Monday, April 30, 2007

Fun in the Sun


"Watering the flowers?????"

Learning to BACK UP...

Today I was on a mission. Go to work... get my stuff done... get home and MOW. I feel like I'm a bit under a time crunch... trying to get as much done before Thursday (surgery) as possible. The ENTIRE time I was mowing, McCaleb kept running from gate to gate (they are on the deck with all the gates closed...). I would stop to check on them, and he kept asking...I mow on tractor? (Translation: I want to DRIVE.) I kept telling him that when I was done, he could have a ride. Why is it that kids don't forget anything....ever???

No sooner had I parked and turned the tractor off... Tim got home, and McCaleb asked if he could come off the deck. He took off for the tractor like a shot out of a gun.

Rachel wanted to help... so I gave her the hose to water my flowers. Notice how dry and parched the little bush is. I wonder if the fact that all the water ended up on Ali and Rachel has anything to do with why this shrub is dying???

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's a McWonderful Life with McCaleb!

I almost cannot believe that it's been a year... however, on Sunday April 23, 2006 we met our little boy for the first time... and life has been full speed ahead ever since!

He is a doll... he is a charmer... he has us all wrapped around his chubby little fingers... and he KNOWS it. But oh, what fun we've had. I cannot remember life without him. And who would want to? He lights up a room with his smile... and his laughter... and his quirky personality. He has been such a blessing to our lives.

I feel so blessed and honored to be his mother.

I was reading my journal that I took to Guatemala. I wrote so many things to him the day before they brought him to us. I had been filled with such wonder and amazement looking back at the journey and struggles that we had with the girls' adoption... and in finding our way as their parents. The part that struck me as the most poignant:

"I wonder what you understand - and if you're going to be sad. I've been through that before, and it makes me sad too. But your big sister has taught me so many things - and the biggest one is that we will make it. No matter how hard it is. For some reason, God gave me the gift of parenting toddlers.. and WHY? I don't know. It's painful, it's hard, it breaks your heart... but the rewards...

I can't think of a better word than amazing.

Today was the first time in 2 years, 2 months and 18 days that I have held your big sister until she has slept in my arms. The last time was the flight home for her. Healing is hard, Little One. For all of us. It takes time, consistency and love. But it will happen. Ali has shown me that again today. She is a miracle. She is a gift. She is my answer from God that YES... HE is in control. So when you get sad - or when I do - we can just look at our own miracles, Ali and Rachel and know that He is in control."

McCaleb was a little sad... and he was a little shy. He held on fiercely to his Mama for several weeks. But he has been an amazing child to behold. His joy is contagious... his laughter like music. He is truly a precious and amazing child. He is also very caring and compassionate. We are so blessed... and we cherish each and every day of this wonderful journey with our children!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The MIRACLE of "Paying It Forward"

Last week - we received some new pictures of Sara. She looks so happy! We wanted to go visit her over Spring Break - so that we could meet her and begin to build a relationship with her. I think it will be very scary (especially at 7) to just hop on a plane with people she doesn't know, and travel 3,000 miles away... and begin a new life. Sadly, it just didn't work out for us right now. We are hoping for summer... but there are so many things that we have to take into consideration - it may be that I have to take a trip alone to Guatemala.

I wanted to share with you a little how God has been working in our lives recently. I am always amazed when I realize how He takes care of us... and how His hands are in every aspect of our lives.

Back in February, we began this journey with a Pampered Chef Fund Raising Event. This entire journey to Sara has been such a leap of faith, because we don't have the money necessary to do this... and when we began this process, we still had no idea how we were going to be able to afford it. I cannot tell you how exciting the Fund Raiser was. We raised about $2,100 towards Sara's adoption expenses...what a blessing! We were feeling a little more confident, and not so stressed. However, our second payment was due at the end of March... and we were still short of money. I was beginning to stress out...and with as much pressure as Tim already has on him with a business to run and employees to care for... I began to try and "figure it out" on my own. We had received several gifts from people at church, and from friends that had also adopted... people have been so supportive and so very generous. Yet, I decided I had to act. So, I put in a call to Mr. Tucker at State Farm to see how much money I could get out of our Life Insurance. Then, I tried to see how much money we had in all the kids' savings accounts... you know, basically scrambling around any way I could to scrounge up the cash. The very day that I called Mr. Tucker's office and spoke to Katie about our Life Insurance... when I got home that afternoon, there was a letter in our mailbox from some very dear friends we met through the adoption process. Inside there was a check for the EXACT AMOUNT of money that we needed to make our next payment (which needed to be put in that mail the very next day). I was overwhelmed... and left totally speechless. We have been humbled and honored with each gift that we had been given thus far. There have been financial gifts of support - and there have been gifts of love and prayers. For all of these blessings we have been so thankful. However, just knowing the timing... and the desperation that I had been feeling...I called Krystal to tell her thank you... and to share with her our gratitude and how overwhelmed we were by their gift--- and the timing of it. She shared with me that a family had done the same thing for them when they went through the adoption process... and she and Michael had decided that when they were able... they wanted to "pay it forward" to another family. So they waitied... and when they read about Sara... they knew what they wanted to do - and who they wanted to help. More than just their gift... I am stunned by God's hand in timing it all so perfectly, once again reminding me that He is in control. We find our faith bolstered... we find new strength and resolve. By the same token, we have been inspired by the generosity of so many people... and we feel it is now OUR responsibility to "pay it forward" ourselves once we are able... and make a difference for another family in this incredible journey called adoption.

God continues to meet our needs and reaffirm our decision in SO MANY WAYS. We are thankful and honored that so many people have blessed us with their love and support.

Tim and I continue to talk about what more we can do to answer the need of so many children out there that need forever families. There has to be a way that we can help... that we can be useful... that we can do what God has called all of us to do, which is to care for the orphans. The need is enormous, and our burden is great. We are still seeking God's will for our lives in that area. We know there is more... we just don't have a clear understanding yet, as to what He is asking us to do. In the meantime, we are getting ready for a seven year old girl that has been on our hearts for almost a year now. We are praying for her each day, that God is preparing her heart for our family... and praying also for her birth mother for the difficult decision she made - out of love, concern and complete unselfishness.

To all those that have joined us, either financially or in love and prayer - THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts. Your generosity has touched and humbled us so much. Please know that we will do our best to honor those gifts and prayers... and that we believe it is our responsibility to "pay that forward" in any way we can.

God Bless You ALL.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mommy's Little Bunnies

Easter just didn't seem like Easter this year... I don't remember wearing a PARKA on Easter Sunday growing up. WHAT HAPPENED? Our Good Friday service at church... there was a blizzard blowing in the front doors with each person that came through them! Oh my! It's true... ONLY in Kentucky can we have a string of 80 degree days early in the week, and snow by the weekend.
At any rate, the Easter Bunny is such a good guy. Fortunately we are BUNNY FRIENDLY here in our home... so he left my babies some cute little prizes on Easter morning.
Here they are with some of their all of their Easter cuteness... and then later in the day all snuggled in our laps. They are so much fun. I was told recently that some day I would get my "reward" for having such a big heart and opening it to these beautiful children. I thought about that a lot that day - and then later that night...and I think that they were wrong. I think that right NOW I am already getting my reward... getting to watch my children grow and blossom into these incredible little people right before my eyes. It's a miracle in the making each and every day!
We talked about the Easter Story... and about what it really means. They know so much... and retain so much... they are so amazing.
Easter is such a special time... a time to remember the gift that God gave to each of us in His Son. To love - even me - enough to send Him to suffer and die a horrible death... so that I could have eternal life.
In light of this special season... I feel the need to share some of the joys and burdens that are on my heart. (Shared sorrow halves the sorrow... shared joy doubles the joy...)
Please keep my precious friend Vickey Burberry in your prayers - and her husband Tommy. Vickey has cancer and has not been feeling well at all the past few weeks. Tommy's mother passed away last Monday, and I know that many of you are already praying for them... but please hold them extra close to your heart right now.
My friends Tim and Shannon gave birth to a PRECIOUS baby girl named Lilly! She is adorable...I've held her... I've fed her... did I mention that she is adorable??? By the way... this is Mike and Brenda's 5th grand baby...wooooo hoooo!!!!!
Brody Evans (Miss Lillie's great grandson) is a very sick baby. He is the baby that was so premature a few years ago... he is already a miracle! Christy is the girl that had cancer... and bless their hearts this family has been through some tough times. Please pray for Brody.
For any of you know that Shelby, one of our baby-sitter's who is one of our youth from church... and is just an overall beautiful and precious girl... was very very sick with meningitis this year. We almost lost her...and this was the 3rd major incident in a year's time. She has had all her tests repeated at the Children's Hospital in Louisville... and those were even sent to Atlanta. They all came back good. She is fine...what a miracle! God must have a wonderful plan for Shelby's life. Please pray for Shelby that she will stay healthy and that God will lead her down the path that He has chosen for her precious life!
Brother Coots' family has so many things going on right now - I may not get them all...Vicky's sister Bonnie is very ill - cancer - and she was in ICU. Vicky's Dad is not feeling well, which has them all concerned. Bro. Coots himself has been sick for several weeks and still has more tests coming... and Bro. Coots' father Lowell had to be taken to the hospital today. Please keep this entire family in your prayers.
Alex, my nephew, was baptized on Easter Sunday in Mississippi! What a blessing! He is a precious boy - with such a big heart. I know his Pop and Nini are so proud... and so am I.
Jodi has informed me that they are moving. So please pray for them as they begin this new journey... and that they will not be sad that they have to leave my boys here with me. :) I'll let them visit every weekend. ;) ha ha
Jana and Mike received their LOA for Oakley this week! What a blessing!!! My heart was just about to burst for them! Waiting is so HARD... as all you adoptive parents know. Praise the Lord for this wonderful blessing. Incidentally... typically many LOA's arrive along with referrals, TA's etc. The ONLY document received in by their agency this week was Oakley's LOA. Coincidence....? I think NOT! God's Hand at work...I have cold chills just thinking about it. Pray for a speedy return for their TA so they can travel as quickly as possibly and get this precious baby home with her forever family!!
OK all you Prayer Warriors out me lift up these folks that are hurting and are in need right now. I know there are more that I have forgotten... these are just a few of the things that we have been burdened with the past couple of weeks. My heart aches for all these people...
Happy Easter - God Bless you all.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Are you CRAZY??

Always enough people for a PARTY!!!!

Joey, Darryl, Jennifer, Jamie and Jodi... who knows... definitely the late 70's....!!

Grandpa - got lots of practice shooting snakes on the porch. :)

Spring Break

Grandpa's Funeral
March 2006
Jennifer and Jeff in Atlanta:
Keith and Tina's wedding

I love my family. Yes, I love Tim, Ali, Rachel and McCaleb... but this time I am talking about the rest of my family.

Growing up was fun. Not only did I have a blast with my three sisters (Jamie, Jean and Jodi)... but I have these four really cool, and extremely fun cousins: Joey, Keith, Jeff and Darryl. Boy, did I love when we would all get together. You talk about FUN. We had some really great times. It seems like it was always chaos... but a good kind of chaos. Haunted houses, hide-and-seek, fishing, blowing up the fish (OK... that was really more the boys... the girls just cried a lot), swimming, flying and crashing those little rc airplanes...(remember those?). Shooting (yes, with guns), skating, bowling, volleyball, softball, badminton, football, card games, board games, any outdoor games...there were enough of us to have a "team" for every occasion, and always enough for a party! Those were good times - and they still are. We love it when we are all able to get together. One of the things I LOVE the most about my family... is how terribly honest and sincere they are... some might call it blunt... we prefer to call it "forthright". :)

EXAMPLE (from just this past week)
Tim pulls in the driveway the other night, talking on his cell phone. (a typical entrance on any given day...) This day, however... he's saying, "Sure, she's right here - I'll let you talk to her..." (I love being passed off to people when I have no clue who I'm getting on the other end of the phone. Some folks call this "sarcasm" ... again... just being forthright.) However, this time I was pleasantly surprised to find my cousin, Jeff. Never one to mince words...his first words to me...."ARE YOU CRAZY???????!!!!??????" (Ahhhh... it's good to know that my family is actually READING the blog... and not just looking at the pictures. :) He's referring to Sara... and our adopting again.)

Well, it got me thinking... there have to be more of you out there thinking this, but bless his heart, Jeff is the only one brave enough to actually say (or yell...) it to me. God Bless him... I love him to pieces! He always says what he thinks - not that I know anyone else out there like that. (ha, ha. Is that a James characteristic, or a Martin one???)

So the more I thought about it... the more I thought of how to answer him... and all the others out there that haven't asked...ARE WE CRAZY?

I loved my childhood. Sure, there were times when I am positive that I wanted to live with another family, ANY other family...and I'm pretty sure my family felt the same way. But we had a great time. We actually spent time together as a family...and we laughed...we had fun.

When Tim and I began our life together, did we set out and plan to adopt four children? No, I don't think so. Has it been hard? Absolutely. We could have chosen to go our merry way and live our lives with dogs and horses... nothing to really tie us down...except for the dogs and horses...? I think in the long run, we would have been OK... but we didn't want to settle for just "OK". We wanted MORE. So we adopted Ali and Rachel - and our lives were changed forever! What an amazing journey and miracle those two have been in our lives! Had we stopped after Ali and Rachel, I'm sure we would have been happy enough. We certainly would have had a larger bank account, more time, less bills... more room, less laundry... but what a blessing we would have missed in McCaleb. That little boy brings us all so much joy...I can't imagine life without him. And now... to begin this journey's so exciting (and a little terrifying...) to see what God has in store for all 6 of us.

I think back on all the fun that we had growing up... and I really think that THEY (Joey, Keith, Jeff, Jamie, Darryl, Jean and Jodi... as well as Mom and Uncle Joe... and the whole slew of relatives that we so enjoyed growing up)... I think that THEY are all a little bit responsible for this wonderful, crazy and yet satisfying roller-coaster ride that we here at the Hanks House call LIFE. I grew up LOVING family... and I won't apologize for that. Mom taught us all at a very young age - that no matter what, you can count on your family. She was right then - and she's still right now. Of all the lessons that maybe didn't stick - this one stuck. I adore my family - ALL of them. I never felt cheated for not having brothers - because the boys were there... and I have loved and adored them my whole life. I still do... and I hope that my children grow up loving and adoring each other - as well as all their cousins... no matter how far away they might be! So THANK YOU to all of my family for blessing my life so fully!

(PS...Joey... sorry, you will always be Joey in my heart.)

I read the following quote recently... and I think it sums up my feelings about life and about the journey better than I can do it here:

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, "Wow, what a ride!!!"

So, are we crazy? I think that yes, a little bit we are. Right now I can't wait to see where the journey takes us... but, man... in the meantime, I am so enjoying the ride...!