Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Update on Debbie (Downer, that is)

Oh, people.  You are so kind to me.  I should publicly document my emotional breakdowns more often, b/c ya'll rose to the task of talking this mama down from the ledge.  Seriously, thank you for all your comments, both here and on Facebook, the hugs in real life, and also the many private texts and messages of encouragement I got...friends sharing their own challenges with bio and adopted children, failures and successes, and especially stories of overcoming grief, anger, sadness, trauma...all of that super fun parenting stuff.

Carson and I had our first counseling appointment yesterday.  We didn't get as many concrete practical steps as I was hoping (so basically, one hour should solve all of our problems, right?!) but I think it was a very positive experience for both of us.  We each had a chance to talk to the counselor privately and together, and then we had a great discussion over frozen yogurt afterwards.   Just talking about the anger issue, making sure Carson knows that we love him and want to help him, not just punish him, but that we need to deal with it and there will be consequences to his actions...all of that was good stuff.  It's a total victory in my mind to get an impulsive 6 year old boy to talk (and listen) for an hour.

I loved hearing from you other adoptive mamas.  It doesn't matter how many times I hear it, it is never too many times to be told from someone who's been there (many of you have literally been there, in Bangkok, with a grieving 20 month old) that our son--and WE--will be okay and will get through this.  Thanks so much for understanding and speaking love and truth to this anxious girl.

Another friend sent me a link to a blog I'd never read, called The MOB Society--For Mother's of Boys.  It is definitely from a Christian perspective.  I started reading through several of the posts and stumbled on an upcoming challenge called 21 Days of Prayer for Sons.  See, this last Saturday I attended a mini-prayer retreat at our church, and I'm not sure I realized how emotionally vulnerable and anxious I was feeling about all these parenting/adoption issues until I walked into the church building and basically didn't stop crying for about 3 hours.  That's a lot of crying, even for Weepy McTeary here. We spent some intense time talking to the Lord, reading His word and learning to listen to His voice.  I found myself crying out for my children, and the issues that currently are heaviest on my heart are that of my 2 sons.  Two boys, who have never met, who look nothing alike, 5 years, one day and eight thousand miles apart, but both of whom are MY SONS.  They are the boys I want to raise to be godly men, whose hearts and minds are treasures that I guard with my life.  They have been consuming my thoughts lately. So the thought of some wise person walking me through 21 days of purposeful prayer for them sounded amazingly perfect.

If you are a mother of a boy or two or more, I encourage you to take this challenge with me!  We're going to go through the book Warrior Prayers together, and it's an ebook, so you'll have to download it onto your computer (which would be a PDF, you could read on your phone, computer or laptop or print out), nook or kindle.  The challenge is May 1-21.    Then you commit to the 21 days and sign up on the blog if you'd like.  Or just do it without signing up.  I'm going to link to the blog on my list to the right and I think they'll do daily posts during the challenge. That's pretty much all I know so far, but to be honest, I didn't really need to know more.  Prayer? Good.  Prayer for my boys?  Excellent.

I'll leave with you with this blue haired child, for whom it is all worth it:

Friday, April 20, 2012

... and the not so good.

I hinted in the last post that my emotional state has not been uber-peachy lately.  I think each of us in our family is dealing with the wait and the looming transition in different ways.  Unfortunately, each of my kids is going through some really difficult behavioral seasons.  I know this in and of itself is not unusual, but so far in our parenting journey, they don't usually freak out at the same time.  :) 

I want to respect their privacy, so I won't go into huge detail, but I want to share a bit for 2 reasons.  First, I'd love your prayers.  For me, for my husband, for our kids, for our relationship with them, for our transition to a family of 5, and our separation for 2 weeks.  But the second reason is I think that there's a tendency to have an "online reality" that isn't true to the "real life reality."  I get a little bitter when bloggers (or just FB friends) always paint this amazing portrait of their happy lives--cute things their kids did, little date night ideas, how much they LOVE being a mommy every second of every day and oh by the way did you see how my kids and I remodeled our huge playroom using only recycled materials and chalkboard paint while I was churning my own butter and jarring my organically grown green beans while the children recited Psalm 119 from memory and checked off their extensive and meticulously updated chore chart?!?! Clearly it gets to me.  I want you to know that I do LOVE being a mother, and I adore my kids, but we're having a hard time, darn it!

Carson has always had a strong will (understatement) and a temper.  But in the past few months he's really struggling with keeping the anger at bay.  (also understatement)  I'M struggling with how best to deal with that in a loving way and not cry myself to sleep each night.  Trent and I have prayed about it and decided that Carson and I should talk with a family counselor.  I share that, too, b/c I wish there wasn't a stigma around seeking help from a professional.  I just want him to have the opportunity to talk about how he's feeling--about the upcoming transitions?  about life?  about being the oldest?  about his angry triggers? about his mean mom?  I don't care.  I just want to HELP HIM.  And also?  Help me. I'll be meeting with the counselor as well.  Much of the time he's himself: funny, smart, loving, snuggly, witty, creative, kind.  Did I mention funny?  But when the underbelly is showing up as much as it has been lately, we want to work on that.  Especially if it has anything to do with bringing a new little bro home, who will have his own emotional baggage to deal with.

Sydney is having her own issues. She has always been a mama's girl.  A little clingy, kind of needy.  But she's so stinkin' cute and sweet that it's not that big of a deal!  Of course I'll drop everything and snuggle on the couch!  But lately, a 20 minute snuggle time is not enough.  It just doesn't recharge her batteries like it used to.  She has to be with me--TOUCHING ME--throughout the day.  Dad doesn't cut it, even though he's tried.  I've literally stepped on her feet about a dozen times in the last week, b/c she follows me like a shadow, keeping one hand on my leg.  Yesterday she was bawling, WEEPING and screaming when it was quiet time--she has to be in her room by herself.  Which we do every.single.day.  We had already had snuggle time and she still wanted me to be with her.  She was so distressed that she almost gagged herself into a vomit because her crying was so hysterical.  I'm not the professional, but I have to wonder/assume that this clinginess is in response to the talk about a new bro, knowing Mom & Dad are going to leave for a long time, and her older brother's aggressive behavior. Ugh.

Issues with my kids send me over the edge more than anything else in my life.  Not only does it completely drain me emotionally, but this is what I consider to be the most important job of my life, and when they are acting messed up it makes me feel like I've messed up.  I've received great encouragement from friends and wonderful support (and relief) from Trent and the grandparents, and I don't feel like this is hopeless, that this season will last, or that Asher's joining a jacked-up family.  :)  On the contrary, I'm really looking forward to just getting home and getting down to business--figure this new normal of being 5 instead of 4, instead of the long, LONG anticipation for all of us. 

Of course, that anticipation is also an emotional roller coaster!  The other day I read on Mama K's blog  about the day they got custody of their daughter.  The day she came to their hotel with all her earthly possessions.  The social worker said little S had not slept well the night before, because she knew what was coming.  Yeah.  NO KIDDING.  I can't even type that sentence without crying.  And when I think about the night this comes for Asher, I breakdown every time.  I know in my head that we are doing the right thing, and that time after time these toddlers heal from the trauma, but I cannot in my earthly mind comprehend what that would be like for a child to be told by their "mom" (even if it is a foster mom--they don't know the difference) that tomorrow I'm giving you to those strangers you met yesterday and you will never come back here. This is the last night you will ever sleep next to me.  It causes me physical pain to even imagine how our son will be feeling.  How will we even begin to help him through that?  How will I keep myself together emotionally and not be on the ground in the fetal, crying with him?  Maybe if I cry for the next 44 days I'll have it out of my system.  Probably not.

Sorry this post is a Debbie Downer.  But I've been pretty quiet on the blog for a while, and now you know why.  If you can't say something nice....just wait and write a really long and depressing post a few weeks later.  :)  Thank you all for your encouragement and support.  It really, TRULY helps and uplifts.  We've started our packing list (fun!) and cherishing good days and hours with our older kids.  We have a few special outings planned before we leave. They are very excited about Asher, picking out clothes and toys for him, talking about where he's going to sit at the table and on the couch when we have movie night.  Deciding which swing on the set will be "his."  I know we're gonna get through this.

In a moment of perfect timing, this week I am studying "ENOUGH" in my Bible study.  Talking about all the ways we feel we do not have enough, and how God provides.  This week is not about enough money or possessions, it is about not having enough patience, wisdom, time, energy, strength. I have to, HAVE TO trust that He will fill in the gap where I feel I am lacking.  I'm clinging to some well-known verses that have new light for me.  I guess this post is me "boasting" in my weakness.  I'm so glad that God can work, even in weakness.  Because we're all going to need some gap-filling: all 5 of us.

Each time he [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The good....

Wow.  I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed these last few weeks...in many good ways and some not so good ways.  But one of my biggest blessings has been the hijacking of my blog to shower love on our family and our new son!  Thank you so much to my dear friend, Rory, who organized and implemented the most unique and creative e-event.  I'd never even heard of a blog baby shower, and now I've been the recipient of one!  I'm pretty sure she ponied up some major cash to cover those giveaways, because each of them helps another adoptive family, and that is SO Rory's thang, if you know what I mean.  Long before she and her husband decided to adopt (they are in process from Ethiopia) they were front and center of the support team for any adoption.  This couple has a heart, I mean a HUGE heart, for the orphans of this world, and they are walking the walk, people.  Thank you all for not batting an eye and jumping right on board to SHOWER us with love.  I can't wait to read the messages that were sent!

Speaking of messages, I'm continuing to be surprised, amazed, blessed, sustained and uplifted by my daily encourager!  That crazy Candace...I had no idea how far she intended this little love experiment to go.    With each new level or circle of friends that I hear from (old school family friends, cousins, in-laws, long-lost college friends...not to mention close friends and family) my cup just overflows!  Some people have gone above and beyond on their "Asher Day" as one friend called it.  They buy a gift for me, for the big kids, for Asher.  We have received things handmade, prayers and Scripture written out, things from our Amazon Asher wish list, and a piece of jewelry that has all THREE of my kids names on it!  But honestly, the wonderful gifts are just the icing on the cake to the DEEP and geniune support and prayers.  Those mean the most to me, b/c this little season is kicking my butt a bit.  But I'll save that for the next post...

One thing that happened last week, but I didn't want to interrupt the Blog Shower, was that we received another update on Asher!  I just cannot explain to you how it feels to see his face.  A new picture of him that we have not seen before. It's like a physical movement in my heart occurs!  I stare at the pictures and read the details (not that there are many) over and over and over.  I analyze little bumps on his face or guess what size his shoes are and wonder about the floor he's walking on and whether or not he's had a haircut.  It's especially meaningful now that we've seen pictures of him wearing clothes and holding items we've sent.  So they really do get there eventually!  If you'd like to see some of the pictures, check out our password protected blog HERE.  As usual, the password is my maiden name, all lower case.  Leave me a comment with your email if you'd like the password.

This is the first written update we've received since September.   The report says he still takes 6 bottles a day, but is also eating lots of food now.    He takes 2 naps a day, and sleeps at night from 7pm to 5am (!!!!!).  It says he is "active and naughty, climbing up on stairs, chairs and table."  The report goes on to say that he feels comfortable with all the members of the family and the neighbors, but still does not want to have anything to do with unfamiliar people.  When he is hungry, he says "eat chicken."  :)  The foster mother reports that he is easy to care for and usually cheerful, prefering to play with the foster mother's neice and nephew.  (Good news for Carson and Syd!)  The social worker says that the foster mother is preparing him for his adoptive placement by showing him pictures of his future family each night before bed.   I can't wait to meet this woman and attempt to begin to thank her for what she has done.  Is it even possible to convey?

We've also been steadily progressing through the ongoing redtape needed between first approval and travel.  I was very frustrated that we had a much larger window of time before travel, but I suppose it does ensure that everything gets where it needs to go and our dates won't change.  We got our i800 approval, which is from the USCIS, and they will forward that approval on to the embassy in Bangkok, where Asher's visa will be given when we are there.  We also BOUGHT OUR TICKETS!  This felt like a big deal to me.  It still seems very far off and unreal, but we leave the US on Wednesday, May 30, and return with our son on Tuesday, June 12.    We're flying Korean Airlines, which has a great reputation for customer service, especially for adoptive families.  The interesting part of the return flight is that we leave Bangkok at 1 in the morning, then spend 10 hours during the next day on the ground in Seoul, then fly through the night again to the US.  I am working on a detailed prayer list, and I can guarantee you that "Asher sleeping on the flights home" will be near the top of that list.  :)

So, those are some things to celebrate and be happy about!  Hopefully later this week I'll share some of the less shiny and glittery emotions and situations I've been experiencing as we get ready for this transition.  But for now, let's end on a good note!  45 days until we get to meet our son!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Showering Love on Asher: The Giveaways & WINNERS!


$50 Thirty One Gift Certificate goes to:

Aubry Maxson

$50 Just Love Coffee Gift Certificate goes to:

Maureen Hess

$100 Total Blog Makeover goes to:

Suzanne Lewis

One custom designed Cash Stash Wallet goes to:

Molly Nemecek

Please email me at woosterweester@aol.com so I can get you your prizes.

Thank you EVERYONE for showering Jen and Asher this week.
You all made this so fun!
I still have a little adding to do before I give the donation total, but I wanted to announce the winners bright and early this morning.:)
Thank you for blessing others!!


*It's Tuesday night 11:56 p.m. and I was going to do the drawing right after midnight but it looks like a few donations are still coming in.  This mama is gonna hit the hay and I will do the drawing in the morning...will hopefully announce the winners on here soon after!:)
Good night!

*Last Day!  Check bottom of post for update and a little something to sweeten the pot.

Okay folks, I think I've held you in suspense long enough!
If you're just now tuning in you need to go back and read here and here.

This is what we're up to:

Most of you are already pretty clued in to Jen's family's journey.  If you're not you should definitely go read her posts on her right side bar.  Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it is not without great pain and loss.  I'm going to leave it to Jen to write about that as she sees fit and as little A becomes part of their family.  What I want to touch on is the financial aspect.  It costs a LOT to bring a child home.  In fact it's usually in the neighborhood of $25,0000 to $50,000.   And that's just to bring them home! 

It is truly a faith journey and I know Jen can attest to the faithfulness of God to meet every need along the way.
And anyone who's seen his sweet face knows how worth it he is!

In just a matter of weeks Jen and Trent are hopping on a plane to pickup their son.  (Is anyone else losing sleep over this exciting news or is it just me?!)
What I'd like to do is give you an opportunity to really blow this family's minds.  I'd like to send them off on their trip with extra money in hand.  

You know, kinda like this:

I don't want them to get all the way to Thailand and be worried about any extra expenses that might come up while there.  I want them to be able to purchase a gift or two for their children who have so patiently been waiting for their little brother to come home.  I'd like them to be able to buy a couple of special items for Asher, you know items that will hold special place because they are from his birth country, items they can give to him on special occasions as he grows up.  They may want to bless Asher's foster family while there.  They may need an extra meal or two on the way home.  And once they're home a whole new set of needs might pop up.  

Ladies, many of you know how crazy life is right after you bring home a new born (let alone a todder).  How nice would it be to know you had money to cover ordering a pizza when you've had a hectic day or to pay someone to come clean your house because you're too jetlagged to even know what day it is.  

See where I'm comin' from?
Let's do something about it!

I've set up a donate button up at the top right of Jen's sidebar.
For every $5 you give you'll be entered to win one of THREE great giveaways between now and Tuesday night at midnight.

$5 = 1 entry, $10 = 2 entries, and so on.

This is a great way to send some love their way, especially if you weren't going to be able to attend their local shower but still wanted to do something.  Give here and we'll make sure Jen gets the cash.

Cool huh?

Now, there is one more way you can be entered to win.
Obviously we really want to gift some funds to this super special family, but we ALSO want to bless them with our words.

Send your words of blessing, your Bible verses, your prayers in written form to woosterweester@aol.com.
I'll make sure to print them all out and give them to Jen.
Won't it be sweet to have Asher read those some day?

Let's recap.
1.  For every $5 donation you'll receive one entry into our giveaway.
2.  For every email blessing sent you'll receive one entry as well.

I'll draw the winners this Wednesday and hopefully have a post for you that day announcing the winners.  So if you enter make sure to check back to see if you've won!

Now on to the giveaways!!

We not only want to bless Asher.
We not only want to bless all of YOU fantastic people.
We want this shower to pay it forward.
And so, each giveaway item is helping to bring an orphan home!
I've attached some links so you can read more about each story.
I hope you all are having as much fun as I am at this!

We aren't all called to adopt, but we're all called to help orphans.
Someday you're going to get to look into the eyes of a little boy from Thailand and know that you were part of his forever homecoming.

Are you with me?!?!

Let's seriously BLOW their minds with our generosity and love.


Click on the donate button, send me your emails, and check back on Wednesday for the winners of our giveaway!
$50 gift certificate to Thirty-One

This precious family brought home their son from Ethiopia last year.  They are currently raising funds to host a teenage orphaned girl from Russia this summer in hopes of finding her forever family before she ages out of the system.  You will fall in love with them and their story!
You can use your certificate to buy some unique purses, wallets, or other fun items from this site.

$50 gift certificate to Just Love Coffee

This family (who many of you probably know!) is working hard to bring their daughter home from Ethiopia.  This mama is quite the go-getter and talented too.  Coffee lovers will not only enjoy the taste of this coffee but love the variety of choices!

$100 Total Blog Makeover

This family has already brought their son home from Ethiopia and now they are bringing their next little one home from Ghana.  Lauren is not only a fantastic mommy but a skilled blog designer.  Check out some of her awesome work!
Don't have a blog?
Check out her other web design options!

Well what are you waiting for?
Let's do this!


Monday's post update:  It has been so fun to watch all of you crazy, wonderful people participate in showering Asher.
As we close in on Tuesday's midnight deadline I wanted to let you know a couple things.
1.  If you'd like to donate still but would rather send a check than use paypal just email me at woosterweester@aol.com  That way I'll be sure to get you entered in time and we'll figure the rest out from there.
2.  Don't forget that you can bless Asher with words too!  This is all about you folks showering love in the way you want to.  Some of you may want to share funds and some may be thrilled to share written blessings~both are welcome and cherished!  Just email me your note at woosterweester@aol.com and I'll get you entered!:)

See you tomorrow for another update!


One more giveaway!

A custom designed wallet from Cash Stash Wallets

You can design your own envelope-style, Dave Ramsey inspired wallet.  You'll have your choice of  cute laminated cotton fabrics , 2, 4, or 6 "envelopes" and "budget categories."

You need to check these out!
Jodi is one sweet lady and makes some CUTE wallets!
She emailed me last night and offered to add this to the giveaways.  Isn't that awesome?!
Someone who has never met Jen in person but just wants to bless her and Asher.  That's what it's about folks!

So now instead of 3 winners...there will be 4!!

See you later for an update.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Showering Love on Asher: The Party


I am so thrilled you decided to join our little blog shower.
If you're just joining us and wondering where in the world Jen is this should explain it.

Now where was I?
Oh yes, back to welcoming you to our party.
Don't be shy.
Come on in!
I bet you've been wondering what exactly is a blog shower.
Well, I'll tell you.
No, better yet, I'll show you.

Remember when I said that a bunch of Jen's local peeps were throwing her a shower?  Amy, Kristen, and Becky are working away at hosting a shower for all of her local friends and family to attend...but...well, we realized that so many of you wouldn't be able to attend her actual shower because of distance or schedule (or the fact that you only know her via the web and showing up at her shower would be a wee bit stalker-esque--though I may not put it past some of you:).  We KNOW you want to be there to hug this girl, ooh and aah over the photos of little man, watch her open gifts, and grab hands with the rest of us when we pray for their family.  We know you've walked this journey with Jen and her family, that you've supported them in prayer, you've helped them fundraise, and that you want nothing more than to see this little boy come home to his forever family.  

So, my dear friends, this blog shower is for you!

And because this is a virtual shower we've spared no expense.
You're gonna have to play along and use your imagination a little, but I know you're up for it.

Step into the garden with us...

Beautiful, no?
You can find your seat where your hand embossed name tag sits.
Jen will be around soon to mingle with all of you.
In the meantime won't you help yourself to some h'ordeuvres?

Amidst the sounds of laughter and a light breeze floating through the tent Jen will pass around Asher's photos and answer all your questions about their upcoming trip to bring him home.
You'll grin from ear to ear and find yourself fighting back a lump in your throat when you think about how loved this little boy is and he's not even here yet.


You spot 'em, only they're displayed more like this:

You've saved just enough room for one.
Okay, maybe two.
No one's counting weight watcher points today, am I right?
Point-free zone baby!:)
As you take that first bite of sugary goodness you hear a voice above the chatter of the ladies around you.
Time to take your seats.
It's present time.
Go on, scoot your chair in a little closer.
You know everybody by now so feel free to get cozy.
You look over at the gift table and see thoughtful displays of love and generosity wrapped up in blue and white.

Your gift is coming up next and you can't wait for her to open it.
Wanna know what you got her?
Do ya?

I can't WAIT to tell you!!

Only I'm gonna need a little help from you first.
You won't regret it.
I promise I'm gonna make it fun.

Now that the scene is set, you're gonna need a few details before the showering commences.:)

There are two types of gifts you're giving at this blog shower which will be presented in REAL life.

One is a gift of words and the other of funds.

And... what shower would be complete without some gifts FOR the guests?!?!
Yes that's YOU!

While the shower may have been virtual up to this point I assure you the rest will be very real.  I'll explain in more detail the gifts for Jen and Asher in the next post AND I'll show you what several of you are gonna take home (fo' realz)--and you don't even have to play a single shower game!:)

Remember how I said Asher's name means "happy and blessed"?  
We want him to know this from the very start!
We not only believe our loving and giving will demonstrate that in his life but that his very presence in our midst will also cause US to feel happy and blessed.  Let's bring this sweetheart home, shall we?
Oooh I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

To sum up...
you're gonna get one more chance to give in HONOR of Asher
you're gonna get several opportunities to receive BECAUSE of Asher.

Win Win.
See you in the next post!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hijacking Jen's blog..and it feels so good!

Hello friends, family, and fellow blog stalkers!

Jen's blog has officially been hijacked!!
(Cue maniacal laughter and adrenaline rush.  This stay at home mom needs to get out more.:)
I know you probably saw this pop up on your screen and were looking forward to Jen's witty, succinct, grammar perfect posts that leave you feeling like you just read a published article in your favorite magazine...but instead...

You get ME!
(Don't worry, you'll only have to put up with the large font, over-use of parenthesis, and smiley faces punctuating the end of each sentence for a short while.  There will probably be a gross misuse of capitalization that looks like I'm yelling at you through the screen but it's just 'cause I'm so doggone excited!! I promise it's for a good cause!)

See, here's the deal:
We ALL love Jen, even those of you who only know her over the internet, right?  I mean, that girl is so doggone lovable.  She is the friend everyone wishes they had.  I'm sure you'll agree that she is one amazing woman, and she's been on one incredible journey to bring her son home.
She and her awesome fam have worn the 2 + year wait well through more ups and downs that I can count, and it is almost time to bring their little man home.

(This is where you cheer and do repeated fist pumping in the air.)

We want to party like it's 1999 and we want all of YOU to be there!

There's a small tribe of talented people putting together a local shower for Jen, and as soon as I can I'll introduce them to you.  Seriously, they got some skilz.  So while those Pinterest-worthy ladies handle that piece I thought it'd be fun to chat with you folks and let you in on the fun.  There's more details to come, and as long as my children stay down for naps you'll get to read about them soon.

Get yourselves ready!
Asher's name means "happy and blessed" and we want him to know it from the get-go. 


Stay tuned!


Monday, April 09, 2012

Celebrating Life

Tomorrow afternoon we'll be having a service to celebrate the life of my grandfather, Bob Mulkey.  He lived a long and happy life, serving the Lord in many different ministries throughout the years.  He passed away about a week and a half ago, going quickly in the night, at home in his own bed.  Each of the grandkids were asked to share a few of our favorite memories of Grandpa to write down and give to my Grandma.

I remember Grandpa and Grandma always had Doublemint Gum in their kitchen drawer, and we would beeline there as soon as we arrived to get a piece of the usually forbidden sweet stuff.

We had a pretty big extended family, and we rarely missed a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner together.  I love remembering our large family dinners, when the food was always accompanied by laughter. Sooner or later, the funny stories would start, and each family member would try to top the last with a great joke or surprise punchline. So often, I remember Grandpa laughing at his own story...while he was still telling it! Sometimes, he would be laughing so hard during the story, he could barely finish it!  He would giggle himself into tears.

I also remember his loud and confident prayers before each meal...I swear his already deep voice got even lower when he was talking to God. ;)

I also cherish a special letter that Grandpa sent me when he was living in Indonesia. It was when I was in high school, and was facing a difficult transition. Here is the majority of his letter:

"Dear Jennifer, I am writing you this letter tonight because I want to encourage you. It is my understanding that next year you will be switching schools...
Our family made several moves when your mother was a little girl. Some of these were difficult for the family because established friendships had to be broken with people about which we cared a good deal.  It forced everyone in the family to make new friends.  This was particularly difficult for your mom's brother Paul. There is no magic formula to make this sort of adjustment easy, but I think a little prayerful preparation can be of great help.

I'm writing you because I believe in what I call "leading" or what some call "prompting." A couple of mornings each week while I am standing at the bathroom sink shaving, I begin to think of something that I have not been thinking about leading up to that moment. I don't have to think very much to shave, so I go along with these new thoughts and consider them to be promptings of the Holy Spirit. In each instance there does not seem to be anything that I have been thinking about that brings me up to the point in time when I have these special thoughts....they just happen. Well as I told your Grandma, this morning I was prompted to write you this letter. So here it is! I have learned not to put away these leadings, for I have come to believe that they are given to me by the Lord, and for a good reason. I believe the Lord wanted me to write you a word of encouragement relative to your next year's school plans. Hopefully we will get to see you before school, but if it turns out that we cannot come home, I still want you to ask the Lord to show you how you can make the best (HIS BEST) of this transition in your life. He does not allow anything to happen to us that He cannot bless,---if we let Him! Sometimes we must go into some weird places, but we never go alone.

Perhaps this letter will encourage you a bit--it was important for me to write it, because I believe I was prompted to, and for HIS good reason!

Love, Grandpa"

Of course I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have at the age of 14, but now as an adult I look back and treasure this letter, and the recording that I have of a grandfather who listened to the Holy Spirit and took the time to send a letter across the ocean to one of his many grandchildren to encourage her to do the same.