"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Friday, December 31, 2010


The very best way I can think of to describe 2010 is this, "it was the best of times AND it was the worst of times."

It was a year of growth, trust, pain, longing, frustration, fear, anticipation, JOY, heartache, learning, loving... It was a year I never want to forget, but I also would not like to relive.

There were moments when I wondered if I would make it. I doubted that I had the strength to get through - and indeed I DID NOT. I did not have even close to enough strength on my own, but when I truly and totally relied on God, HIS strength carried me. That was really the theme of my year, one that I had to learn and relearn and then relearn yet again. I AM NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO FOLLOW GOD'S WILL ON MY OWN. (Maybe in all caps and bold it will soak fully into my being!)

As I think through the year, this song keeps playing through my mind.

Blessed be HIS name, no matter the circumstances - because He uses each and every circumstance for the good of those that follow Him and are called according to His purpose. (See Romans 8:28)

Thank you sweet patient Father! Blessed be Your name.

***My dear friends,
Thank you for walking through 2010 with me. Thank you for praying for me, encouraging me, and loving me. Thank you for sometimes being satisfied with reading my blog instead to hearing it from me. Thank you for being patient and kind. Thank you for helping Krissy come with to Ethiopia. Thank you for so fully embracing my entire family. I needed you more than you will ever know. Each prayer whispered, every smile or hug of understanding, every meal dropped off, every phone call, text, email, and card came just at the right time. God used each of you to carry me though. I love you.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Only Jeans!

I do not know if you have noticed from pictures, but Joshua ONLY wears JEANS! He says, "Joshua, I love it JEANS! No I love it pants!"

Recently there was a day that all his jeans were dirty, it was very sad! I finally convinced him to put on a pair of sweatpants - just until his jeans were done in the dryer.

When the dryer sang its cycle complete tune, he raced to find a pair of beloved jeans. After he got out of his pants and into his jeans he told me, "Mommy, no I like it pants. SEND IT ETHIOPIA! Good boys Ethiopia have them! No Joshua!"

Naughty or nice?

I am not sure either! But SMART... yes! Funny too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Birthday Reflections

As a child, my birthday was my favorite day of the year. I never had to go to school (Christmas break) and I was able to do anything I wanted. I received thoughtful gifts and a party of one type or another. The day was MINE to do with as I pleased.

As a grown-up, my birthday is sometimes a struggle. Not because I hate aging. I really do not mind that one bit. My birthday is a struggle because I long to be a child with no responsibilities again. I long for a day to do whatever I want. A day to think only about myself - but I am called to serve my children and to do my job. Taking a day off from either one this time of year just isn't a possibility... and that is where the inner struggle begins.

I joked with Chad all last week that what I wanted for my birthday was a long shower by myself. I had to giggle this morning as Joshua cruised in and out of the bathroom as I showered wanting to "tell you something" or "show you something." For a moment I was irritated, but then I remembered that only last year I was rushing to complete dossier paperwork on my birthday so I could get it to FedEx bright and early the next morning. Wanting so badly to have everything in place so that the little boy that God had so clearly placed on my heart did not have to wait because of any delays I could prevent. Oh how quickly I take things for granted.

That was my theme for the day, fluctuating between grumbling about having to be responsible and then being grateful for how good I have things. I did have to work today, but I am able to work from HOME and it was only a few hours. I did spend A LOT of time listening to and sorting out arguments between my children, but I am so thankful I have each and every personality in our household. I did not get a shower by myself, but I have the extreme joy to be the one to listen to Joshua's stories and tuck him in each night.

I did have a wonderful visit with 2 different girlfriends today. I did get to go out for dinner at my favorite restaurant tonight. I did receive many thoughtful gifts. I did get to listen to my kids sing Happy Birthday to me and eat the yummy cake that Krissy baked me.

And this is a special birthday to me. I am 36 today. The first birthday that I celebrated with Chad was my 18th - so as of today I have spent exactly half of my birthdays with my best friend.

O God, I have tasted thy goodness and it has both satisfied
me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious
of my need for further grace.I am ashamed for my lack of
desire. O God, the Triune God, I want more of thee; I long
to be filled with longing; I thirst to be more thirsty still.
Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee
indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to
my soul, "Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away."
Then give me the grace to rise and follow Thee up from this
misty lowland where I have wandered so long.
I read this prayer this week in "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. (good book - my second favorite "spiritual" read this year) I keep coming back to it. It speaks to my heart. I get tired of being silly and taking my many blessings for granted. I get frustrated with myself for my lack of desire to serve Him, and the desire to serve me instead. I wonder sometimes when I will ever remember that "it is not about me!"
I do not want to love by my power, strength, and will - but by HIS. I am better at this now than I was 18 years ago, better even than I was one year ago. So lest you think I am too hard on myself, I am not. I just long to gracefully rise up and follow HIM with total consistence because the misty lowland where I linger all too often is NOTHING compared to where he leads.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Grandma Great

Chad and I took the kids on a little road trip today. We traveled about 2 hours to celebrate my Grandma's birthday with her.

I jokingly told her we brought a "party in my trunk" complete with pizza, cake, plates, napkins and presents! It is fun to bring a meal for Grandma. She has cooked countless delicious meals for us!
Joshua is VERY into blowing out the candles!
He also has learned to LOVE opening presents! Lucky for him Grandma Great loved his help!
One of the reasons I wanted to be with my Grandma on this birthday was that Krissy had made a gift for her. My Grandma is a quilter. She does beautiful work. One of the things I love to do at her house is fix the beds so that I can admire all the different quilts she has made. Well... Krissy learned how to make a quilted pillow in her sewing class and she made one for my Grandma (her Grandma Great). I was so excited for her to give it to her!
Pretty good looking bunch, don't you think. And as my Grandma would say, "We are so lucky because they all have their smarts, too." (Perhaps the teenagers have a few too many smarts sometimes =) )

Notice Joshua holding onto a pretty green and blue blanket? His second cousin Courtenay (in purple) made it for him. He loves it Courtenay! He drug it everywhere this evening and has it in bed with him as I type. Thank you!

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDMA! It was so fun to be with you today!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to You, Jesus (Part 3)... Christmas with the Flachs

As always, Joshua and I were the first to wake up in Christmas morning. I brought him into our bed to snuggle for a while and when he could no longer tolerate being quiet and still - he bribed me! He suggested we get up to make coffee! That is the one early morning suggestion I can not say no to!

After we got the coffee maker perking, I asked if he would like to see if there were presents in his stocking?

He was a little cautious! He stood peaking around the couch for a while, until I reminded him that Mommy and Daddy put the presents there. "No Santa?" NO SANTA!
At that he moved a bit closer to check out his stash.
He finally dared to touch them. Oh so funny! Most kids you have to tie down just so you can get your camera. Not Joshua - this year anyway!
He thought mommy should be in a picture too. This is our 6:30 AM Christmas morning self-portrait. Only for you Gubs!
In an attempt to keep him quiet a little longer, I let him open one gift from his stocking.
It was a zhu zhu pet. He was thrilled because Brenna has them which makes them really cool! So we played zhu zhu pet as quietly as possible.
Sierra was next up. I fixed her hot cocoa, her favorite.
Joshua had to try it too. He much prefers coffee!
Some Christmas morning love!
Eventually the rest of our family woke up. We all opened the contents of our stockings, ate breakfast (thanks to daddy), showered, and hit the road to Grandma and Grandpa's house!
Grandpa suggested the kids pack snow clothes. So as soon as we had the car unloaded, they were ready to play outside. (I try to be a good sport about this, but I HATE playing in the cold! I was maybe a bit grumpy about this part of the day - but the trees were stunning and the littles had a ball!)

Joshua is starting to like playing in the snow (unfortunately)! But he still slips a lot. He is getting better at getting back up by himself. "Mommy no help you!"

"Joshua help you!" aka "I did it!"

Sierra (I told you the trees were beautiful)!
Joshua Gebeyehu

For the record, I was the only one over the age of 11 outside!

The kids had just a little bit of time to warm up before lunch. Here is what we found when we went to call them to the table.


Grandma planned birthday cupcakes for baby Jesus. Each grandchild received a birthday horn to toot and a cupcake with a lit candle to blow out. It was really, really fun!

This is Joshua when he finally got his horn to toot. He was so excited!

Sierra blowing out her candle.

After lunch, Joshua and I drove home for a nap. While I enjoyed some quiet, Grandpa was hard at work!

This is how you sled way up north - behind the John Deer. The kids had a ball!

I woke up Joshua and returned just in time for him to try the wii.

He is really not coordinated enough yet to push the right buttons, so Krissy gave him a remote to hold, while she played for him right behind him.

He was very proud of his success! It was a hoot!

Big sisters ROCK!

It was FINALLY present time!

Joshua thought Grandpa's Viking snuggy was funny!
This picture was taken at Joshua's request. He told me, "Grandma hold you Joshua. Mommy take a picture!"Joshua was really excited to give Grandpa his tractor hat. Joshua says it is "fancy!"
By the end of the gift opening, Joshua was fully enjoying tearing paper. He insisted my final gift - a pair of leather gloves was the "whole family's" - how could there be paper to tear and it not be for him?
Brotherly love.
Grandpa and Joshua had some fun playing tractors. They were loading poop. Joshua thinks the only thing a John Deer tractor can haul is manure, since it is the only thing he has seen Grandpa haul. Jamison was not enthused about the poop hauling.

After supper we played Bingo - a tradition passed down from my dad's Grandmother.

Here is Grandpa calling numbers.
Serious BINGO players
Happy BINGO player - see what he has won? A pop and a ring sucker - BINGO was fun! Except that you had to sit still and you could only choose one prize each time.
More serious BINGO players
Well BINGO did not last too long for this little man. When he started to get rowdy, we went upstairs to put on a concert for Grandma while she cleaned up.

Joshua, Jamison, and I left earlier than the rest. We went home, unloaded Christmas gifts, and got one tired toddler into the bath!

See the pretty blue water? Joshua loves it Addy and Ainsley. He did not want to drain it because it was so pretty. Thanks, cousins!

Whew!!!!! No wonder I was totally exhausted last night. That was a BUSY day! (FUN too, of course!) I was out like a light by 10:15 - about 15 minutes after Joshua!

Thanks mom and dad for another wonderful Christmas Day!

Today we rested. We did not leave the house. We did not cook anything difficult. We just played, snuggled, and put things away. It felt wonderful!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Birthday to You, Jesus (Part 2)... Christmas with the Hoffs

This Christmas for the first time in MANY years all of Chad's siblings were together. So cool! And all the kids and all the grandkids in ONE place constitutes a photo shoot - not so popular with the teenagers - but Aunt Teresa made it quick and painless!

So we started Christmas early as all of Chad's siblings, his mom, and all the grandkids were able to hang out (and take some group pics) on Friday afternoon and evening. Pictures may not be a favorite activity, but we had so much fun the rest of the night! It was so fun to talk and laugh with Chad's family.
This is Joshua and his new favorite "toy" Molly. He loved playing with Molly. Poor patient Molly! When we told Joshua Molly was tired of him walking her (really dragging her around the house on her leash) he figured he could hold her (really keep her captive) in the dolly playpen.

This is Grammy and Joshua making "cookies."

This is Brenna cornering (or maybe having a conversation with) Uncle Jeremy. Uncle Jeremy is Aunty Teresa's husband and we are so lucky to have him in our family. He is a wonderful Uncle. All our kids adore him - and NOT just because he has the coolest boat ever - but because he is kind and fun and thoughtful. When Aunty Teresa and Uncle Jeremy got married last January we ALL scored BIG time!

Oh, I wish you could have all watched mt family playing with the Kinnect system. It was so funny! I seriously start laughing thinking about it! I will keep most of the pictures in the family, but here is a glimpse of Uncle Reed, a true track star, ready to take on Sierra in a Kinnect race. Hilarious! Uncle Reed made a sneaky video of Aunty Teresa and Aunty Emily which I will never be allowed to post - but rest assured there was much laughter involved!

While the adults were being silly, Jeremy played with the littles.

It was such a fun night! I wish we all lived closer and could have them monthly!

Since the cousins do not see each other much, sleepovers were in order. The teenagers stayed at our house and a sleepover would not be the correct word as they did NOT sleep. Chad and I were upstairs so we did not notice too much, but poor Teresa and Jeremy! The one thing good thing about late nights is they make for quiet mornings! Even Joshua Gubs slept until 8:30! We enjoyed a quiet morning (except for Chad who got up at 3AM to move snow).

Mid-morning Joshua found Jamison's Nerf gun. He loved it!
Anyone who knows Chad knows that he can not resist a boy with a gun! So, I was able to photograph Joshua's first shooting lesson.

It works a little better Daddy's way! (I love to watch my husband being a daddy!)

Soon the kitchen was overtaken by wonderful helpers,so I went downstairs to (avoid the work of meal prep) play with the kids.

Soon... but not soon enough for the kids it was present time!

Tyler and Jamison - two of the sleepless trio - cousins are so fun. They are instant friends each time you get together. I am thankful for sleeplessness when they get to be together! They can sleep anytime, but it is not very often they get to hang out.

These are Chad's Grandparents. We adore them! We had the honor of having them and all of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in our home this afternoon. It is so cool to think about how the love, commitment, hard-work, values, passions, and dedication of these two have been passed throughout their family. We are so blessed to have them!
We had 37 people in our basement! Crazy! But FUN!

Grammy found Joshua a really fun remote control firetruck. He was really excited trying it!

The adults do a white elephant gift exchange. One gift has "reappeared" each year. This year Uncle Jim was the lucky recipient of the "Monkey Butt Bath Set." This is probably only funny if you are family, but for family it is a hoot!

It was a good day! It was a good mix between a quite morning and a wild afternoon/evening.

Having a big crowd over has gotten so much easier, but I am still very aware of how Joshua is doing. Is he feeling safe? Is he feeling connected to me? Is he hugging person "x" because he wants to and feels safe? Or is it out of insecurity? Or is it because he feels "expected" to? Is he checking in with me? Or is he taking care of himself and feeling unsupported?

This watching and questioning has become part of parenting for both Chad and myself. We discussed it after everyone left. How we both watched Joshua be "passed" around more than we have ever allowed while wondering... Wondering if he was really OK. Wondering if it would cause a sleepless night, rejection of us tomorrow, or nothing.

I would watch him climb on one persons lap and think, good choice, you know this person well. I would watch him choose not to go to another person and think - good job! You know who you do and do not know. And then a cousin would walk in (that he had never met) and he would throw himself in her arms and I would worry a bit. Not like I have in the past, because he is so much more secure in his relationship with me, but still wonder...

This all struck me extra much as I watched other family members comfortably drop their little ones in the arms of an aunt or uncle the babe had not seen in months with ease and confidence. I too have done that in the past. And it was OK. It was easy. It was natural. It was expected. It was comfortable.

I miss that. I miss being glad to drop my child in the loving arms of family members and walking away without a concern. I question myself as much as others have questioned me. I do not always have all the answers. I shoot from the hip a lot! (And we must be doing a few things right, because we see Joshua becoming more and more connected and confident all the time.)

So... even though I do not have the same casual attidute about Joshua's interactions as I did with his older siblings - we are doing OK, more than OK, we are doing super! Joshua emerged happily and easily after the dust settled. He asked for the final family members to "beep ,beep" as they drove away and then went on with his play just the same as always. He was happy to have the house quiet. He was not needy or winy or pushing me away. He ate a HUGE supper (eating with a crowd is still a little hard), took a bath, and went to sleep nicely.

We are making it! He is awesome, but more importantly he is becoming confident. What a blessing that is!

One more Christmas to go! Santa is NOT coming - but mommy and daddy will fill the kids' stockings with treats tonight. Then after stockings and breakfast tomorrow, we head to my mom and dad's house. We had five kids sleeping by 8:45 tonight. So hopefully they will all be rested and ready for another fun day!

Thanks Hoffs for a wonderful day! Thanks for all the yummy food and all the work you did as I played! I am so blessed by my wonderful in-laws!