not I, but grace

Oh, friends. I just have so much, so much, so much to be thankful for! Summer 2016 is skipping marvelously along, accented by thunderstorms and mellowed by humidity. And there is just so much joy.

Joy. Obedience. Grace and more grace.

“…the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son… Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

We have received grace. And this grace brings about the obedience of faith. For the sake of His name – all for the glory of God! – among the nations. And also? Me, and you; us who have been called to belong to the priest on the throne, Jesus Christ.

Gah, it’s just too wonderful.

Alrighty, so moving on… because it’s been over two weeks and so much has happened. So much grace in kindness. So much afflicting, but no crushing. Lots of perplexing, but not a pinch of despair. A bit of being struck down, but never destroyed. Life is at work, and the surpassing power belongs to God, therefore we have not lost heart.

(YES I KNOW I’m stuck in 2 Corinthians today, bear with me)

This is going to be a picture-heavy post, I’ve tried hard to narrow the pictures down, but it’s been a full two weeks.

I got some baby-time with my wee first-cousin-once-removed while his mama and papa (my cousin) went on a much needed date. I absolutely adore giving couples a chance to reconnect, and getting to care for little ones at the same time is basically the best. He was missing his mommy at first, but that was remedied by walks in the drizzling rain, graham crackers and pretend cups of tea. When his parents came back we all enjoyed more tea, and, as you can see… this family LOVES their tea.

_MG_1213

_MG_1305

Thursday, around noon, Lily went into the OR for a cardiac catheterization and a liver biopsy. She was born with huge holes and misplaced tubes in her heart (medically speaking: TAPVR, AVSD/CECD, pulmonary stenosis, and some other things that allowed her to miraculously oxygenate her little body for over four years before her first open-heart surgery) and her most recent open-heart surgery was what is called “The Fontan” procedure. It’s amazing. She’s vibrant and strong and a rockstar and a little goose… but there’s still a lot going on that’s not ideal and so, rather suddenly it seemed to our detailed-planning-yet-spontaneous-living family, her surgeon decided he wanted a better look at the flows and pressures in her special heart.

And so poor Lily spent the night in the hospital, had some “small surgery” and was intubated and given general anesthesia which makes you feel so groggy and gross afterwards. Also, having doctors stick things through your veins and arteries is never fun. But she’s a champ, so brave, and I’m so proud.

I drove up to DC to see her as soon as I got off work on Thursday and we hung out at the hospital all evening. Lily and I are hospital buddies, you remember.

IMG_20160811_215115076_HDR IMG_20160811_212006769 IMG_20160811_221425380

She started out feeling really lousy, but by the time Daddy and I left she was feeling not-quite-as-lousy. She was released the next morning and literally perked up by the hour. And then it was time for me to drive the girlies to Richmond for a long weekend of sister time.

The adventure of driving down was a Grace Story in itself and that was fun and exciting (because it’s simply thrilling to watch God work things out brilliantly). It took nearly 5 hours. I drove, Naomi was my DJ/conversation buddy, Lily slept (glory!) and Elisabeth curled up in the back and read books.

When my mom asked me about being in charge of the girls for the weekend, I was thrilled. It would give me a chance to reconnect with them, and make lots of memories. She was going to be taking my dad to the airport and they both had a few boring appointments before then, so it worked out perfectly for everyone’s schedules.

We got home in time for dinner on Friday, so it wasn’t until Saturday when the fun really began.

Lucky Charms for breakfast? “mommy never buys this for us!?!” Ah yes, but your wanna-be-super-fun big sister does. Just make sure to drink a big glass of milk, k? What followed was a conversation between all of the ladies on how awful it would be to eat sugary cereal every day, so I don’t think that I did too much harm.

_MG_1327

Air mattresses lined the floor and we rented a projector so that we could finally watch the Olympics. Our apartment didn’t have wifi for the first three weeks of August, which was actually quite delightful, and made the blessing of finally having it even more special.

_MG_1329

Elisabeth and Olivia worked on some peach pies to use up the big box of very ripe peaches that I had. They are both so creative and made the pies mostly on their own!

_MG_1333

_MG_1363

Lily did art projects in the “on your mark” position. Watching some of the running events reminded us all of Eric Liddle, and so of course we watched “Chariots of Fire” later that afternoon after a necessary trip to the craft store to buy yarn for new projects.

_MG_1341

The projecter was put to really good use that day, when we used it to skype into a dear friend’s wedding after dinner. How cool is technology? Crazy!

_MG_1369

And the next morning, because technology is really such a blessing, we joined family skype. This time Jeremy was in Norfolk, Ben was on a bus driving through Taiwan, the girls were with me and Daddy was waiting for his flight at the airport. Tomorrow who knows which countries and cities will represent!?

_MG_1372

After a full day of people and more people and then just a few more people, I declared a “quiet hour” and we lit a candle, turned on music and the four of us sisters curled up with books, journals, knitting or construction paper. Sweet, sweet time.

_MG_1388

Monday was the best. The G girls came over for breakfast, and after pancakes with sprinkles, we all made yarn dolls.

_MG_1401

_MG_1407

_MG_1415

The doll-making was followed by doll clothes making, and then dollhouse making. There was practically a village by lunchtime! After lunch we blew up balloons and had beach volleyball tournaments, and then keep-the-balloon-in-the-air competitions, in the spirit of the Olympics, of course.

I had so much fun with all six of my girlies that morning, and was a little bit sad to say goodbye to them when their mothers picked them up later that day. God has blessed me with people to love, and to be loved by. He is so good.

_MG_1479

_MG_1492

So that was Monday and it was marvelous. Yesterday Mommy, Chris and I drove down for Jeremy’s White Coat Ceremony at Eastern Virginia Medical School. It was so special to be there, to see all of the excited, first year medical students walk up on stage to receive their coats, and then read the Hippocratic Oath. Jeremy is going to be an excellent physician, and but he’s going to be a faithful medical student first, and it’s such a treat to watch him follow the Lord joyfully and obediently.

20160819_164151-120160819_17064720160819_170727

I have a gazillion more thoughts, but I’ll leave you with this for now.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (I Corinthians 15:10)

Save

Save

satisfied

Well, hello there, August 5th. You sure did sneak up upon me.

Grace upon grace, really and truly.

Move-out day was July 31st and move-in day was August 1st for my roommates and I, and we took turns playing the persistent widow (from Luke 18) to our landlords and were able to move out and in on the same day. I also managed to throw a little “fare-thee-well” party for Jeremy on move-out-move-in-day, which we did NOT have at our apartment, but at the home of a very gracious friend. You know you have good friends when they let you host a party for an unknown number of people, cook the food in their kitchen with most of their pots, and then clog their garbage disposal with potato peels and somehow go home with two of their pots and five of their spoons and you’re still friends. Just grace.

There was food and fellowship, then many wonderful prayers for Jeremy, finished off by singing. “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you peace forever.”

13882552_10208654523194941_5692645819474161348_n

13900262_10208653629372596_829647407792915637_n

Then off to the cooler mountain air near Charlottesville to staycation with the cousins.

Babies and sunshine…

_MG_1001

Monopoly and chess…

_MG_1005

group pictures with all of the cousins (just missing Ben!)

_MG_1067

Mommy and I made dinner for the crowd one night. Curry and dahl, of course. We’re not really creative when cooking for a crowd. (No, really, we aren’t. This is exactly what I made the day before for Jeremy’s shindig, minus the dahl, and it was all our brains and taste buds could think up.)

_MG_1103

Meals on the deck with the cousins in the sunshine…

_MG_1115

more meals on the porch with the babies in the cool evening air…

_MG_1117

new goofy friends, more meals on the deck, lots of noise and giggles and make-believe…

_MG_1141

spontaneous cookie-making adventures at 9pm for the nine year-olds…

_MG_1169

sugar at 9pm for nine year-olds makes everyone a bit crazy,  guess…

_MG_1184

_MG_1201

Oh, and then the best part of the weekend was this, Ben’s newest music video. He didn’t write the lyrics, just the music… but he kind of steals the show in this one, and I could watch this again and again (and maybe I have) and laugh each time (and maybe I did).

The adventures continue and there are more and more opportunities to trust and obey, popping up every day for our family, it seems. It’s all good. It’s all grace.

“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; and the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before…

…You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”

A Few Things

The last week of July has been full of highlights. Each morning Father has revealed His steadfast love, and shown  the way to go. He has provided deep, satisfying drinks from the well of salvation – oh, joy! – and the nourishment of Living Water cannot help but produce the fruit of Joy, and of Peace. Here are some of the moments that I don’t ever want to forget…

  1. drove through the most incredible electric storm last night – 30 minutes of sheet lightning and bolts of lightening and 3ft floods and exact change toll booths and limited visibility AND Jeremy and Avery and Joe in the car — all of us belting out praises to the One who lights up the world with His power; all of us overwhelmed by His glory, fellowshipping in that, singing and trusting that despite the probable danger of driving in such conditions, “In death or in life, He will be glorified.”
  2. …and all of that was after the most delightful dinner party with sweet saints and brothers and sisters and Persian food and old-time TV show theme songs and then some more a’capella hymns and lots of laughter.
  3. Last clinical and final exam of the semester are over and done with, just one more test to go on Thursday and then I think that I am going to enjoy a little break. How about that.
  4. Jeremy is moving in four days and I am mostly okay, but sometimes I start to feel emotional about it all. Thank you, Father, for the good, good gift of Jeremy. It was so generous of you to keep him so close to me for the last year. And thanks for not leading him too far away from me. Goodness, I’m so insanely proud of my brothers. *holds in a proud-big-sister-rant about little bros*
  5. Surprised the family again Saturday night when Jeremy and I drove two mini vans up to NOVA so that they could have one. Highlights of this month have been the look on my dad’s face each time I pop in unexpectedly. *tears up a wee bit* We had dinner with old family friends and then drove home after dusk because the heat in Virginia + our AC-less car = a not-very-pleasant drive.
  6. WE HAVE A NEW BABY! Meet Michael. He could really use a few (ok, ten) monthly sponsors, I don’t think that he has a single one, yet! Would you be interested in joining his team? Thank you, thank you, thank you for considering.
  7. Other New Day North News: Two adoptions within the last month from our project (click here, notice Leon and Kristiana) and then at least another three from the orphanage at the same time. Sweet little boys who have wanted and needed families for so very long. Each of them have been orphans since infancy and now? Now it’s time to see what the love of a family will do in their lives (hint: amazing things).
  8. aaaand, because of the adoptions, I’ve started gathering baby pictures to send to these newly-home families and sorting through old pictures of itty bitty babies and remembering the prayers I prayed as I took them, “O Lord, let these one day find their way into the hands of the families you chose for the earthly adoption of these kiddos…” Watching specific prayers answered generously is overwhelming.

_MG_8887

IMG_8771

“…Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

“Then he lead me back to the bank of the river… And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes …it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea… And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every months, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

“Then the angel showed me the river of water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him”

(John 7, Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 12, Revelation 22)

Come, and drink this living water.

Save

Grace upon Grace

“…worship must rest on a true perception of God.” -John Piper

There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. (Jeremiah 10:6-7)

“…In the person of Christ do meet together infinite glory and lowest humility. Infinite glory, and the virtue of humility, meet in no other person but Christ. They meet in no created person; for no created person has infinite glory, and they meet in no other divine person but Christ.

…In the person of Christ do meet together infinite majesty and transcendent meekness. These again are two qualifications that meet together in no other person but Christ.

…There meet in the person of Christ the deepest reverence towards God and equality with God.

…There are conjoined in the person of Christ infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil.

He was perfectly innocent, and deserved no suffering. He deserved nothing from God by any guilt of his own, and he deserved no ill from men. Yea, he was not only harmless and undeserving of suffering, but he was infinitely worthy; worthy of the infinite love of the Father, worthy of infinite and eternal happiness, and infinitely worthy of all possible esteem, love, and service from all men.

And yet he was perfectly patient under the greatest sufferings that ever were endured in this world.

…In Christ do meet together self-sufficiency, and an entire trust and reliance on God, which is another conjunction peculiar to the person of Christ.” -Jonathan Edwards

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

_MG_0979

I’ve been checking days off of my calendar this {summer} semester, and there are only ten days until the final final exam. Today was the last official day in class until September, the next two weeks will be for clinicals and studying and examinations… and slipping away to cross-stitch onto fabric the promises my heart needs stitched onto its flesh.

full

flown

Time and I have a way of not understanding one another and I’m never sure if I’m shocked at how much time has already passed, or how little. But I’m shocked, and in trying to look back at the past days and weeks and months I see that the Lord has, once again, taught me precious lessons of His kindness.

His kindness as a refiner, as a shepherd, as a father and as a king.

I read through Isaiah and Jeremiah and I am completely overwhelmed with how compassionate, merciful, and forgiving He is. The God of the universe? His standards are high and his reign is sure and disobedience to him is not without cost because He is righteous and just (because He is good!) but His love and delight in the children He created is inexplicable in the most beautiful sense.

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:1-3

_MG_0987

And so this season? With family in country, I am trying to keep up with where they are, and praying about how I can help this flurry of people and traveling mingle with some encouragement and refreshment and rest. There’s a brother about to move away and start his new exciting adventure… and another one across the world living his own character-building adventures. And then me? Moving and changing and making small decisions and bigger prayers about the future. Answering all of the “what’s next” questions with honest unknowingness, while begging that my heart-answer is always, “…and may the lord do what seems good to him.”

Because He has done what seemed good to Him, and that took Him to the cross. For me. Grace upon Grace.

“Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 12:4-6

I see it again — I keep seeing this theme in the Word — obedience. We can praise, sing, worship and call upon His name… but then we obey. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously… and now let this be made known in all of the earth.

“Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:3-4

My soul will sing, He has done great things!

dinner guests and air mattresses

Phew, what a week! After sending the family out Sunday night for their next little family adventure in North Carolina (to see grandparents) I had to shift from family-mode back to school/work-mode. But only for a few days! After class and a couple of final presentations and paper submissions on Thursday, it was time for family-mode again.

This time, they were stopping through overnight between NC and flying out Friday morning for a week of camp/conferences/other stuff. It ended up being easiest and simplest to have everyone spend the night at my apartment, so the hunt for air mattresses began a week ago and by the time Daddy and Mommy and the girls walked through my front door we had three huge mattresses and I wondered if maybe we should invite some more people to join the massive sleepover. My roommates quickly vetoed that idea. God does provide for our needs extravagantly, though, doesn’t He?

Muffins to send with the travelers for their early morning flight…

_MG_0950

The table set in the corner with rotisserie chicken and discounted star wars napkins (“they were a great deal!” -Jeremy). We added five chairs later.

_MG_0952

Pasta salad to feed a posse. I’m so very close to using up all of the pasta that I inherited from dear friends who moved a year ago. Thank goodness there’s no expiration date!

_MG_0954

This picture makes me so happy.

_MG_0958

Sleepover time. It all went so very well, and we tried really hard to get to bed early, as the next morning was very early for many of us.

_MG_0971

I had to say goodbye to the girlies before 6am the next morning, on my way out the door, but when I got home the mattresses were deflated and the sheets were folded and Naomi texted me that they had arrived safely.

_MG_0974

This summer is full of adventures, and tastes of God’s grace in kindness. Each morning the mercies are new, and His faithfulness is great. The travels will continue, along with the studies and transitions and all of these wondrous opportunities — great and small — to experience His awe-inspiring majesty. There is no Rock but my God!

I love my God, but with no love of mine,
For I have none to give;
I love Thee, Lord, but all the love is Thine,
For by Thy life I live:
I am as nothing, and rejoice to be
Emptied, and lost, and swallow’d up in Thee.

{weekend} pictures of parties and people

What a weekend.

Saturday was family day. Nana and Papa treated all of the aunts and uncles and cousins to Pirates of Penzance that afternoon, and we had family dinner afterwards. It was so lovely to have everybody (except for Jeremy and Ben) together for the first time in a long time.

Nana and her three grown up kids…

_MG_0682

Little ones on the floor…

_MG_0697

The younger half of the grandkids, all together. This photo is a recreation of one that was taken 2 years ago. Everyone is about a foot taller.

_MG_0730

…and the great-grandkid and one of his many uncles _MG_0753

Leaving a legacy… so much faithfulness in his picture.

_MG_0768

For some hilarious reason, it was black-and-white stripes day. Nana, Mommy, Elisabeth, Naomi and I all wore b&w stripes to the show. We made ourselves giggle.

_MG_0814

Aaaaand, we celebrated Chris’ 23rd birthday because that’s today and you can’t gather an entire family together and not celebrate something, right?

_MG_0831

I took Elisabeth back to Richmond with me Saturday night, and the rest of the family joined us Sunday morning at church. Going to church with your family for the first time in years is super special. After the service we all came back to my apartment and met roommates, cleaned up, relaxed a little bit (for some people) and I prepared for MAC (Meal After Church). The menu was spaghetti and bread, salad and banana pudding for desert. The sauce was put in the crockpot early that morning, and Elisabeth and I made the pudding before Family Skype that morning (it was a small turn-out, just Elisabeth, Jeremy, Ben and I representing two countries).

Nana sent me with two bags of leftover rolls from dinner the day before, so I was excited that I wouldn’t have to make quite as much bread. You see, every-time I make homemade bread for MAC, it gets devoured, and Jeremy told me to plan for a huge crowd, so I thought that I would have to make at least 6 loaves. Well. So I found my recipe and only tripled it, thinking that 3 loaves would be enough, with the rolls. But I didn’t pay attention to how much bread the recipe made and ended up kneading a massive amount of dough (which would probably explain my sore arms this morning). And then it rose… and I ended up with 7 loaves. As of this morning there are three slices left so I guess that wasn’t a problem. Guys and bread. Goodness gracious.

Alrighty– back to Sunday. Avery, Jeremy’s roommate, met the rest of our family for the first time and it was quite an emotional moment.

_MG_0838

Lily and the G girls together, finally. This is a meeting I’ve been eagerly anticipating for months and months.

_MG_0839

Hungry men

_MG_0850

Old friends and new; such a treat to introduce them all to our family. All 33 of them. ‘Twas such fun.

_MG_0853

_MG_0869

_MG_0884

After most of the guests had left, the rest of us settled down for slurpees (with all of those people and no AC, it got hot inside) and strong cups of tea (never too hot for a cup of tea) and card games and music.

_MG_0916

And then? Before the Five Traveling Samuels left upon the next leg of their journey, a picture of all of these cousins. What followed was porch-sitting for us big cousins, and then a dash to Chipotle because I didn’t feel like cooking anymore.

_MG_0929

We are all so greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect but forgiven, children of God.

“Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.”

Psalm 66:5

Save

“can you wait to see me… or not?”

I got a call from the five traveling members of the Samuels family this past Sunday night. They had arrived in the USA safe and sound with all of their luggage (an impressive 5 backpacks and 5 carry-ons, one of which is full of duffle bags #packinglight) and were on their way to the first of what will be many temporary homes during this time in the States.

Lily asked, “Hannah, can you wait to see me… or not?” Of course I answered, “not” and told them that I’d see them on Saturday, and then hung up and giggled gleefully to myself because I was plotting something. Initially, due to my schedule this week, I was not planning to drive to Charlotteville (the 2nd of many temporary homes) until Saturday. But this past Saturday, I realized that if I got ahead on my studying and homework, and felt good about my exam this Thursday, I would have a few free hours Tuesday night to drive up and completely surprise the whole family as they sat down to dinner. Just writing about this makes me so excited. So I literally buried myself (actually, not literally) in the books from Saturday noon onward, and Tuesday afternoon, after working a few hours and then studying for many many more hours, I hopped into our sauna-mobile (the van has no AC, so we get a free sauna for the price of gasoline. whoohoo) and sped off to Cville. Eeek!

I arrived at Nana’s house about 10 minutes before they did, and decided that I do not like surprises, because I was nervous! Lily cried out, “My sister!” from the car and we gave sweaty hugs (my sweat) and it was lovely to see them again and chat and have dinner and run around in the grass taking pictures and getting bit by chiggers.

_MG_0594

_MG_0597

_MG_0600

_MG_0620

_MG_0623

_MG_0649

The evening went by too quickly. I had to drive back to Richmond that night because I’m working today. I’ll head back on Saturday, and I still can’t wait to see them.