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. =)