I'll Be Home for Christmas...

I'll be home for Christmas...

And, God willing, it will be in reality and not just in my dreams! None of the children remember spending Christmas in Texas, so they are in for some eye-opening good times! The Sams family does know how to party it up right, I must say!

Since we are not planning to be home on christmas, and this week is pretty busy, we allowed the children to open their gifts from us on Sunday. I haven't been feeling very well recently, so only the boys went to church. The girls thought they would never get home so that we could open gifts!

I love watching their expressions!

This is over a Frozen themed diary that cost $3.97 at Walmart.

The younger children all got books. I especially love giving Eliana books she can read all by herself! She has been a little slower getting there, but she is really taking off with reading now!

We are also having fun buying gifts for the family gift exchange we are doing with my family. We don't normally buy gifts for extended family, so it is extra special to pick out gifts for cousins!

My days are oddly quiet even with the bustle happening around me, since my pain levels have been higher than average recently. I've been spending a lot of time at home. It is nice it a strange kind of way. Chronic pain is a strange companion.

I do so love this time of year with all of the extra emphasis on family times and memory making!

With Gratitude

For Keith, my husband of many years, the one I still enjoy spending time with more than any other and without whom I do not ever want to live;

For Douglas, the one who made me a mother and who blesses me daily in innumerable ways;

For Freeland, my tender-hearted wild child;

For Casper my entrepreneurial cuddle bug and favorite Netflix buddy;

For Annika my independent, self sufficient, beautiful, sensitive child;

For Eliana, my baby, my resilient, needy, loving, brave, silly little wisp of a girl;

For family beyond this family, my Papa and Mama, who love each of their many children and grandchildren well;

For my brothers and sisters, the ones who grew up with me and the ones who grew up after I was grown up;

For J, who is learning to live without NanNaw with bravery and grace, who puts us all first and reminds us how much we were loved by her even when he is hurting;

For grief for my NanNaw that is still raw and painful, signifying how greatly I have loved and been loved;

For these and so many other blessings I give thanks.

China Pictures

I've been sorting, organizing, and editing pictures from our trip to China, thousands and thousands pictures.

As I look though them one very special thing keeps standing out to me. Picture after picture of Douglas playing with children. Big children, little children, children with minor special needs and children with more involved needs. He so genuinely enjoyed playing with each of them.

The person who does the general volunteer job is often in a lot of my pictures since the spend so much time playing with the children, it is just extra special that it could be him this time!

And then there is Rocky! I have a bunch of pictures of him too because he is generally the one to give care packages to children from their families, but I came across this gem today and have to share it! He works so hard to make sure our trips go smoothly and that we are as comfortable as possible the whole time we are there! I often think it is like herding cats to get us through that long trip and the many miles we travel while we are in China, but he does it well and with a smile on his face. His love for the children is easy to see too. Every trip there are one or two children that he is exceptionally concerned about.

And then there are the food pictures. Ah, the food pictures! For the most part, Douglas and I both loved it! Though I have to admit I really don't eat much meat while I'm there!

Of course there are more, but I'll save them for another post. We went on a farris wheel one night which was pretty amazing.

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!