I thought it would be good to fast forward through the next couple years with photos. Enjoy!
Here is Deer with Ravi Zacharias. He visited Im Jai House sometime in 2005. How cute is Rebekah/Deer on the right side!
Also in 2005, Abby Grace was born. I thought I would include this picture to encourage anyone who may be pregnant right now. You can rest assured you are not as large as I was at this time. That is Zoe and me swimming 2 days before Abby Grace was born in August 2005.
Here we are: the happy family of four and still ministering to the military in Okinawa in 2005.
In November of 2005, Mark took a second mission team to the Im Jai House. Here he is with Rebekah at a waterfall the Im Jai kids loved to visit and swim in.
Each time Mark visited Deer he bright her gifts from our family. And out of her poverty she always sent gifts back. She sent Zoe a stuffed dog, which still sits on Zoe's bed to this day. She also sent hair bows and plenty of art work and cards for us.
In 2006, Hannah came on the scene.
But, before Hannah made her entrance into the world, I led a women's mission trip to Im Jai. In January 2007, about 13 other women and I went to Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was my second ever visit to Thailand and we were a little concerned about me going pregnant. I committed to not riding any tuk-tuks, drinking only bottled water, and hoping for the best.
The trip was memorable for so many reasons. One reason is that my deer friend Shannon met Jesus while there. Before the trip she was most certainly on a journey to the end of her rope and God met her in Thailand and swept her off her feet. She has been fully devoted to Jesus ever since. She's now an adoptive mom too! Sadly, another sweet friend of mine, Rachel, who was on the trip and was also pregnant, lost her baby while we were there. It was one of the saddest days of my life. By God's grace, she clung to Him and she was such a bright light to our team and to the orphanage staff and children. Her constant testimony to the goodness of God was a authentic and pure. Both Shannon and Rachel continue to honor God in all they do and I truly look up to them both as they walk closely with God.
Of course, the most memorable event of the trip for me was meeting Deer. What a joyous moment it was. After hearing about her through cards and Mark's stories, I could hardly wait to hug her myself. She was just as cute as I had imagined. We spent the week glued to each other and she was oh so affectionate. That smile is still amazing.
I just had to include the next two pics, because they are sort of hilarious. Here is our family of four on Zoe's first day of preschool. Why did we send her to Japanese preschool? I don't know. She was our first kid and we didn't really know what we were doing. I was wooed by the opportunity for her to become fluent, appreciate the culture, and obviously the Madeline uniform. Below, I am super duper prego, Abby Grace is two and mad, Mark is looking at me like I am crazy, and I'm pretty sire I am lecturing everyone within hearing.
Zoe was such a good sport. She pretty much hated every minute of Japanese preschool. She cried everyday. Let's just say that their approach to preschool is not exactly like our American approach. It was kind of a free-for-all with glue and scissors everyday with only guidance and limitations whenever someone was already injured. Zoe, who loves structure and calm, didn't really like it. She'd come home and tell me everyday "All Japanese kids are naughty." Oops--cultural appreciation backfire. We finally relented and took her out after about 6 months.
Hannah joined us in April 2007. Yes, I am still in my clothes in the picture below. She came really fast.
This photo just makes me tired. Life with three children ages 3 and under. Whew. I don't remember any of it. Seriously. I don't.
Rebekah was turning 10 during this same month. What a pretty girl!
Just before Mark's trip in June 2007 we both began to feel like the Lord was asking us to be more than Deer's sponsors. We aren't sure now who said it first because the Lord truly planted the idea in both of our minds at the same time: we were called to be Deer's mommy and daddy. This family of five was not complete. We were about to be in for the faith journey of our lives.