Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photo "dump" coming soon to a Flickr near you!

I finally got all the photos from my phone (October to January -whew!!) downloaded to my computer. I hope to go through them tomorrow and post many of them on Flickr. Check back soon for the link.

A Roman's 12:2 Attitude

Recently I went away on a prayer retreat. This was just what I needed-- just what The Doctor ordered (God, the Great Physician). I received a breath of heavenly sweet air, a supernatural caffeine shot to the soul, and a mind altering drug called "Holy Ghost Pow-ah!". Amen!!!

Why was this retreat so important? Well, those of you who have been following the blog over recent months have seen how I have been struggling with the huge adjustments of this past year. I was loosing myself. I was forgetting who I was (am) in Christ.

For those new to the blog, here's the short version:

~Raising seemingly insurmountable funds to adopt our daughter, the majority of which were raised just weeks leading up to our trip in March (never borrowed a penny - PTL!)

~Preparing and packing for and taking a 2 week trip to China (even as I type this, it's still hard for me to believe that we actually went to China!!! woah.)

~Diving head first into mothering a transracially adopted child - an "active" toddler (that would be the polite way of stating: way-too-smart and way-too-fast for this aching-back, sore-knees, low-on-sleep, heading-towards-forty mommy)

~Moving to a new house and community, where the city is beautiful and friendly, but nothing is normal or consistent or comfortable, and the parsonage still doesn't feel like home

~Joining a congregation much larger than our previous one, with all of the expectations and responsibilities that come with the new position / role as pastor's wife

These were the big adjustments. But then God gave me a Re-Adjustment!! (God, the Great...Chiropractor??) He changed my whole outlook on life. Here's how Romans 12:2 puts it:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

I was getting bogged down to the point where I couldn't see my way out. But I could not - no, I would not - stay in this place of despair any longer. My life, my family and my walk with God were (are) much too important to continue letting myself slide down into the pit of hopelessness, doubt and discouragement...and into the enemy's waiting hands.

'he' seeks to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)
'he' prowls around me seeking to destroy my life. (I Peter 5:8)

God is SOOOOOOOO much stronger. The Battle is already won. So I needed to seek out The Victor. I had to take some uninterrupted time away to study and reflect upon God's Word, and to pray and listen to His message for my life.

Here's what I did--

I told Eric that I needed a prayer retreat away, and he agreed this would be of great benefit to me. He said he was glad to be a "single-dad" for a few days and would "handle things". He gave me his blessing and support, even though this would mean some juggling of his schedule (thankfully Noelle has Tues/Thurs preschool) and some intense one-on-one time with our rambunctious toddler.

Then I called my parents and invited myself over for a few days of the following week. They were more than happy to offer me a place of retreat. So with 2 bibles (I like reading in different translations), a spiral notebook and a willing spirit, I headed to Knoxville.

What a precious time it was!! Mom and Dad gave me plenty of space to hide away in the guest room for times of study and reflection. We prayed together and sung praise-and-worship music together on several occasions. My parents loving listened as I shared my new insights and the lessons God was teaching me. Then I listened as they shared from the wisdom of many, many years loving God. Ahhhhhh. This time was like water to a dry, thirsty soul. Thank You, my Heavenly Father.

I took 5 days to focus on God. I asked Him to chip away the old yucky parts of me and replace them with something beautiful and new. My energy is now focused on God. I am back to letting Him guide my steps and give me the energy and rest I need. I am now looking with great anticipation to the future. I am enjoying my life again! PRAISE HIS NAME!!!

I wholeheartedly recommend taking these steps of transformation if YOU find yourself in the same condition I was. Lean on your support system of family, friends, your church congregation, etc. Find - MAKE - the time to be with God so you, too, can have an "attitude adjustment", a renewing of your mind.

**To Eric, Mom and Dad,

I am so very grateful to you, my precious family, to have given me this most needed gift. You are truly a special blessing!!! Thank you! :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dinner at the 'China Moon'

Primped and ready to go eat

Smile pretty for the camera

There's my handsome man!

Today our family went for dinner at the China Moon restaurant. Each of us wore a traditional Chinese top in honor of the occasion. As described in "Lucky New Year!", the pop up book we've been reading the past month, Noelle made sure to eat the traditional dim sum (well..she nibbled on a dumpling, anyway) and some long noodles (which represents a long life).

During our meal, the hostess came by our table for a chat. Noelle did not converse, as she was too busy filling her mouth, but the friendly woman asked lots of questions and shared about her family coming to the U.S. from the Hunan Province, which is next to the Anhui Province (Noelle's). Then a bit later, our waitress visited our table to 'ooo' and 'aah' over Noelle. Noelle was mostly finished eating at this point, so the young lady received several food-filled smiles from our silly girl. She even took a family photo - nearby diners chuckled and said things like "Awww look! How cute!". Surprisingly, Noelle even let our waitress carry her back to the hostess station where they poked and tickled Noelle while chatting briefly in Chinese. As we walked through the restaurant on our way out, Noelle waved to everyone and shouted, "Happy Chinese New Year!" It was a very fun and yummy evening spent together as a family.

Full coverage bib - a much needed ingredient for any toddler eating at the buffet

Digging in with both hands


Noelle is reading us her fortune

Traditional Chinese Clothing

This is one of the dresses we purchased when we were in China. I was excited to discover it fits Noelle perfectly! This is what she will be wearing Saturday for the Chinese New Year celebration. I took this particular photo Sunday morning before church. Doesn't she look cute?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Toilet training is looming before us

Since Noelle started attending Tues/Thurs preschool in the 2 and 3 year old class, she has been starting to show more interest in toilet training. Throughout the day, the class has regular "potty breaks" where the children take turns at the diminutive toilet inside the classroom. Many of the kids have been part of this procedure for a while, and a few are even becoming proficient'expelling waste'...ehem. Noelle has been carefully observing this process and even discusses it at home. She wants to imitate her classmates, and she even prefers diaper changes standing up - the way they do it in her classroom. That's what I call positive peer pressure!

Noelle is also excited to have a potty that is just her size. No falling in, or falling off - like at home, if we forget the insert (oops!). She is used to going tinkle before bath time and before bedtime (if her parents remember...), but neither Eric nor I are very consistent with taking her regularly to the toilet. Frankly, diapers have seemed easier than stopping frequently during a busy day of running errands or running the risk of a leaky mess out in public.

The past couple of weeks we've even been reading a story book at bedtime which tells of a little girl learning to use the big potty. It has a nifty flush button the Noelle likes to push. Noelle is sorta, somewhat, kinda maybe beginning to understand the concept of bm's in the toilet rather than in her diaper. What has continued to boggle my mind, however, is how can a kid stand that warm, soggy (or lumpy, as the case may be), stinky mess smeared to the back of her behind?!!? I mean, any self respecting person would run screaming "Ick! Ick! Get it out! Get it off me NOW!!!" Right? Well, I guess not, 'cause Noelle seems perfectly happy sitting or rolling around in her messy diaper. And when I ask (because the odorific evidence in quite enough for me), "Did you go potty in your diaper, Noelle?", my child, with a quick guilty look downward, states innocently, "Noooooooo."

Yesterday evening after an almost successful 'potty' (aka 'poo-poo') in the toilet - I caught Noelle "in the act" and whisked her to the bathroom to finish - Eric and I decided that maybe we should start following the potty schedule at preschool. At least when we're at home. (Hey! No need to jump right in with both feet, huh?! Baby steps, okay?) So while Eric was off at karate class, I sat Noelle down for a serious discussion.

M: Noelle, instead of always wearing a diaper, would you like to wear panties, like Mommy does?

N: (Big eyes) Yeaaaaaaahhh.

M: If you have panties on, that means not letting tinkles or potties go into your panties. You'll be wet and it feels icky.

N: (Bigger eyes) Oooooooohhhh.

M: That means if you need to go, you come right away to find Mommy or Daddy to take you to the toilet.

N: (Silence)

M: Want to go to the store right now to pick out you first pair of panties?

N: YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!!! (this, accompanied by much jumping up and down)

Okay. Cool. That was all the affirmation I needed. So we jumped into the car and headed down to our neighborhood Family Dollar store. When I stopped the car in the parking space, Noelle hollered from the back seat, "I want to go buy panties!!!" When we found the undies aisle, I was surprised to see a decent selection. I laid out Noelle's choices and she ended up picking a 5-pack which included pastel colors, stripes, and...frogs.

Excitedly, we headed back home. Noelle was in the back seat, ripping open the package and carefully examining each pair of cotton underwear. Once back inside, Noelle began stripping almost immediately. She chose the froggy pair. She pulled them up, and I fixed the wedgie. Oh my word! Toooooo cute!! Our little baby doesn't hardly seem like a baby any more in her big girl panties. Here's a picture of course.

So to give you an idea if we've had any success so far--

Later that night, Noelle was cuddling with Eric an the couch. Suddenly he felt a warm spot on his leg. He jumped up immediately with a shout something like "AAAwwweeeeeUghh!!" It seems that Froggy - with the help of our daughter - had wet on daddy, the throw blanket and the couch.

Then today, for the first time ever, Noelle pottied in her bath! I found IT floating amongst the bath toys. EEEEEickkkk!!

Ahhh. The fun is just beginning...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year 2009!!!

I found something exciting in the mail today...

A Happy Chinese New Year 2009 card from the Hefei Orphanage (Noelle’s orphanage in China)!!!

I knew that the other family in our travel group - the Denzel’s daughter XuXu came from the same orphanage - received one a few weeks ago, but we still had not. At this point, I was beginning to think we might have been missed. I realize that the folks from this great orphanage have cared for hundred’s of children over the years, and they couldn’t possible get cards out to everyone. But I still hoped. Receiving a card from Director Yin would be just another element to Noelle’s life story and something she could cherish along with her other mementos.

When I flipped through today’s stack of mail and saw the now familiar Chinese script on the front of the envelope, I shouted “Whoopee!”…And then nearly wept. I gingerly opened the thick linen envelope and had difficulty reading the card through my wet eyes. Receiving this card, this gift, from people who cared for my daughter during the first year and a half of her life, is a precious blessing. I am so very grateful that they took our little girl, identity unknown, and gave her a home and gave her love.

What saddens me, however, is that Noelle’s first family will never know for sure what happened to their little baby. My prayer is that they know deep within their hearts that she has another family, her Forever Family, and is deeply loved. And that we owe them everything for their heart wrenching, courageous decision. (Hefei orphanage website)

**Chinese New Year 2009, the Year of the Ox, is on January 26. We will be officially celebrating on the 31st with the local chapter of Families with Children from China. There will be a big catered dinner and a professional photographer available for family portraits (we plan to take advantage of this opportunity and will be wearing traditional Chinese outfits purchased during our trip last March). I’m not sure what else is planned, but I can hardly wait! We’ll let you know all about it. And don’t worry-- there will be photos! (eventually… ;-) (interesting information here)

scroll down to see what's inside...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Please Pray for this incredible family...

... in their time of loss-- their house was destroyed in a fire. They need our prayers! There is also a link to make donations.

Check out these links for the details:

This family is absolutely inspiring! Please check them out.

psst! something new is on the horizon...

OOOOOOh I wish I could tell you what it is!!

It's silly really, to even put a post on the blog, 'cause I have nothing concrete to share. (hence, the vague nature of my post)

But something is brewing in the Johnson family.

Eric and I (and even little Noelle, in her own way) are praying daily for God's guidance.

This "something" - if it becomes "something" - is wonderful and scary and exciting, and causes me to have vivid dreams at night, and weep during times of prayer with hopeful "what if--" emotion.

Got you curious? Good. ;-)

I'll post more information as God makes it clear to us.

(Stop the Rumor Train Here: NO, we are not moving. We love Chattanooga and our church family. So don't go getting any wacked ideas about that. Okay? This "something" is all good!)

Noelle's Health

Our little gal has had a lingering night time cough for weeks and weeks. Some time ago we went to see Dr. Jeanie for a diagnosis and an antibiotic. She determined it was a nasal infection and said the drainage led to fits of coughing, especially at night. The meds helped and cleared up all the symptoms, except for that night time cough.

Then, just as we thought she had conquered even that- the night time coughing has come back with a vengeance, accompanied by a snot filled nose. Soooo, she was back in Dr. Jeanie's office again today. Fortunately Noelle finds this very thrilling. In fact, no boo-boo is too small for a trip to the doctor, even the ones that Super-Mom with her x-ray vision can't see.

So the doc says there is "rattling" in one of Noelle's lungs (unlike our previous visit) and she may have "walking pneumonia". Oh fun. She's now on zithromax for 5 days. Jeanie say this should get the infection but the night time cough will probably linger for a few more weeks. Darn that baby monitor by our bed...

Last bit of news is that we are also having Noelle tested for melamine in her system, which can lead to kidney stones or more serious complications. Noelle's time in the orphanage fits the time frame for when many Chinese formulas on the market were being tainted with the substance.

How are we getting a urine sample for the tests to be run? Very carefully and creatively. This evening Noelle "practiced" tinkling into a sterile cup. We collected several 'drops' of urine during approximately 5 trips to the bathroom, after which point I decided to throw modesty to the wind and ditch the diaper. I let Noelle play with her toys in the living room and asked her every 5 minutes to tinkle in the cup. Her reply was usually "No thanks.". She was more interested in reveling in her new-found freedom. She took great joy in rolling around on the carpet and couches (presumably to experience the texture of synthetic fibers on her derriere) and giggled with glee.

We only had 2 accidents on the rug.


After we get a 'proper' collection submitted to the lab, I'll be sure to let you all know the results of the melamine test.

I couldn't resist a few photos of Noelle's indecent exposure.

I thought this one would be acceptable.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I know, I know, I know...

I haven't posted our Christmas photos, or Thanksgiving or Halloween photos, or anything else for that matter. Ugh. I am thinking about retitling this blog: "The Blog of Good Intentions". Whatdya think? ;)

I'll be home tomorrow after being away this week on a prayer retreat (tremendous blessing!) and Noelle has started back to her Tues / Thurs preschool. This gives me hope that I may soon find time to catch up. My fingers are crossed.

In the mean time, check out some of the blogs listed to your right. 'The White Family' and 'Vince and Alissa' both received referrals for their children in Ethiopia in December. Very exciting!

Love you all!

P.S. Just a little teaser-- Eric called me this afternoon from the mall play area (ya know, large, soft things to run and climb on - Noelle calls this the "Big Toys!"). He wanted to share that our daughter was playing on the soft "sailboat" and jumping into the soft "water". Next thing he knows, she starts trying to take off all her clothes. He says, "What are you doing?!". She says, "I want to swim!"