Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's Been 365 Days

365 days....that's how long it's been since we became a family.  Some days it feels like 365 years, and others feel like it has been about 365 seconds.  It's hard to believe that this time last year we woke up in Kinshasa, Congo and drove 2 hours to meet our 3 year old baby girl for the very first time.  I don't think we'll ever forget pulling up to the tall walls and hearing the voices of 25 kids singing in Lingala behind the security fence.  I remember them opening the gate and I quickly looked to see if Joelle would be standing there waiting....nope not there.  I remember wondering if she'd love me or be scared of me (I think she had a good mixture of both).  We walked around one corner, two, and then when we crossed the threshold of that third corner, THERE SHE WAS.  She was putting on shoes (and she's been obsessed with shoes since) and slowly making her way to Mama.  She hugged Mama tight around the neck....turned to me....and shook my hand (seriously?!)  And that was it....that was 365 days ago today.  February 7, 2013 is a day we'll never forget.

Some of you have the delivery room moment.  We missed out on that day.  But we have a moment we'll never forget....our first moment as a family happened 365 days ago.  Two broken people picked up a child that was broken, and together we all three became one un-broken family.

A lot has changed since that day.  Joelle has grown about 3 feet.  Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but she's grown so much!  She is fluent in English and is leading her entire Pre-K class in Math and Reading.  In just 365 days Amy and I have mastered the art of being the perfect parents (possibly another exaggeration).  Joelle is a citizen of the United States, and is getting ready to enroll in Kindergarten in just a few months.  She's riding a big girl bike, swimming, dancing, dominating on the soccer field, and learning more and more about Jesus from her Bible.  It's safe to say that although the last 365 days haven't been perfect, they have easily been the most blessed 365 days these three people have ever experienced.....and it's all by the grace of God.

We pray, every day, that Joelle would grow up to follow Jesus.  We pray that, because we've seen the love of God so many times over the last year and we want our daughter to experience that same goodness in Him.  We pray that our story would remind you of God's goodness, even when things aren't perfect in our own eyes.  And most of all, we're grateful to serve a God that unites broken people into one family....and it's not just the Lemons''s a family that goes much deeper....the family of our Father!

Thanks for following our journey over the past year.  It's been a wild ride.  I'd share more about the future of the Lemons' clan, but I'm pretty sure Amy has something ridiculous set up for that.  You'll have to excuse us if we're not around much today to chat....we're celebrating the 1 year birth of our family!

Not that we're winning an Oscar or anything, but we owe a HUGE thanks to quite a few people.  They know who they are....but two ladies at our agency fight so hard for our children in the Congo.  The stay up late so many nights, and work so hard to comfort families while we wait.  We are eternally grateful to these ladies and their hearts for our kiddos!  They are a blessing from God!  And we're so grateful for the country of DR Congo.  It's an amazing country with amazing people!  We can't wait to go back to visit.  Everyone was so great and helpful.  We don't really feel like we took a part of the Congo when Joelle came home with us....we really feel like they took a part of us.  We are forever grateful to the agencies there that help children find a home here in the U.S.  Hopefully, one day in eternity we'll be able to meet up with Joelle's bio family to tell them thank you again.  The short time we had with them wasn't much....but her dad's face is imprinted on my mind and heart every single day....I'll never forget the sacrifice he made for my beautiful daughter.  I'll never know the pain of his decision to allow Joelle to be adopted....but I hope he'll one day hear of the great things she's be able to do because of his decision.

365 days.....and here's to 365 more years!

Here's a little video I made {I asked Jared to use his speaking skills to write the post- the post that made me cry, go figure.  I should have asked him to make the video too because he's also better at media stuff, but oh well!  I had to contribute somehow ;)}.  It's eleven minutes long, but Joelle has given us so many precious and hysterical moments... I couldn't leave anything out!  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Getting Ready for Jo's Gotcha Day!

Joelle's Gotcha Day is quickly approaching!  I cannot, for the life of me, believe that it's been one year since we met Joelle.  I've said it 100 times before, and I'll probably say it 1,000 times more... it feels just like yesterday!

As seriously awful as this picture is, it's our last picture before meeting Joelle.
 Then that precious moment came... I will NEVER forget seeing Joelle for the first time.  She gave me a hug and shook Jared's hand.  It was hilarious and perfect.  

 Our first few days were definitely not all rainbows and unicorns.  Joelle was scared and in a state of shock, we were new parents.  BUT, God fit us together perfectly.  He blessed us with almost immediate bonding and gave us wisdom when dealing with our first adoption.  It didn't take long for Joelle to realize we were a family and that we were going to protect, love, and take care of her.  And, God gave us the ability to do all three!

I definitely never expected she would be such a hoot and crazy as can be, but at the same time be so caring and loving.  She definitely had our hearts LONG before we ever met her, but seeing those big brown eyes and toothless smile in person sure did seal the deal!

We intend to celebrate Joelle's Gotcha Day every year as a family... dinner, dessert, a few small gifts, and a meaningful present.  This year I made her a photo book because she LOVES looking through all of our old ones.  I can't wait for her to open it on Friday!  You should be able to click below to check out her Gotcha Day Book :)