Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The one about Christmas 2014

First of all, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!!

Truth is, this year Christmas looks nothing like I thought it would.

We still have empty suitcases & children halfway around the world.  Not what I thought this Christmas would look like at all. There have been, & will be, more tears as we wait to hold them in our arms.


before you think I'm depressed & throwing a massive pity party, I want recount how the Lord has been present this Christmas season:

Christmas is my absolute, favorite time of year.  Not because of the commercialization of it all, but because I am constantly humbled by the magnitude of how much God loves us.  As a parent, I cannot fathom sending my child to die for someone else (especially someone with an ugly, hurting heart).  This is truly beyond my human comprehension & I am forever grateful He sent His son to show us just how much He loves us!


I cherish watching those around us give so abundantly & freely.  In our neighborhood, people took an entire angel tree & provided Christmas gifts for those less fortunate.  A family has also been led to love on children & families spending Christmas in the hospital & have been gathering presents to deliver today.  Good stuff.

If you know us at all, you know our lives have been forever changed & our hearts bent & broken for families & children in foster care & those built through adoption.  For the past several years, our community has been praying about our place in our community.  Several months ago, we were invited to our local DSS to meet with administration in order to hear what the needs are in our community.  We have such a wonderful partnership that is growing & evolving into something incredible & unique.  Last week, we were privileged to host a holiday meal for the child welfare department & I cannot even verbalize what an honor it was to play a small part in loving on the people on the front lines of the battle for families & children!

Things I learned from this event:

1) EVERY gesture of kindness touches someone's heart.
2) EVERYONE needs kindness.  EVERYONE.
3) Our community knows how to serve & does it with GRACE & SELFLESSNESS abounding.
4) The BEST LEADERS put action to their words.
5) Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time means the Lord CAN USE YOU in MIGHTY ways.
5) CHRISTMAS MIRACLES happen people.  For realz.
6) The BEST way to fight off depression is to find someone that needs more than you & GIVE BIG.
7) The Lord NEVER expects you to do it all alone or meet EVERY NEED by yourself: oftentimes, He asks us to speak up, speak out, & challenge those around us to #dosomething
8) GIVING feels GOOD & that's ok. He wants us to experience true JOY & sometimes the best way to do that is to GIVE because HE GAVE.
9) The NEED is GREAT; people are hurting & LOVE WINS EVERY TIME.
10) It is ALWAYS a good idea to recount the LORD'S BLESSINGS.  ALWAYS.

When we volunteered to serve a meal to DSS, we had no idea how much it would mean to the workers of the child welfare department.  I mean, how many of us serve a special meal to our own families around the holidays??  Didn't seem like that big of a deal to us, but the 15+ emails of gratitude we received showed us otherwise:

 "I was truly moved and I know our staff was so appreciative. They are the true heroes in the work we do and I cannot thank you enough for recognizing the job they do and the stress it brings." ~Ben Rose, Director

"I have never been a part of something so thoughtful for Child Welfare staff. That was truly amazing and heart felt!" ~Derek Heath, Investigations

"When I walked into the room for our division meeting I was so shocked to see the decorations and the beautiful ornament left for each worker. The idea was brilliant and very meaningful with the heart inside the state of North Carolina. The next thing I looked at were the center pieces and tree and thought, “Wow, this is for us?” We were told you guys were feeding us but nobody in a million years thought we would get the red carpet rolled out for us! Next we received an email stating what time the food would be ready and for us to go to the auditorium and SIT down as we were being served. I was like, really? This is for us? I supervise intake and the people you work with made sure my staff received their food even though we could not come down and sit and eat. The food was great but the thought was even greater!" ~Justice Johnson, Intake Supervisor

"Crystal shared the story of your pastor’s adoption story and it truly warmed our hearts to no end! In a business that easily makes one cynical it is so refreshing to know that truly kind and caring people not only exist in the world but in this community." ~Sharon Reese, Foster Care Supervisor

"I have worked here for over 14 years and I feel I speak for all of us when I say how wonderful and special it was to be recognized..." ~Tiffany Loiko, Adoption Social Worker

"The joy that was instilled in each of us has remained and continues to be a blessing. While I am thankful and humbled to have been a recipient of such kindness, I am even more grateful to have witnessed the love displayed to our staff, who endure so much and do not customarily receive this type of adoration. Thank you all for making so many happy." ~Cathy Rucker, Staff Development & Community Liasion

And the GIVING our community has done this Christmas: OH THE GIVING!!  Our community has provided Christmas for just under 100 KIDS & FAMILIES that did not have the means or resources to provide for themselves!!! YES!!  People selflessly gave money, wishlist items, & most importantly are now praying over our local families in the most need. REJECTING APATHY & IGNORANCE to show someone else Christ's love?!?  Yes please!!

Several more families are committing to becoming licensed foster parents &/or pursing adoption.  Individuals are signing up to be Guardian ad Litems--child advocates for children seeking permanency.

And then there's this "Christmas Miracle"~

'This will be a Christmas like no other in the Isenhour household this year. As you know, Crystal and I began our adoption journey in January. But the process is extremely slow. Earlier in the month, Sierra asked Santa for a little sister for Christmas. Then, last Tuesday morning, I prayed that this would be our last Christmas without our new child, or, if God chooses, He would make this our first Christmas with our new child. Later that day, Crystal volunteered at a luncheon for DSS hosted by our church. At that luncheon, she was introduced to a social worker. Long story short, DSS delivered a 6 year-old girl to our home on Saturday! She is home with us! Merry Christmas!!"


People are making a difference in our community & it HUMBLES me BEYOND MEASURE to be in a position to see people stepping out in faith, into the messiness of life, & give of themselves to love another!!  What amazing ways to see the Lord at work!

This is also a very special season because yesterday, JP & I celebrated 8 years of marriage.  8 years!!  Yeah!!  People told us when we got married--& tried to explain to us--that we would love each other more & more with every year that passes, & they were right!  I really & truly loved him as much as I possibly could have the day we said "I do," but Christ-centered, unconditional love grows & evolves & is so much stronger than it was 8 years ago.

8 years looks pretty good on us if I do say so myself, ha! I am truly blessed!

As an anniversary gift, the CCCWA granted us a wonderful gift: we received email notification that our next piece of paper is on its way!  So, we are (un)officially one step closer to bringing home our boys, yay!!  Estimated travel is 8-10 weeks from now, we will keep you posted!  Our prayer has been that even though we wish they were with us, that our China boys have a very special last Christmas in China.


even though this Christmas looks different than we thought it would, it has already been GREAT.  The Lord is sovereign & His love knows no bounds.  He gave us the ULTIMATE example of how to love selflessly, unconditionally, & with all that we have.  We are truly humbled & blessed to know this kind of love!

"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, 
goodwill toward men!”

~Luke 2: 1-14 NKJV~

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