A Visit to School

Today I went to talk to Eliana's classroom about China. They are learning about China right now and got to take in some of the things I've accumulated in my travels.

Eliana was so excited about me coming and prepared by wearing her beautiful silk Chinese dress. She looked so cute when I arrived at school.

I sent Rocky (one of my friends in China) a WeChat message last night asking him to say some simple phrases in English and Chinese so I could play them for the children. He sent me lots of fun little phrases and I played them for the children then we tried to say them together. It was so fun and sweet.

Singing their snowman song at the end of the day.
What a precious experience it was to go see her there. She is well loved in her classroom and it shows. It makes my mama heart so happy!

Christmas in Texas

I knew when we were coming down to Texas that we would have a special Christmas. That is just a given.

But I didn't expect that my mother had made dolls for all the girls. Now you need to understand that there were 12 little girls here. This was no undertaking! Each one had clothes, including little petticoats complete with ribbons. Watching her hand them out was a sweet experience.

And I didn't expect that she and Papa would have designed t-shirts and gotten matching ones for all of the men and boys.

I didn't expect them to also put together these beautiful, thoughtful baskets of kitchen items from the Pioneer Woman line which we all love for each of the ladies.

I didn't expect to not only have a beautiful, delicious meal on Christmas Day, but to also have a feast the next night too. Josh should really open a restaurant. The meat he smokes is just incredible!

I didn't expect to have an impromptu barn dance and to get to watch my papa dancing with his tiny granddaughters. We tried the Virginia Reel; Oh Suzanna; Heel, Toe Polka; the Cotton Eyed Joe; and The Macarena. 

I knew it would be good, but I didn't expect it to be as sweet as it has been.

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!