didn't let that get in the way of loving us. They crossed the cultural boundaries, which I know was not easy. They accepted our spouses and loved our children, both the biological ones and the adopted ones. They loved us all and loved us well.

Our whole family in 2012 with J and Nan-Naw in the front (the group is much larger now)

She introduced herself to all of our friends as Nan-Naw. If you were a friend of her grandchild then she accepted you! I don't think very many of my friends know her first name. Even the ones she only knew as adults.

I have so many sweet memories. So many memories that we will be talking about and sharing for years to come. Her name is inscribed on each of her grandchildren's hearts because she always made sure we knew our names were inscribed on hers.

Coming out to meet us at her house in 2013

I don't know what life without Nan-Naw will be like. I don't want to know or think about it. But I do know that she was ready to go. She was peaceful and unafraid. She told us that she will be waiting for us in heaven. And she triumphed in death. She faced it bravely and though we grieve for her our hearts are comforted with these thoughts.

She told J she wants him to move closer to some of the family after she is gone because he will be able to see part of her in the little great-grandchildren. It is true she lives on in us and our children. Not only through genetic traits, but through her example of love and devotion.

Martin Family Picnic

Yesterday we met the rest of the Martin family at the Caledonia State Park. We got there in time for lunch and stayed until after supper. We hadn't seen some of the family for several months so it was fun to see how the babies had grown and catch up with everyone.

The food was fabulous and people had a wonderful time playing volleyball and throwing horse shoes, but I didn't take pictures of that. Somehow I end up with pictures of the babies and little ones, but I don't think you can blame me!

I was pretty amused when I found out Keith's mother had rented a soft ice cream machine and his brother brought a generator so that we could have soft ice cream right at our pavilion! I still am not convinced that the noise and fuel smell was worth it, but I think I'm the odd (wo)man out there! Logan obviously disagreed!

Ok, I didn't only take baby pictures. I never pass up a chance to snap a picture of this handsome man! Our children are going to have hundreds of pictures of him and only a handful of me from their growing up years.

On the way home Freeland commented that we should get together more often and invite the different families to our house more frequently. That is exactly what I want to hear from the children after a day spent with family!

First Day of School 2016

Four years ago we pulled our boys out of the private Christian school they had always attended and started homeschooling. Douglas was in 8th grade, Freeland 4th, Casper 2nd, and Annika was in Kindergarten. We said at the time that we wanted to do it, but that we weren't die-hard homeschoolers who would never consider sending them back to school. And here we are, four years later.

Douglas has graduated high school and is working for a year before starting college. Freeland is in 9th grade, Casper in 7th, Annika 4th, and Eliana is repeating 1st. This morning I smilingly waved the four youngest off as they boarded a school bus headed to a private Christian school. I believe this is a good thing for them. I believe they will benefit in many ways, and I believe I will also benefit from the reduced responsibility.

But four years is a long time, we have had our schedule, fit in our groove. A groove gets pretty deep in four years! So it is hard. It is hard to not know how things are going for them right now, hard to think about them being gone for so many hours every day. Hard to imagine that this too will become routine.

I have to say, they did look pretty cute heading out! Eliana was fine all morning and then got a little anxious as they were actually getting on the bus. She had noodles for breakfast and took them in her lunch in a thermos too, she should be all set with comfort food! (Does her teacher know that she is a delicate, sensitive child who needs lots of encouragement?!) 

So here is to the new beginning in the Martin family! And please let this day pass quickly and bring them all home safely! Tomorrow and all of the tomorrows will seem easier I think.