Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hosting Changes Lives

Meet Noah
This little guy is a six year old orphan from China - no family and a list of medical needs.  
But let me tell you about him - 
His smile will melt you in an instant, his giggle is even better - its a combination of happiness and "mischief boy" all mixed into one sound; he is smart, obedient, curious, and a bottomless pit - this boy LOVES to eat! 
 Noah does not know the love of a family.  Each night I tuck him into bed and we practice saying, "I love you!" - his sweet almond shaped eyes disappear into his face as his smile takes over.  It is so sweet yet his heart does not understand the depth of those words.  
 Abandoned at the age of 5 months, Noah has lived the past 5 1/2 years as an orphan.  His adoption file depicts a very ill child, one that would require much needed medical attention and lifelong possibilities of unknowns.  And he is SIX years old.  And a boy.  These three facts combined equal little hope.
 Enter Orphan Hosting
Many question the program due to the fact that you bring an orphan into your home, spoil them with love and toys, endless amounts of food, give them new clothes to wear each day, take them to fun places and then they have to go back.  And, yes, they do have to go back.  
 But let me tell you that without this program, our little Noah (as well as the 29 other children who are currently being hosted through this program across the US) would sit on a list for YEARS and grow older and, eventually, age out of the adoption program to land himself right on the streets of China to fend for himself.  The orphan hosting program is his chance - his chance to show off who he really is, his chance to show the world who he really is despite what the medical records indicate.    
And our Noah is NOT what his file suggests.
He is SO much MORE.
Full of life.
Full of JOY.
And, because of the orphan hosting program, FULL OF HOPE!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Happy Birthday Maddox!

"Mom, my face is still the same but my number is bigger!"
 Yes, sweet girl, your face is still the same but you are a whole year older!
 Maddox, we went around the table and told our favorite Maddox stories at dinner....the number one thing we love about our girl is that you always have something funny to say!  And the best part?  Most of the time you don't even know you are as funny as you are! 
 You planned your special day.  Four special guests.  LOTS of make-up.  A tea party.  Dolls.  Dress-up.  More make-up.  Nail painting.  Cupcakes to decorate.  Strawberries - you said we had to have something healthy:)  And punch.  
 You pretended to be shy but we know you are full of life and spunk!
 You told me all day not to worry because it would be a whole year before you were 7....
 Six years old looks good on you baby girl.  We have loved watching you grow this year.  You have gone between loving being the big sister to wanting to be the baby again....what a big change you have adjusted to this last year with bringing Maryn home but you have handled it in stride.  
 And watching you succeed in swimming - we were so excited for you as you made your way across the pool each meet.  
 You have developed friendships this year that we hope will last a lifetime.  Your sweet friends are the cream of the crop and we look forward to watching you grow together.  
 So sweet and silly all blended into perfection.
 We have listened to your prayers and we love that your heart is for Jesus.  We call you our little evangelist because when someone is in need of prayer, you are the one to call.  Your words speak love and kindness tied up with a little sass and are our well-rounded baby girl!
 On your 6th birthday you requested to have your ears pierced.  We agreed and up you went into the chair with your brave face on.  Mommy had to snap one last picture sans earrings.
 Though there was a bit of fear in your eyes, you were brave and not one tear was shed.
 Instead, you were all smiles and excitement flowed through your body.  You told everyone we encountered about your new look!
 We surrounded you with love and gifts on this very special day but in reality, you are our gift.  
We are so thankful for your life and we love celebrating you!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Some of our Favorite Peeps!

We got lucky this summer! Some of our favorite people, the Mohrs, came for a visit!  
 We were so excited to show them our little home!  And we even took on some sites that we have never been to - the drive-in being one of them!
 The Big Mo was a hit!  With a family the size of ours, the Big Mo is the way to go!  Two movies and half the price of going to a theatre!  Plus, you can take your own food and there isn't any of the undercover operations sneaking candy in:)
 Chloe and MK had lots of laughs together!  These two amaze me.....they have a very special bond that I pray will last a lifetime!
 Within minutes of the Mohrs arrival, these two took off to play and they played and played and played!  
I love knowing they have each other!
 Finley was excited to have visitors too!  Lots of treats for him and lots of love!  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Seabrook 2015

Happy July 4th, 2015
The children wasted little time getting their suits on and heading to the beach to enjoy the surf and sand!
And it is medicine for my soul to sit back and watch my five children as happy as clams playing together!
There were evenings spent on the beach fishing - lots of fish caught as well as a baby shark!  The shark story is a funny one.  Pryce caught the shark and Ryan had gone back to the house for a moment.  We didn't know how to take it off of the hook so we asked the neighboring family for their assistance.  The dad and 11ish year old daughter came over and the DAUGHTER took the shark off of the hook!  Our mouths hit the floor as she handled the shark and then asked if Pryce would like to throw it back in.  What boy would have the nerve to say no???!!!
Maddox has always been our child that can sleep anywhere and she loves to sleep on the beach. What a gift!
MK is our monkey in the middle.  She will be the glue between the boys and the girls as they meander through life.  I love that she can hang with them and then dote on her sisters all in a good day's time.
And the to my ears.
Sweet girl was all dressed up and she was running all over the beach a mile a minute!  Admittedly so, I could not keep up!
MK was much more cooperative :)
Maddox, not so much!  She was on her own time, in her own world!  
This pretty much sums up the evening of photography on the beach!
Sassy and sweet....
The boys are often not photographed is a rare event when I am able to convince them that a picture is good for their health!  Or at least it is good for mine!  
Ryan's parents joined us for a long weekend....we enjoyed our time with them, watching fireworks and watching the parade!  
They really are the sweetest! 


Boy, were we glad to be back to our summer swim team grind with "our people!"
"Our people" aka our old neighborhood peeps!
They welcomed us with open arms and we could not have been more happy!
This year, the Drafts family swimmers consisted of every big kiddo in our family....
our boys helped to carry the team and endured intense practices each morning.  Hard work always pays off and our guys spent their season aiming higher each week - we have consistently told our swimmers that success is within yourself first.  With that in mind, the boys decreased their times each week in every event they swam.  So much so that Pryce even won himself a spot on the All Star swim team in freestyle and backstroke.  We were busting with pride!  All Stars consists of the top 20 swimmers with the best times in their age group out of 22 teams in our area.  It is a  true honor to be selected!
Our MK is amazing in the water.
She is determined.
She is fierce.
She is confident.
And she is FAST.  
But she loathes the attention.  
This season she conquered the Individual Medley.  It is tough with a capital T.  Butterfly, Back, Breast, and Free 100 yards.  She was our little All Star too and one best believe this momma was acting all kinds of crazy cheering for this kiddo!
Our wee little swimmer.
Our mighty little fish.
She never once blinked an eye at practice or during the meets.
Staying true to her nature, she was fearless in the water.  
The coaches adored her and deemed her "the entertainer."
And she swam her heart out winning herself the title of the fastest 5 year old backstroker out of 22 teams of kiddos....and she also got to experience her first All Star meet in the pool as well! 
She claims that swimming backstroke is awesome because you just flip on your back and relax!  
Part of the fun of swim team is the relationships you develop with your teammates.  In my humble opinion, swimming seems to be the one sport that everyone walks away happy doing.  Watching the older children cheer for the little ones, and vice versa, makes for a good night!  There isn't a loser.  Though everyone does not receive first place, everyone does typically decrease their times each week.  And then the exercise part is phenomenal.  Swimming is a life skill and one that I love knowing my children will carry with them through life as well as the memories of their summers with their friends doing something they love!
Our swim team crew plus one swim team wannabe.  
It won't be long until Maryn joins the team too!  Her two big sisters have her in the pool daily teaching her to float on her back and do the four different strokes!  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

12 Months of FOREVER for MG!

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever ~ Psalm 23:6
Maryn Gentry,  you were so very scared the day we met, your tears were aplenty.  I begged the nannies to hold you, to calm you and to rest your fears.  Much to my dismay,  they just encouraged me to hold you and they kept asking me if I had candy to give you.  Sadly, I didn't have any candy so your tears and screams continued.  
 Soon, though, you settled in on my chest and your broken heart began to soften.  I held you close, kissed you a gazillion times, and smiled because I knew we were going to be just fine.  
 The "firsts" began immediately.
First time to eat with us, first time to sleep with us, first time to bathe, first time to play, first swim....yet, your first smile was hard to come by.  Those first few days you were quite a serious little cherub.  We laughed that the nannie from your orphanage said you could be a bit feisty.  
 Once home, we began to see your little personality unfold.  You quickly went from never having gone outside to wanting nothing more than to be outside.  And you let us know that there is nothing that you cannot do - in your head, you can do anything your brothers and sisters can do!
 Nannie was anxious to meet you so we sped over to have lunch with her and visit for a bit.  I am so glad you met her and she saw your charmed her just as you do most everyone!
 You came to us a new walker but soon realized that those healthy legs of yours could get you to and fro fast....and then you followed behind your sisters as they climbed and jumped and danced!  The sky is the limit in your book!
 Two years old.
So glad we had a day to celebrate you!
So thankful we had a day to remember the choices your birth family made in order to give you life and hope.
 Carolina Girls, the best in the world!  And sunglasses, necklaces, stickers, big shoes, as well as any other accessory are a must in your wardrobe. 
 Three months home and your smile began to come easily.  We were learning you and you were learning us.  Your cries were less and, at last, we saw the feisty-ness appear - the nannies were right!  But, oh that innocent grin and giggle that follows your sass - it is going to take you far little one!  
 Your feet became steadier and steadier and you began to exercise your voice by telling us, "Ima do it!" and "Yet me do it!"
 Watching the world through your eyes this year has been something I will treasure for all of my days.  Your eyes tell all when you are frightened, when you are happy, when you are sad, when you are thinking, when you are tired, when you are confused and when you are just mesmerized by your surroundings.  Many times I have wondered just what goes on in your mind, do you remember those four walls that held you so tight for almost two years?
Where life begins and LOVE never ends!
 All five kiddos have donned the pumpkin outfit....the cuteness in our patch is amazing!  Halloween was a fun time for were a bit hesitant, understandably, with the masked creatures but you sure did enjoy every bit of chocolate that came your way!  Food is your friend.  You like it sweet.  You love chocolate milk.  You adore a good yogurt or applesauce pouch.  You tolerate broccoli.  You aren't big on meats.  You love spicy food.  And noodles.  And boiled eggs.  And you love a big bowl of good ole southern style grits!
  You adore your family.  You shout out all of our names if we are in sight.  You call us to play with you.  You beckon your siblings to hug and kiss you goodnight.  When we tell you goodnight, you ask if we will be with you in the morning.  If the dog barks, you say, "Daddy's home!" and race to the door to greet him!
 Those lips.
When they smile, they are gorgeous; when they are sad, they are pitiful; when they are helping you think, we know to watch you closely to see what is coming up next!
 I often refer to you as our "surprise"....
We thought four was the magic number....
how silly of us!  
Five is magical!
 Your laughter is our medicine. Laughing with you is sweetness to our souls! 
You get into everything.
And then some.
Make-up, fingernail polish, pencils, Legos, soap, ice are our baby that when all goes quiet in the home, we know that is never a good sign.  
 You are ours.  Our beloved daughter and sister.  We prayed for you and sought you to be our family forever.  We love you to the moon and back over and over and over!
 One year looks so good on you!  And it feels so good to us!  
 Maryn Gentry, happy one year home baby girl!  
 The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing ~ Zephaniah 3:17

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