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A Christmas Letter

This year, we did not mail out Christmas letters. I've written one and sent it every year since I started dating Chance, but this year was different. We're hoping to add a member to our family this year, so I decided to save postage and send out our update after N. comes home. (More on the news about when he'll be home in a minute.) For now though, pretend with me that you're checking your mailbox. (I know it's Sunday. Sometimes I forget to pick up the mail on Saturday, and I feel like a goon walking out to my mailbox on a Sunday, but for a moment, pretend you're me...)

You're sorting through the bills and other mail and you notice a stack of Christmas cards. (Really, these are the items of mail that make me actually want to check the mail at this time of year. Christmas cards make January's mail seem so boring.)

You grab the first Christmas card in the stack - it's from Aunt Bertha. She's wintering in Florida now. She jotted a quick note to wish you a Merry Christmas and to invite you and your hooligans to stay in her one bedroom, white carpeted, Florida apartment. Thanks but no thanks, Aunt B...

The next card though, has a return address printed on it from the Newinghams! Nice. You wonder what's new in their lives, so you rip open the flap. You notice a very tasteful card containing absolutely no glitter (not an iota). This makes sense to you because you remember that glitter gives Ginger the heebeegeebees. Her OCD tendencies would never allow her to pick out a card that might actually make a mess in someone ELSE'S home. How wonderfully thoughtful of her. (Right?!) The card has a message about the true meaning of Christmas (you know, Jesus) and a blessing on your family at this time of year.

The card is signed by Chance and Ginger (well, actually Ginger wrote both names because do you think it would be realistic to nail down the Reverend for 15 minutes in order to get his John Hancock on 100+ cards?!)

Inside the card is a letter. It appears to be an update on their family. It reads in the following way:

Friends and Family,

Our prayer this season is that you are taking time in the busyness of Christmas to pause and remember the events of this past year, and God's presence in your lives. (Or some other such thing about Jesus and the Bible. C's not home right now, but he surely would have helped this letter be more theological or something.)

2011 has been a year of emotions - good and bad. Thankfully our God is faithful and has seen us through the hard times and the blessings.

After a tough year of multiple miscarriages and heart break in 2010, we were matched for adoption with a little Bulgarian boy in January. We spent hours in prayer and time reviewing his file, but we eventually determined that the Lord had specifically chosen him for our family.

Since January, we've busily completed paperwork, interviews, background checks, and more paperwork. The Bulgarian government now has knowledge of our income, our pasts, and our dog's birthdate.

Our soon-to-be son, N., turned five on September 4th this year. It will be his last birthday in the orphanage, as we've finally been scheduled for a court date. Our official date is the first week of February, but our lawyers are hoping to have his hearing sooner in January. Either way, he will most likely be home in late February or early March (And ALL God's people shouted "AMEN!")

N. has been in the orphanage since he was ten days old. He is his birthmom's eighth child - none of which she has been able to care for. (If this were our real Christmas letter, I'd have my mother proofread that sentence and help reword it so it didn't end with a preposition.) He has many developmental delays - most severe of which is his speech delay.

In August, we were able to go visit N. This trip actually fulfilled one of the requirements for our adoption. It was a wonderful week of bonding and relationship-building with our son (despite Chance getting food poisoning). Bulgaria had beautiful weather and very friendly citizens. We'd love to return to the country sometime, but when N. comes home in February, our Bulgarian adoption worker will bring him all the way to Chicago. (Once again, and ALL God's people shouted "AMEN!")

Though there have been stressful situations in N.'s adoption journey, none compare to our failed adoption this past April. We were set to adopt a beautiful African American baby boy. We were blessed with the opportunity of ministering to his birthmother for a couple months before he was born. She was a broken 19-year-old, scheduled to have her third child. Despite the unconditional love and acceptance we showed this young woman, her family questioned our motives for the adoption, and convinced her to raise the boy in their family. We continually pray for this young man as he has a hard road ahead of him. Please join us in praying that we will be reunited in heaven when the trials of this world have ended. We give glory to God for His faithfulness despite the sadness of this part of our year.

Chance remains the Associate Minister at Athens Christian Church. He participates in teaching, leading, training and vision-casting. He was able to coordinate and lead two missions trips this year (Africa and Canada). His passion (and gifting) remains in teaching and preaching, so he is always blessed by the opportunity to share knowledge.

This year, he began using his gifts outside of the church's four walls as well. He has been appointed as a board member of our orphan outreach group (In His Hands Orphan Outreach). He has spoken at conferences on God's view of adoption. He's also been asked to teach about the importance of studying the Bible in context (his other passion) at two men's conferences this coming year.

The church's schedule doesn't allow him to continue his graduate work, but we're hoping he can return to Lincoln Christian Seminary (the college where we met!) in the future. He is registered for a public speaking course in Springfield this spring.

Ginger continues to work with families of 0-3 year olds who are developmentally delayed. She encourages the families to change routines and add interaction that can help the children "catch up" before preschool. She has spent time in some interesting homes, but has actually been blessed with a very tame caseload at the present time! (Once again, and ALL God's people shouted "AMEN!")

Ginger also remains busy being hospitable as a minister's wife, volunteering at the church, and keeping up with her hobbies (reading, knitting, blogging, and cooking.) This year, it was determined that Ginger has an intolerance to gluten (wheat, oats, barley, and rye) and dairy (milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream). Much of this year has been spent making from-scratch experiments in the kitchen.

Allen (our four-year-old Shih Tzu) has also developed food allergies. Most recently, we've started him on a new diet consisting of sweet potatoes, pinto beans and sunflower oil. Despite the extra time it takes us in the kitchen, we're hoping it's the magic formula of relief for our puppy.

As mentioned previously, this fall Chance led a missions trip to Africa. He convinced Ginger to return there with him earlier this month. Our hearts were broken for an orphanage in Waterloo, Sierra Leone, so now we are attempting to raise funds for those children who have been abandoned.

What a blessing it is to pause and reflect over the past year. God's hand is evident throughout. We're praying that your family will also realize His presence in your lives, during the Christmas season, and throughout the year.

Merry Christmas, and blessings to your family throughout the year, Chance, Ginger, (soon to be) N., and Allen Newingham

Well, I hope you enjoyed our glitter-free Christmas card this year. Thanks for pretending with me and not looking down on me for saving money on postage! Soon N. will be home and we'll be bursting to share our family's news.

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers and your families. You've given me a creative outlet and a reason to write. Your comments and love are such a blessing to our family!

Thank you!

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