Sunday, December 31, 2006

Yin and Yang

I have been welcomed, smiled at and complimented numerous times during this incredible journey, yet I have also been stared at, gawked at, and a couple of times even glared. I have eaten delicious delicacies that melted in my mouth, and I have also sampled unrecognizable, undigestible (at least to me) Chinese favorites. I've gone from freezing cold winds to balmy breezes, alternating from shivering on the Great Wall to sweating hot, while carrying a nice, warm sleeping baby in a carrier down the streets of Guangzhou. I have seen rich, luxurious accommodations as well as windowless shacks. We've had lots of happy, giggly baby moments, but we've also had a few sad, tearful wailing moments (mostly at bedtime). We've enjoyed life with a happy, cooperative, flexible child and, well, we'll keep that other side private. Life is all about balance, and I'm thankful for all of my experiences. Without variety, life would be so dull, now wouldn't it?

Life at the White Swan Hotel has been marvelous, and we're really enjoying the sites, scenes, and shopping around town. We're within walking distance of lots of parks, several eating places and tons of little shops. The weather has been fantastic, not too hot, nor too cold. We went on an evening riverboat cruise last night that was awesome. They really light up the city with lots of light displays.

New Year's Eve - A Day Early

It is weird to know that in less than two hours it will be 2007 here in China, but only 10:00 a.m. in 2006 in Bowling Green. This International Date Line thing still boggles my mind.

Anyway, we had a great day in Guangzhou today. Jaycie met up with her friend from Beijing, and was able to travel with her to the bookstore and some other places today while we took Hannah to her medical appointment. That wasn't much fun, but afterward we were able to do some shopping and walk around Shaiman Island, which is the area of Guangzhou where our hotel is. We found some neat things, but Hannah made sure we got her something. We were looking around in a store full of baby clothes, and I was carrying her, and all of a sudden I felt warm and wet all at the same time. I knew what that meant. She had wet straight through her diaper. Needless to say we bought a new outfit on the spot (for her, not for me - I had to deal with it).

We came back to the hotel and let Hannah nap while Ashley and I ate Noodles in a cup. This is not a bad lunch, and is very cheap. We don't have microwaves, but we do have these machines that heat water to a boil very quickly, so these are a snap. I also found a coffee drink at the 7/11 store across the street (no, I'm not kidding - a real 7/11). It wasn't bad. I found a couple more coffee places, but I'm not too anxious to try them. I hear there is a Starbucks in Guangzhou, and a group of us is determined to find it.

This afternoon we walked around the island some more. We found many stores that were more than willing to show us their wares. The prices vary widely, so we are shopping around. I can tell if they are willing to bargain, because if I ask the price and then start to walk away, they come down a lot. This is a beautiful island, and the whole area is fairly nice. It is a heavy-tourist area, so it has a lot of Western-style things. We actually got Jaycie a grilled cheese sandwich the other day.

Tonight, for a group New Year's Eve celebration we went on a dinner cruise on the Pearl River. The buffet included anchovies fried whole (including the eyes), lamb, beef, bok choy, spicy pickled cucumbers, and boiled shrimp (also including eyes). I tried all of the above except the bok choy - even the anchovies. I wasn't doing too well until the sweet and sour something - steak or chicken - I couldn't tell. That was worth seconds. The cruise was great. Jaycie and Mia had a great time and posed for some silly pictures on the top deck of the boat. Hannah did well too, even letting Daddy hold her. She is very attached to her mom, and that is a very good thing. We would be worried if she wasn't attached at all.

That was our day. Most of our paperwork is done now, and we are just on vacation until our consulate appointment on the 3rd. We have made many new friends from many places, and now we look forward to the next CHI reunion in St. Louis. That being said, we miss home and our family and friends there first, and a close second is the familiarity of our house and our community, our beds and my coffee pot. We can't wait for you to meet Hannah and see her smile, hear her giggle and even hear her sweet cry. Only a few more days.

Let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Our Perfect Baby

Lest you all think we're just here for the touring and scenery (which are quite amazing, I must say), let me reassure you that we are trying to soak it all in and relay it to friends at home so that we can someday provide our daughter (and us later, when we come off our "cloud") a glimpse into the world we've entered, the homeland of our sweet baby's birth. I know we've not shared too many details about Hannah Li, so I'm devoting this entire entry to all things baby.

First and most importantly, Hannah is a very happy baby, with the sweetest tickle spots right around her ribs. She likes to talk. Her favorite phrase is "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba." She can click her tongue and blow rasberries, which have lately gotten more slobbery. She stands on my lap and started giving me hugs after a few days and, not long after, began to share them with Jaycie and Daddy. I give her kisses, which she loves as well, but she's not yet returned any. She chews on her little pointer finger and is a fan of her pacifier, especially at sleepy times. She also rubs her blanket on her face when she's sleepy (Aunt Jen-Jen, her blankie has been awesome!).

At this point she is very attached to mommy, but she's very entertained by Jaycie, who can make her cackle when she (Jaycie) does this little dance to "Side to side, and do the butterfly." She reached out for her daddy to hold her today at the medical examination room for the first time. She likes him to hold her as long as he's moving, but when the pace slows down it's back to mommy. She does not like for us to change her clothes (seems like all the babies in our group are that way), and diaper time can also be a wiggly time, but not always.

She doesn't spit up all the time, but she did the first day and yesterday quite a bit during our trip (I'm sure the Guangzhou airport is still fussing about the puddle we left at the top of one escalator). Maybe travelling doesn't agree with her. The jury's still out on that one. Jaycie was a spitter-upper, too; the sour smell is familiar, but yucky.

She has two teeth on the bottom, so we're mostly introducing her to foods that are easy on the gums. She likes her congee (a soupy rice w/ some kind of broth in it) quite a bit and steamed egg is another favorite. Like Jaycie and us, she likes watermelon, which they serve after most meals and always at breakfast. The veggie puffs we brought are a favorite (they basically melt in her mouth), and she'll pretty much try anything we offer. Daddy has already tried to win her affections by giving her ice cream last night (naughty Daddy!).

Hannah can sit up, but she easily falls to the side, so we're careful to place pillows all around when she's sitting by herself. You may notice the bruise on her cheek, which is from the first day, when we didn't know how unstable she was and she bonked over into the nightstand (we felt terrible). This isn't unusual; many of the babies in our group lack balance that babies their age back home exhibit. They've likely spent lots of time in walkers and not much time exercising on the floor. We're also working on tummy time. Even though the medical report said she could crawl, she cannot. Scooting and rolling over are more her style. We're also working on sitting up from lying down as well as excercising her leg muscles, as she's not even close to walking.

We all love her so much already, and we are learning more about her each day. She is a delightful baby, and so much fun to watch. Life for us will never be the same. Much praise goes to our heavenly Father for allowing all of this to occur, even when we were afraid it might not during the long wait. I know that the time we spent in this process had a purpose - to lead us straight to the baby of our hearts - Feng Fu Er - forever after known as Hannah Li Fowlkes.

Nanchang Beauty

We loved our week long stay in Nanchang and will have many stories to share with Hannah about our stay in the province of her birth. We'd love to share additional photos with you all through Dropshots (the "China Pictures" link under "Favorite Family Links" takes you there), but because of the earthquake in Taiwan, the Internet connection is making it way too slow to download photos.
So in the meanwhile, we'll try to post our favorites here. We made it to the Guangzhou, and we are staying in the White Swan Hotel, which is so very nice. We'll post more later. Love to you all!

Go, Cats!

Hannah Li and Jaycie and their new little friend Eden (from Russell Springs, Kentucky) all wore their lucky blue for their favorite team. Unfortunately, their daddies would have had to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to see UK beat Clemson with the time difference. Let me just say that there were two happy daddies at breakfast this morning, and lots of other families were wishing they'd have brought their favorite teams' outfits for their daughters.

Baby's Passport - Check!

We got Hannah's passport (with a cute but deer- in-the- headlights photo included), but it's in her Chinese name, Feng Fu Er. We've still got a bunch of paperwork to complete to complete her citizenship, but she'll be an American through and through by the time we hit native soil. There have been so many detailed things to remember to do during this process and during this trip, and Lee has done well managing all of our paperwork. Of course, our in-country coordinators have been great, and there's no way we could be doing all of this without them. They lead us patiently every step of the way. It gets tiring sometimes to go from place to place, but each step in this paperwork process advances us one step closer to bringing her home.

One of the Saddest Moments of our Happy Journey

Visiting this small village outside of Nanchang was one of the most difficult things we've done on this trip. The sadness of the situation compared with the happiness we'd been feeling overwhelmed me more than I thought it would. Hannah stayed asleep the whole time (not that she'd remember it), and I held her close when my tears began to flow, thankful that we would be able to keep her warmer and safer than these conditions could have afforded. We passed out candy, which seemed like a miniscule offering, but the small tokens were much appreciated by the older folks and children to whom they were distributed. Jaycie did very well. She was very observant and polite, and she passed out candy to several people. I think she understands better now how many in the world live, with so much less than we have.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Village

The city of Nanchang, which is the primary city in the Jiangxi province, is a very metropolitan area. There are cars and buildings everywhere (see my previous posts). On the surface you might think that this is a thriving community and representative of the entire province. Today, however, we traveled only about twenty minutes into a little community that is typical of the village where Hannah and the other babies were found. Because of the economics here, many men travel to the city to find work, leaving the women and the elderly and children in their homes. They grow what cabbage and rice and vegetables they can. The boys are able to be educated, but the girls are not. They live a life of extreme poverty.

It was overwhelming to go to this village today. It was a cold day, but they have no windows or doors. They do have stone houses with tile roofs, but they are all in disrepair. People were sitting outside playing cards or doing laundry. There is trash everywhere. It reminded me a lot of the poorer areas of Honduras that I have been to. It is one thing to think about the difficulties that these people have, but to think that this sweet girl could have been growing up there but instead will be able to go to school and play and have plenty of food and have a future – that is too much to bear.

I am no hero, and there is nothing special about me. I can’t solve all of the problems of the world, but I can make the life of this one special child better. When people ask me why we are adopting a girl from China instead of one in the United States, I will show them a picture of this village. Thank God there are so many people wanting to adopt these precious sweet little girls that we had to wait an extra year. Thank God that He answered our prayers for a larger family this way.

**For some reason we are unable to post pictures here. I have put the pictures on our DropShots page, so you can click "China Pictures" on the right to go there.**

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Adventures of Lee, part 1

I haven't given up my exploration, just in case you wondered. I have become more comfortable as the week has progressed, and as I figure out where more things are. Some examples, and the results, are described below.

Yesterday was the best. There was a group going to a wholesale clothing market, but Hannah was still napping when we were supposed to leave. We had the phrase "Please take us to Wau Shao Gong Market" written in Chinese, so I said, "You guys go on, we'll meet you there." About 30 minutes later we are ready to go, so I tell the bellboy where we are going, and he communicates this to the taxi driver and off we go. About five or ten hair-raising minutes later the taxi driver stops and makes a motion as if to say "Okay, get out." I paid him and we hop out. I knew that this was supposed to be on the fourth floor, but there were just a bunch of shops all along this street. I show the phrase to a person who points around a corner and says something unintelligible. I showed it to another woman on that street, and she made a motion which I could only interpret to mean that "This is it." We just started walking, and finally found a sign and some stairs. We found the market, but no one from our group was still there. We walked around for a while and found a couple of things.

Across from this market was a McDonalds. Yippee! Jaycie certainly deserved a Happy Meal. She has had a really hard time finding food that she likes. We probably should have brought another jar of peanut butter and more cereal bars. So McDonalds was a welcome sight. After lunch we shopped a little more and then walked back to the hotel. They had a huge pedestrian street full of all kinds of shops. We weren't looking for anything in particular, so we just walked.

When we got back to the hotel, I decided to go out again. I was in search of a cup of coffee, and there was a coffee shop down the street, so off I went. You would think that in a country that has invented coffee gum I wouldn't have trouble keeping the caffeine flowing. I walk into the coffee shop, and fortunately they have a menu with English. I didn't see any designation just for a cup of coffee, and it was a little pricey, so I settled on a Caramel Macchiato. It took a while to make, so in the meantime I asked the waitress to teach me to say Caramel Macchiato in Chinese. Let's just say that I'm not going to be ordering anything without pointing anytime soon.

I think that Caramel Macchiato is Chinese for "Drink of Two Surprises." The first surprise was the size. It was in a little cup a tad bigger than the Dixie cups in your bathroom. I think it was about 5 ounces. And I paid $3.00 for this? Oh well. So I take a sip. That was surprise number two. It was cold! Who makes a cold Caramel Macchiato? Now I know the answer. Blech! From now on I'll make the coffee bags in my hotel room.

Beauty, Bleakness, and Baby Stuff

We went to the Teng Wang Pavilion today, which is right around the corner from our hotel. We can actually see it from the end of the hall on our floor. It is a beautiful piece of architecture, with beautiful murals and woodwork throughout. We were supposed to see a 10-minute performance, but they were working on the stage, so we just toured inside. It was way colder outside than we thought, but we ventured out a couple of times to see the scenery. Hannah did well in the carrier we brought for her. Jaycie was wanting to be carried after awhile, too. Daddy obliged, but only for a minute or two. Sweet Daddy.

There are so many amazingly beautiful things we've gotten to see thus far, and some amazingly unusual things, as well. The strange thing about this place is how one can view such clean newness and rich beauty on one street then turn the corner and encounter starkness and poor conditions the next. It's not unusual to see clothes drying right beside meat hanging outside of people's windows, either. Weird to us, normal to them.

On the Hannah end of things, today's been a good one. She turned a corner and started letting her daddy do more with her. She loved that she was holding on to his finger this morning when she was taking her bottle. She'll soon be a daddy's girl, just like Jaycie. Jaycie fed her at lunch and has been a source of constant help to us. We're so glad she's here with us.

Talk to you all later! Supper's around the corner!

Monday, December 25, 2006

My beautiful daughters

Check out these pictures of the beautiful Fowlkes sisters. To see the whole shoot, you know where to go.

A Christmas To Remember

Well, it's done. The paperwork is finished, and Hannah is officially a Fowlkes. We had a round of paperwork this morning and two interviews this afternoon, culminating in a celebration dinner in a restaurant across the street from the Tang Weng Pavilion (we're going there Wednesday). It has been a good day, but all are tired.

One of the things that I have always enjoyed when I have been in other countries is to explore and do things on my own. I like to go out and do things myself. This proves to be frustrating at best in a country where the writing is in symbols and there is no common basis for language. I went to the front desk today to ask about a place within walking distance where we could go for lunch. They offered to write down the name of the restaurant, but when they handed me the card they had written it in Chinese. I assume that this is the only way it is written on the door, but the thought of walking down the street trying to match the symbols on my card with the characters on the various doors was laughable.

We finally ended up at the supermarket. No problem, right. We'll just pop in and get something to eat. Well, good luck finding anything that you can eat without cooking in China. We did find a deli in the back, but I couldn't tell what they were selling. One thing looked like a corndog, but it was fried and looked like fried chicken. Several things looked like burritos, but you can't pay me enough to put that in my mouth. I at least want to see what I am eating. We ended up getting some Cup of Noodles that we cooked using the quick water boiler in our room. Yum.

Okay, here is my hilarious yet totally embarassing story of the week (so far). After signing all of our papers we made a stop to drop some people off at the Wal-mart (four stories high - no way). Ashley wanted to go, so I took Jaycie and Hannah back to the hotel. Hannah was sleeping, and only woke up when we got there. We came in and I intended to feed her first thing. However, I realized that Ashley had the key to our room, and I couldn't get in. Dennis, our trip coordinator, called to the front desk and asked them to deliver a new key. A few minutes later, and we were in our room.

I fixed a bottle and let Jaycie start feeding her while I got ready to change her diaper. Hannah became very unhappy, and even after changing her diaper she wouldn't stop crying. She loves to walk down the hall and be on the move, so we decided to go for a walk. I told Jaycie to make sure to get the key, which she did. By the way, at this point Hannah has no clothes on -only her diaper - because she was throwing an absolute fit. I figured we would calm her down and then deal with pulling something over her head. I did grab a blanket, and off we went. We got halfway down the hall and I decided that we needed to go ahead and put some clothes on her and possibly go downstairs. However, when we got to the room, the key didn't work. We tried and tried, but to no avail. So we walked and walked, hoping that Ashley would get back soon. After a while, we bucked up and went downstairs to ask for a new key - again - naked baby and all. Fortunately we had already signed all the paperwork, so there is nothing they can do but shake their heads.

Anyway, tonight we went to eat dinner with the whole group (15 families, 16 babies) and came back to crash. A little laundry in the sink, washing some bottles, and this blog, and I'm done. Tomorrow is a free day, so Ashley may blog more tomorrow. We can't wait for you all to get to meet Hannah. Thanks for thinking about us even during your own Christmas holiday.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

More Paperwork

While you guys are eating turkey and stuffing and opening presents, we are doing more paperwork. How fitting that the end of this process is the same as the beginning - paperwork. Hannah is doing great, and we are about to venture out to find somewhere to eat lunch. I wanted to post a video below so you can get a feel for her personality and her budding relationship with Jaycie. However, the YouTube site is down. It is on, so you can go there if you want. I'll try again later.

How Could Christmas Be Any Sweeter?

Merry Christmas, everyone! Thanks for all of the encouraging comments. You are in our hearts, and we feel your prayers with us. Hannah is doing so amazingly well. She talks and giggles, and the only tears were at bedtime last night, but that's to be expected. She adores her big sister, who is equally enamored. We are all bonding so very well and are so thankful for this amazing journey.

Santa came last night, thrilling Jaycie when she awoke at half past midnight. Fortunately, she went back to sleep until about 6 a.m., when she could stand it no longer and had to help Hannah open her presents. I'll get her to add details to her journal some time today so you can share in her excitement. Also, don't forget to go to DropShots to look at pics and video we'll be posting daily.

Today's firsts (Hannah's, of course): first poopie diaper (Jaycie was so grossed out), first breakfast (yummy congee, steamed egg, and watermelon), first bath, and first nap. Yesterday we enjoyed the first smile and first giggle soon after meeting her. She's so responsive to us; what a joy! We are having such a Merry Christmas, we hope you are, too. Love to you all!

P.S. If you're posting comments as "Anonymous" don't forget to add your name. Also, we don't know which set of parents are posting, so could Mimi and PawPaw and Nannie and Grandaddy add an extra identifier? Love to you all!

She's Here!!!!!

Well, at about 5:00 p.m. Beijing Time (That's 3:00 a.m. for you guys in the Central Time Zone), Ashley and Jaycie and I became a family of four. Hannah has a full head of hair and a wonderful disposition. She was not crying at all (and hasn't yet). She and Jaycie became quick friends, and her laugh is absolutely precious. She has two teeth and supposedly can crawl and stand up. We haven't gotten to that point yet. Anyway, it is hard to believe that it is real. Jaycie is a great big sister. We'll write more later when Hannah goes to bed. Thanks so much for all of your prayers and love. We feel so wonderful knowing that there are so many people who care so much about us. We can't wait for Hannah to get home to meet everybody.

Update: It's 9:00 here, and at this point Hannah is asleep with Ashley, and Jaycie is sacked out also. It's been a long day for everybody. Hannah cried a little, but she went to sleep and so far, so good. I think I'm going to bed now also. I'm sure the next day or so will be the most difficult for Hannah. It is all still very hard to believe. Make sure to check out our dropshots page for pictures of the meeting. We'll tell you about it later, but let's just let the word "chaotic" tell the story for now.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Today is Hannah Day!

I woke up today at 3:30 a.m., with thousands of thoughts of this amazing day running through my head. There's so much that will change in the next 12 hours! I'll have to relearn how to pack a diaper bag today. I'll get to say, "Hey, Jaycie, hand me a diaper for your sister," for the first time today. We'll wake up tomorrow with a baby in the room. We'll learn to finesse the baby hand-off when we're going places. We'll learn to carry extra weight on our hips and maneuver a stroller. We'll have to figure out baby snaps, buckles, and buttons all over again. Baby cuddles & snuggles will fill our days and nights in the months to come. Love will multiply in ways we can't even begin to fathom. Oh, what a day today will be! We're on our way!

(NOTE #1: This is Ashley posting, BTW. It's too much of a pain to log in and out of our accounts, especially b/c we have question marks all over the screen where Chinese characters should be. NOTE #2 to Dana & other interested pals: To figure out the time in China, change a.m. to p.m. and add 2 hours.)

Forbidden City/Tiannamen Square/Great Wall Pics

Wow - we really are in China!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Link to Pictures

Here is a link to a page at where we are putting all of our pictures. If you want to you can go there and see our pictures organized by day. We are just uploading them all. Maybe later we'll edit for quality. Enjoy.

Yes, Kentucky, there is a Santa Claus (in China)

When we found out that we would be in China during Christmas, I wasn't sure what that would be like. But today when we ventured out to the market down the street they not only had signs like this one, but they were playing Christmas carols in English and selling Christmas trees, ornaments, and cards. I guess that capitalism is alive and well, even here. I have to say that it was rather ironic that we were in China listening to "Ave Maria" -in Latin, no less- on the intercom.

Okay, so here's my funny story for today. We were at breakfast and I wanted an authentic Chinese experience. I found some things like fried noodles, stir-fried vegetables, and beef. But there was a tray of toppings like green onions, noodle strips, and little pieces of meat. The only problem was that I couldn't figure out what it went on. So I did what anybody who only knows two words in Chinese would do. I asked.

Evidently the phrase "What is this for?" doesn't translate well, no matter how succintly it is enunciated or how many hand gestures accompany it. Ditto for the question "How do you eat this?" To make it worse, Ashley and Jaycie are on the other side of the room laughing at and ridiculing me. Finally, after about five minutes of futile gesticulation, I gave up, said "Thank You," and went back to my seat.

The really good news, however, is that they do have coffee, and it is pretty good. I even found coffee gum at the store today. I knew I liked the Chinese people.
Well, I've got to catch the end of this rap video on Chinese MTV. Zaijian!

Pictures From Our Trip Thus Far

The first odd thing is that because Google has servers worldwide, we're looking at lots of question marks on the Blogger page which should be Chinese characters (why, of course, that makes sense - we're in China!!!). The second odd thing is that our bodies are really confused. Fortunately, we were able to sleep until now (4:30 a.m.) w/ only one wake up at 2 a.m. (Lee was hungry). This last time, Jaycie woke up hungry (note her face on the pic I took of us eating Chinese noodles on the plane). The breakfast buffet starts at 6 a.m.; I think we'll be there first thing. They do have a TV, but (sad for Jaycie) no Disney Channel. They get CNN, HBO, Cinemax, and the Discovery channel in English, and TV5Monde in French. The Chinese channels are fun to watch to reinforce the fact that we cannot decipher a word of this language. We just saw a Staples Easy Button commercial in Chinese - one produced here, not in the U.S. Crazy.

I don't have many pics to share, but we'll have lots more before long, I'm sure. Thanks for all of your prayers and blog comments. Take care!

We're here!

Well, we made it. We left my parents' house at 4:00 a.m. Central time, and 24 hours later, we are finally in our hotel in Beijing. The flight was incredibly long, and we don't know if we are hungry or tired or both. Anyway, more later.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Where in the World Will the Fowlkes Family Be?

For all of you visual folks, I have posted maps to better help you figure out where we will be during our trip. We will arrive in Beijing on 12/21, meet our travel group the next day, and be there until the morning of Christmas Eve, staying in the Radisson SAS Hotel. We will fly to Nanchang in Jiangxi Province on 12/24 and meet Hannah that afternoon (hooray!). We will be there through 12/30, staying at Gloria Plaza Hotel. The final leg of our trip will then take us to Guangzhou (the U.S. Consulate is there), and we will be there through 12/5, staying at the White Swan Hotel.

Friday, December 15, 2006

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

...and all through the house, the Fowlkes were ecstatic 'cause Hannah was in the house!

...and all through the motel, the Fowlkes were ecstatic 'cause Hannah was in the hotel! (New edit in response to my husband's astute comment.)

We have big news to share: we just found out that we will meet Hannah a day earlier than we were originally told; we get to meet her on Christmas Eve! Isn't that awesome?!? After we told Jaycie and she squealed (loudly) with delight, she said, "Santa's bringing her, because he delivers all the presents on Christmas Eve." And what a present she will be!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gifts of Love

The most beautiful gift anyone can give is the gift of love. God got the ball rolling by blessing us with life. He kept it going by speaking to us, earnestly desiring and consistently pursuing a relationship with us. He spanned the distance between Heaven and Earth by living among us, as one of us, no less. He drew us to him even closer by dying for us. He continues to keep us close by living inside us, walking beside us, and guiding our steps. I find that incredibly amazing.

Amazing as well is the love that others show to us, and recently I've been blessed in ways I can't even begin to explain. I have been honored in ways I don't deserve by a number of friends, and to those folks I'll be eternally grateful. If you're reading this, you've likely been one of those friends. If so, I thank you. I'm look forward to Hannah being blessed by you, as well, some day soon, very soon.