Cutest 5 Year Olds!

So Sophie has understandably gotten a lot of blog time lately.

A week ago a good friend of mine hung out with us for the morning and because she also happens to be a photographer who got a new camera for Christmas...she asked if she could practice with it using Lily & Joshua as her subjects while I took Sophie to a doctor's appointment.

Hmmm.  How should I answer?

Took me about a milli-second to say...Please! Pretty please! 

Oh...I mean, yes.  Sure.  Of course.  We'd be happy to help out.

And look what she took!

Treneka has her own photography business and blog called For the Joy Photography.  She is super-talented and has been mentoring Emma, as well.  

You've seen her work before around here...she took our family photos back in February 2014.  *All funky collages are by me.*

Check her out on her blog or on Facebook!

In Him,



...was a bit of a blur.  

I chalk it up to jet lag.  And 3 hours of sleep per night for several nights in a row.

 Jet lag is a bear when you totally reverse the days and nights of a 3 year old whose whole life has just been shifted in an unbelievably major way.  

Honestly, Christmas had nothing of the Christmas 'feel' this year.   I think it had a lot to do with being in China and every other time I have been in China it has been the middle of the summer.  Everything was so similar to our other trips that seeing Christmas trees and wreaths and hearing Christmas music just wasn't enough to evoke the typical holiday feelings.  

Also, might have had something to do with the absence of Christmas cookies.  Ahem.

That is not to say that my mind was not occupied with the unbelievable truth of what Christmas is.  

God sending His Son to imperfect, human parents to be raised.  God using the miracle of adoption (Joseph of Jesus) to raise the God-King who would in turn die so that I could be adopted and given new life and an inheritance I could never earn, but yet have had lavished upon me.  The I-can't-get-my-mind-around-this truth that before I was created, He had planned for me to be in His family and worked to get me there.  The parallels to what we were walking with Sophie...and have walked with Lily, Luke, and Joshua...were just far too obvious.  

God with us.  with me!

He was so very present.  That is not to say He isn't always present...I've experienced having to trust that when I do not feel Him or see Him as I did for a time after Luke's death.  But, this time...these 2+ weeks, He let me feel His breath and hear His song over me.  He let my heart know Emmanuel.

I read Lynn Austin's Return to Me while I was in China.  It is historical fiction about the prophet Zechariah and the first wave of exiles to return to Jerusalem from Babylon.  I had forgotten the Christmas devotional I wanted to bring (Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift) to keep my heart focused on Christmas those 17 days.  But as I read, a message of Zechariah struck me as perfect for Christmas, perfect for where Jesus and I were together in China.  God with us.

Zechariah 2:10-11
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. 11 “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.

Zechariah 8:23
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

I also couldn't help but be moved that this year, as well as 17 years ago, He gave me the gift of a daughter.  

Emma is my Christmas baby.  17 years ago at 7:00 pm on Christmas Day, Emma Noelle was born.  Every time I say her name, I hear Emmanuel.  This year, I had both Emma Noelle and Sophie Joy to remind me of God's great goodness to me in this month of gifts.

And even as I watched my gifts open their gifts, my sight shifted to Heaven where Luke is in the presence of His Father.  3 years ago on December 26, Luke got the gift of leaving his tent behind and being clothed with the immortal.  I imagine him running, jumping, dancing with Jesus.  And, this year especially, I was able to cherish the gift of knowing how loved Luke was not only by us, but also by those who cared for him in China more of whom we got to meet personally this time in China.

Christmas this year had many of the same trappings:  birthday presents, Christmas gifts, grandparents, coffee cake, pictures, video calls with Aaron and Tiffany and Grandma and Grandpa, Emma singing a solo at church Christmas Eve as we celebrated with friends and family Jesus' birth.  

But in so many other ways, it was totally different.

And, I was blessed by the difference.

In Him,



Late on the evening of Saturday the 20th we arrived home! 

Lily welcoming us!

Mama hugging Lily

I love how Lily is hugging Sophie's foot!

Joshua excited to say hello

Anna Grace

Emma....so blessed to have her littlest sister home!

Ally, who has been such a sweet big sister to Bei Bei

Her first ride in the US

Video of our reunion....

The flight was the smoothest adoption home flight we have experienced thus far...which can only be explained by prayer!  

Bei Bei and Baba as we waited almost an hour for one suitcase to show up!

We had asked so many people to pray that Sophie would do well on the flight home, that her catheter would not need to be changed in flight, and that she would remain fever free.  And the Lord answered, "YES!"  Soooo thankful!  Not only that, but she actually slept most of the freezing cold flight!  Another huge praise!

Sisters, brother, grandparents, and our closest family friends all showed up at the airport to greet Sophie and she took it all in stride...even the car seat on the way home, which is yet another praise considering her significant dislike of airplane seat belts! 

The next several days consisted of getting to know her siblings and pets.  

Sophie Joy Bei Bei surprised us yet again by being cautiously curious about them (the pets...not the siblings!) rather than screechingly terrified like some other children we know! 

She has blended right in with the other kids and she is by far the most popular person in our house.  

Everyone waits with eager anticipation for the moment Sophie is awake and ready to play.  

They want to hold her, feed her, hug her, play with her.  She is usually up for it all.

I just love watching them all together and seeing everyone's instant love for their youngest sister!

In Him,