Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our Christmas letter

Well, I'll be back later with pictures from Mom's 60th birthday celebration and then Abigail's 3rd birthday. . . Merry Christmas!

Dear family and friends,

“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:4-6). God is building his family (and he’s been planning to do so since before the creation of the world—see Romans 8:15-17, 22-23 and Ephesians 1:3-6)!

We’ve long celebrated Jesus’ birth as a part of God’s plan to redeem mankind. But Christmas has become even dearer to us this year as we’ve pondered the truth that Jesus came so that we could be adopted as God’s sons. We were once alienated from Christ by our sin, strangers to God’s promises and without hope, but God reached across all barriers and drew us into His family! And now, we are heirs together with the Son of God. Amazing!

Nathan is now in his seventh year of full-time work at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. We’re thankful that while he continues balancing varying job responsibilities, he has more help this year and thus his hours are more regular (especially helpful with a class schedule to juggle too!). Nathan just completed one of his more enjoyable semesters taking Economics and Human Resource Management and is headed into two of his last five classes this spring.

Julia continues to keep the children of friends in our home a few days a week. This fall we’ve cared for two baby boys as well as for preschoolers (not all on the same day!) and so Julia and Abigail have both had opportunity to practice their infant skills.

We still enjoy teaching the second graders at Heritage Bible Church. Each class of seven and eight year olds is full of such fun (and different) personalities . . . They prevent any hour from becoming routine! We delight to teach them of the God who made them, loves them, and seeks to redeem them from the curse of the fall. . . that He might display his greatness and worth to all the world.

Our little girl turned three last week and thinks she’s nearly grown. Abigail is an energetic chatterbox (with an incredible vocabulary) and keeps us hopping too. Though she loves helping Mommy and Daddy and enjoys all of her toys, you’ll most often find Abigail caring for her baby dolls. Some days she’s their mommy, some days their babysitter, and some days their big sister. But she’s forever rocking, bouncing, feeding, kissing, instructing, washing or changing her babies.

Since Abigail was 21 months old (about the time she gained the skill of using words to communicate!), she’s been asking God to add a baby to our family (as she’s watched him give babies to many other families). We are thrilled to share with you that God is answering her prayer and ours. God led us on a painful journey called “secondary infertility,” and now we rejoice in His leading us to add to our family through adoption! Even during engagement we discussed our desire to adopt, but considered the possibility to be several years out. Now we believe that God has been working to change our time table to align with His.

We plan to adopt a newborn domestically. Our homestudy is complete and we pray and wait to learn what child the Lord has for us. God has worked much in our hearts through this process. Nathan has expressed his excitement at the opportunity to learn and try to model God’s relationship with His people as the adoptive father of a transracial family. Will you pray for all of us?

You can watch for the baby announcement and keep up with pictures and news of our family at our blog Enjoy celebrating Christ this season!

With love,
Nathan, Julia, & Abigail Garner

Thanksgiving week in Georgia

Saturday before Thanksgiving we celebrated Nathan's grandmother's 75th birthday (the party was actually a surprise to her!) in Georgia and had a wonderful time seeing all the relatives from that side of the family. We stayed with Mom and Dad Garner and loved having Talitha's youngest Laoise and Gavin there too for a few days. Tuesday we drove them back to Alabama and had a fun visit with Talitha and Lane and Patrick - and boy was it a noisy celebration when the siblings reunited! Aunt Talitha helped the kids make cookies and afterwards we got some great cousin pictures outside. Back in Georgia, we visited grandparents and celebrated Thanksgiving together.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Virginia travels

The next weekend in November found us in Tom and Lydia's new minivan (yep, Abigail and Julia, GramMee, and the twins - seven of us including three car seats) headed east for a family visit occasioned by a baby shower for my cousin Tamara. What a trip it was! The shower was beautiful and we loved the time with relatives. Grandma Johnson's house was full - putting us all up. Spending three days with babies Bella and Lydee was so special too. Along the drive home Monday, we had lunch with Dad's sisters Faye and B.A. - and of course they loved seeing their great nieces.

Together for Adoption 2008

In the meantime. . . between pictures on the last several posts, God was doing much in our family. Actually, bringing life to desires He'd given a good while back. We've been talking and praying for months (seriously anyway, casually for years) about adopting a baby. As the Lord opened doors to pursue adoption and united our hearts, He also gave us the opportunity to attend an incredible conference - Together for Adoption - on November 1. So Abigail spent that Saturday with friends and Nathan and I listened, absorbed, and worshiped the God who has adopted us. If you're interested at all, check out the links below. The sessions are available for free download and would bless you - whether or not you're personally interested in adoption. I especially recommend the sessions by Phillips (“The Good News of Adoption“) and Robbins (“Adoption and the Multi-Ethnic Family of God“).

Together for Adoption conference page
Sessions for free download
Interview with adoptive family

Friday, December 19, 2008

The rest of October

At the middle of the month, we celebrated Jennie Lue's 82nd birthday with Ree and Calvin and Desmirion. Jennie Lue's birthday last year was the first birthday to make a significant impression on Abigail, who was just learning to speak. And it did! For weeks, every time anyone mentioned the word "birthday" or Abigail saw a cake or balloons, she would exclaim, "Happy dirthday, Jinnie Lue!"
A few days later we enjoyed a trip to our favorite park. . . with Daddy! Wow did that ever fuel our little girl's excitement. She had so much fun sharing all of her favorite activities with Daddy and I think he enjoyed it too. =)
The next several pictures show Abigail with the friends "we" were babysitting. . . she sure does enjoy Mommy's current job! One evening we had a fun ice cream date with more friends.
The last weekend of the month, Abigail was invited to a birthday party where the children were encouraged to dress up as animals. She knew right away that she wanted to be a kitty. So, we bought two sheets of felt and a package of pipe cleaners at Walmart and enlisted the help of our scissors, some rubberbands and hot glue. . . and were happy with the result.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Camping in October

The first weekend in October, we enjoyed an overnight camping trip (Abigail's first!) with the Mee clan. Let me tell you. . . campfires and tents and sleeping bags are exciting stuff (did I mention that all this is outside and it's dark?!)! We were uncertain whether or not Abigail would sleep. . . she finally passed out around eleven o'clock. There were some funny things in the middle of the night too. . . ask Julia some time. After a camp breakfast and time on the lake the next day, we all met up again at Caleb's condo for a cookout. Lydia and Tom and the girls met us and we enjoyed celebrating several birthdays while we were together.

Sweet little cousins

By the end of September, I was going through niece withdrawal and Lydia and I planned a visit to spend time together (away from the large dogs in the apartment which give Abigail heart failure =). Bella and Lydee were three and a half months old in these pictures and developing personality and great smiles. Obviously, Abigail loved the time with her cousins and her Aunt Lydia - and she did some good picture taking herself. We especially like the close up she got of Lydia and me (all I did was crop a little!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

September zoo trips

September is a great time to visit the zoo. . . and we did twice! The first was with our friends Ree and Calvin and their little boy Desmirion (his first trip to the zoo!). A week or so later, we were back with some friends from church. Abigail loved sharing the adventures with some of her favorite playmates. . . as you can tell from the pictures. The non-zoo pictures include: a fun visit with our friends Keren and Hana Kate (the girls are not so close in age, but they love each other and share an exuberant personality), a mid-dollhouse-play picture with Daddy (now that's a clue to a great daddy!), and some happy pictures with the children we've kept while their mommies were working part-time, and a final one at Desmirion's first birthday party.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Trip to Virginia August 2008

Labor Day weekend we drove to Virginia and were able to spend time with Grandma Johnson and the aunts and uncles on both sides of Julia's family - and some cousins too! We also got to visit long-time friends in the Keysville area - the Waltons and the Bentleys. Some highlights were an evening at the Green's (including a polar bear swim for Abigail) with lots of the family, playing with Aunt BA and her "doggie," a family dinner at the Bedogne's with fireworks afterwards, and a morning at the beach with Grandma Johnson.

Weekend at the lake

The weekend following the wedding, Tom and Lydia secured a couple of cabins at the lake, rented a pontoon boat, and brought their SeaDoo. We had lots of fun together and enjoyed being on and by the water as well as spending time with the two newest members of the family.

Charlotte & Luke's wedding

August 9, Julia's sister Charlotte married Luke and Abigail got to be their flower girl! We weren't sure how she'd do as a two-and-a-half year old, but she pulled it off just fine. =)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

California 2008

Second annual trip? We're grateful the Lord worked it out again for us to visit our good friends in California. . .this trip was first considered when Nathan found out he'd be attending a conference in San Diego. The timing was a little tight between other plans, but the scramble was worthwhile. =)
So, we arrived in CA Wednesday July 30 and spent a day together as a family. . . visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and Underwood Family Farms (working farm and petting zoo). Thursday evening we arrived at the Swillums - less than an hour after family members had departed. On Friday Brian and Lai took us (and all four little girls) to a favorite spot - Oxnard Beach and park. Our families had so much fun picnicking and playing in the sand and waves. Reminded us of adventures on this side of the country a few years ago. Saturday morning, some ladies from Grace Community Church gave a baby shower for little Havilah (7 weeks old) and Julia was delighted to be present with Lai for the rosebud covered event. That evening we had girl time while the Brian and Nathan went to Brian's Bible study up north aways. Sunday found us all at Grace for worship and then at Souplantation for lunch (we need those in the east!). After that, Nathan had to leave for San Diego. Abigail and Julia enjoyed a few more days with the Swillums. . . including a carousel ride, pictures, consignment shopping, lots of little girl play, long chats, and a zillion more pictures (Lai shared the pictures from her camera with me). We thank the Lord for our dear friends!
Early Thursday morning, Julia and Abigail were back at LAX for the flight home. . . gotta make the wedding rehearsal in TN the next day!

Summer marathon installment

Let's see, we left off with a visit with the Mees July 16. The next day we left their home and drove to Pigeon Forge to meet up with Mom and Dad Garner and the Talley cousins. The next three days we enjoyed our first group family vacation and had lots of fun in our cabin, its hot tub, Ripley's Aquarium and Dollywood. Wish I could share some of the 140 fun pictures (mostly of the five cousins), but alas those are no more.
Sunday we drove home to SC with Lane and Patrick, arriving in time for our evening service at Heritage. Abigail loved having a big brother and sister for a week and Julia was busy as mommy to three. Visits to the zoo and park and such filled our mornings.
Monday of the following week, we drove Lane and Patrick to Alabama and stayed overnight at Talitha's. Tuesday evening we were back in Georgia for a night at Mom and Dad Garner's - so that we could fly out of Atlanta the next morning for California! To be continued. . .

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Reason for absence and the absence of pictures

A few weeks ago, our computer "crashed." The good news is that it is up and running again (after a lot of work which included a total format). The bad news is that the back-up didn't work and we lost everything on it.
So. . . It shouldn't take me as long as I'd thought to catch up on posting pictures. . . since we don't have any. Actually, I'm working on pulling and saving pictures from old e-mails and photo sites and anywhere else we stashed some.
Hope to be back soon with highlights on the rest of the summer!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Little Ponderosa Zoo with the Mees

Combining trips, we stopped for a visit with Mom and Dad Mee and family while on our way to Pigeon Forge for a vacation with Nathan's side of the family. July 16 found us at a Little Ponderosa Zoo where we got to pet and feed numerous animals - including pigmy goats, sheep, a camel, a zebra, a zonkey (cross between a zebra and a donkey - for real!), an ostrich, some emus, deer, ducks, numerous birds and more. Mom/GramMee, Nathan, Abigail, Andrew, Karen and I had lots of fun together. We joined Dad Mee and Nathan for church that night and went to the pool the next morning before heading on.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Grandparents (great-grandparents) on Nathan's side

Back to Georgia we went! The last trip was too short/full to visit with all of Nathan's grandparents (we did spend time with Grandmother Garner in June) who are spread out a bit. July 11, we headed further south and spent a few hours with Granddaddy Garner at the general aviation airport where he's the manager. Abigail loved the opportunity to experience small airplanes up close (on the ground for now). She even got to watch (and hear!) one plane "go faster and faster on the runway and then up, up, up into the sfky!" The second half of the day was with the Lane grandparents and we all enjoyed the renewing of relationships between those "great-grands." By nightfall, Abigail was playing games (with first aid tape and glasses) and having deep conversations and Granddaddy Lane and Grandmother Lane.

The Abbetts, the Merkles, and Jennie Lue

We enjoyed a quick visit June 28 from Carey and Susan Abbett who are on furlough from their ministry in France. Susan and Julia have been close friends since about 1996. This was Abigail's first time to meet her "Aunt Susan and Uncle Carey." Next time she hopes they'll bring their three children!
For many years, we've spent most Sunday afternoons with Jennie Lue and we've shared those lunches with Andy and Erika for the last six years (since before any of us were married!). These pictures are from our last Sunday together before the Merkles moved to Illinois for Andy to assist in pastoring a church. We miss them greatly and pray often for God's blessing on them. Abigail keeps hoping that Emmalein and "Baby Celia" and their parents will show up for Sunday dinner with Jennie Lue.

Little friends in late June

The two main "events" in this slideshow are a birthday party for Julia's friend Erika (whom Abigail faithfully calls "Tante Erikala") and a day of babysitting for friends with 20 month old triplets. The captions tell the rest.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Callaway beach and family in Georgia

Between childcare days and non-negotiable work obligations, Nathan took a couple of vacation days and we made a midweek two-day trip to Georgia. Nathan joined Dad Garner and bro-in-law Stephen in recovering bus seats (a huge and very hot summer tradition) and we enjoyed some family time. Stephen had brought Lane and Patrick with him and so the three cousins had lots of fun together - especially the morning we went to Callaway Gardens beach with Mom Garner. All the pictures are fun, but I must admit, my personal favorite (it always makes me laugh!) is "Flexing with Granddaddy."

And more fun with friends

The week after Lydia and Tom's daughters were born (see "Tiny new nieces" below!) included more special visits with friends. College/extension friend Cathy and her family had supper with us one evening and we learned more about the aviation ministry their family is headed toward in the Philippines. Our children wasted little time in becoming buddies. Abigail's good friends Emmalein and "Baby Celia" also spent a fun morning with us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fun with friends in early June

Our little inflatable pool provided lots of fun on sunny summer days! One morning, Abigail, David and I met "Tante Erikala" (Abigail's name for her!) and Emmalein and Celia at the park, only to discover it was too hot for comfort. So, we went back to the house for "swimming" and a picnic. The next day, our long-time friend Cherith came through while on deputation travels. She's on her way to Papua New Guinea to do Bible translating work!