I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps few enjoyed it more than we did.
It was simply wonderful just being together. This time last year, I left my husband and three kiddos the day after Thanksgiving to try to bring Daniel home. With tears streaming down their faces, I boarded a plane to Guatemala, didn't return till mid-December, and came home without him. Brad took my place till he was able to bring Daniel home Christmas Eve. Having our new son home after two and a half years of waiting was the only gift we wanted for Christmas.
We watched the Peanuts Thanksgiving special the other night. It was the one that had the Peanuts characters telling the story of the pilgrims coming over on the Mayflower in search for a better life and religious freedom. It told of their hardships--that their boat was so badly damaged from the storms they almost had to turn back to England, that sickness took many lives, how the Indians came to their aid and showed them how to live on the land.
Daniel had never heard this story that my other three had grown up knowing about. He kept looking at me with amazement asking, "Mama, is this true? Did this really happen?" Each time I'd answer yes, his pride in being an American seemed to grow.
We've had a pilgrimage of our own this past year. Times of hardship that made us just want to turn around and go back. Struggles that made us want to give up. Kindness and support from others that encouraged us to keep going.
Daniel had the hardest journey of all. A new family, a new country, a new language, a new life. He had to leave all he had ever known and start over. He lived in survival mode for the first few months home because it's the only way he knew to live. Now he lives carefree like any other kid his age. Here he is playing in the leaves for the first time in his life.
So as we sat around our table this Thanksgiving, sharing what we are most grateful for, laughing like he had always been part of our family--the hardships of the past year seemed to evaporate.
In just the past few months of fall, we've had so many moments for which I've been grateful. Like the day I took the boys with me to vote. They were precious as they watched in awe as I cast my ballot in the election. Daniel also attended his first Veteran's Day program at his new school. He left with a new appreciation of the freedom we have and for those who serve our country. He was also very proud of his big sister who sang in the program. Here Olivia is with my dad who is an Army Veteran and was there to hear her sing.
I'm also so grateful to have witnessed Daniel's confidence grow this fall in being part of a soccer team. So grateful that he finally has a daddy (plus mom and siblings) to cheer him on from the sidelines.
This sweet pic is with his best friend who was adopted from the same orphanage by friends of ours at church.
Daniel and Alex played on the same soccer team and a precious young man also from the orphanage, now living here on a student VISA, came to their games to cheer them on.
And Daniel has become such a great big brother cheering his little brother on during Brady's first season of baseball.
Brady has spent a lot of time watching his older siblings at their events and it was fun for him to have his own turn to feel special.
Daniel got to carve his first pumpkin with our family
and dress up for some Trick or Treating on our street.
Thanksgiving Day we spent most of the day at my sister's house. I'm so grateful for another year with those we love so much. That evening we had some of Brad's family over to further celebrate being together this year. As I listened to each person share what they are grateful for, I couldn't help but be overcome with gratitude for God's blessings on us this year.
Yesterday Brad and the boys watched some football, I did some shopping with the girls, and last night we watched a movie by the fire in our PJs. We made the first hot chocolate of the season. Brady says, "Everything is better when it's topped with marshmallows." I piled them high this year, because everything is better this year because we're together.
We started decorating for Christmas today, but I'm not quite done celebrating this season of thanks. My cup runneth over and I think this holiday of gratitude is going to go well into next year.
Grateful for You,