When Luke and I discussed a theme for this year’s Christmas card, we quickly landed on “Immanuel,” which means “God with us!” What a fitting theme, not only because Christmas is a celebration of God coming to be with us through Jesus, but also because of the very real ways we experienced “God with us” throughout our rather surprising, sometimes tumultuous, but graciously joy-filled year. Undoubtedly, the most unexpected, beautiful, and life-changing event was our family’s addition of the cute new face on our Christmas card—Brooks Avery Miller. One year ago, adopting wasn’t on our radar for 2018, but God loves surprises. And, in January, seemingly out of nowhere, He laid a very specific call to adoption jointly on Luke’s and my heart. The news of this was received with shouts of joy by our other children, followed by sweet, expectant prayers for their future new brother. Thus we began a journey of stepping out in faith, praying fervently, and watching in awe as God opened doors and encouraged us in pursuing our youngest son.
There are threads of brokenness and loss in every adoption story, and ours is no different. But we rejoice at how the Lord is weaving the seemingly good, bad, and ugly into one incredible narrative. We are in awe of God’s perfection in every detail—the way He created this incredible little boy, protected him, connected us with his sweet birth mom, prepared us, and knitted our lives so kindly together. Our gracious Father provided a village of people to pray, support, love, and care for us, and He faithfully answered both the big and the small prayers lifted on behalf of Brooks, our family, and his birth family.
The beauty of Brooks’ adoption story has reminded us again and again of the beauty of our adoption into God’s family through Christ. Brooks was invited to join our family and call our home his home—not because of anything he had done (not good performance or exceptional qualifications, although we think he’s pretty exceptional =-) but purely out of our love for him and our desire to share our lives with him. In the same way, we have been invited through Jesus to join the family of God and partake of all the goodness He has to offer—not because of anything we have done but purely out of His sacrificial love for us and his desire to be in relationship with us. “ This is love—not that we loved God but that He loved us. For God sent His Son to pay for our sins with His own blood” (1 John 4:10).
Our adoption experience has been amazing but certainly requiring of a great deal of time and emotional energy that was difficult to add to an already overflowing plate. Luke has a gift for generally juggling a lot of responsibilities well. But, I know he found himself sinking this year and falling into bad habits perhaps more often than in years past. I loved witnessing him lean heavy on the Lord and marveled at God’s kindness in carrying him through. By the Father’s grace and strength alone, he was able to joyfully serve in his position as a Boise City Fireman, dedicate hours to preparing and teaching Timberline high school students about the God he loves through Launch Pad classes, spend time walking alongside and encouraging friends and family, commit what he could toward caring for our new and growing church body as part of the leadership team at Table Rock, and, of course, pour into me and the kids. His commitments left limited time for the hobbies he loves--like playing bagpipes, training Mazie, fly fishing, and spending time on wood working projects in our garage—but, fortunately, he was still able to sneak some of that in. He certainly has experienced firsthand this year the truth of God’s promise that, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:29-30).
Once we knew we’d be bringing a baby on board, I saw my full plate overflowing and realized there was no way I could keep serving my own buyer and seller clients while also caring for my agents, investing in my marriage, and being available for our children. Thus, I made the difficult but much needed decision to turn my real estate “agent” role over to the exceptionally capable agents God has given TripleCord Real Estate. This change has allowed me to concentrate on being a better broker—managing, mentoring, and training these agents to serve our clients well—and also to focus more on the incredible role the Lord has given me of being a wife and mom. I am grateful God used the adoption to give me the push I needed to make this change. It brings both pain and shame to admit that I had gotten to a point with the pressure of work where I was looking at my children as obstacles to getting my job done instead of caring for them and loving them as the incredible treasures they are. I have experienced great freedom and peace in letting go of some of my “workaholic” tendencies, and can’t thank the Lord enough for opening my eyes to the joys of my children while they are still young. He is showing me His still more excellent way! Although stress and chaos continue to pop up in our home, God is with us, reminding us that He keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him, because they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Hadley will turn 11 in January and is in 5th grade. She amazes us with her creativity, humors us with her wit, and continues to be an incredible help. She loves baking, crafting, running, swimming, acting, playing her flute and ukulele, spending time with friends, and caring for Brooks. Camp Perkins was once again a highlight of her year, where we saw her grow in her identity as a girl who is perfectly created for a beautiful purpose by her loving Savior. Hadley experienced disappointments, including being in a different class and basketball team than some of her friends and also in finding school work more challenging than in years past. This has been a lesson in remembering that God is with her even when things are difficult and don’t seem to be going her way. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Taylor will be 9 in March and is thriving in the 3rd grade. She enjoys running, reading, playing the piano, swimming, designing clothes and other creations, Barbies, one-on-one time, and hugging Brooks. To our delight, she made the decision to be baptized this year—affirming she is a sinner in need of a Savior and that Jesus is the one in whom she trusts! Taylor also took three very brave steps—playing in a piano recital, getting her ears pierced, and attending her first week away at Camp Perkins. She had to combat fear in each event, but we cherished seeing her conquer and come away full of joy and a new-found confidence in the extraordinary girl God made her to be. This is a testimony to the growth we have seen in her battle with anxiety, but we pray for more as we encourage her to “cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).
Hutch turned 7 on the 21st of December and is in the 1st grade. He is silly, sweet, and generous with sharing his hugs and dimpled smiles. His favorite things are playing with his guy buddies, action figures (especially Black Panther), Pokémon, electronic time, wrestling with his dad, and listening/dancing to a myriad of music. He is over the moon at having Brooks as a little brother and loves making him smile. Fear, frustration, and feelings of injustice with siblings and others have been the root of his struggles this year. But, we have loved seeing him grow in his knowledge of his ability to ask God for help through prayer. From big requests, like all the details of our adoption of Brooks, to small requests like helping a scratch on his leg feel better—he is learning God is with him, hears him, cares for him, and is capable of answering his request (1 Peter 5:7).
Ellie will be 5 in March. She enjoys being the oldest kid at Mama Jo’s and loves having the company of Brooks while the other kids are at school. She is silly, sassy, and sweet—full of joy, life, and character. She embraces any opportunity to be with other people, and often cries if we don’t have a play date or social event on the calendar. Although Ellie adores her new little brother, we have certainly seen the outworking of jealousy over no longer being the baby of the family. As parents, we are learning how to better communicate that even though she doesn’t get carried as much as she used to or have as much of our attention, she is still very much loved and cherished. It’s small suffering, but it’s suffering to her. So, we pray she realizes that it is in His kindness that God uses suffering to grow us, and that after a little while “he himself will restore her and make her strong, firm, and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
Brooks is 6 months old and has been about the best baby a family could ask for. He has a smile that lights up the room and an uncanny contentment with the chaos of our household. There is rarely a moment where his siblings aren’t asking to hold, hug, dress, feed, or play with him and rarely a moment he doesn’t adore them doing so. He loves jumping in his bouncer, hates tummy time, and is still unsure about solid foods. We all think he is the cutest thing in the world and can’t wait for each of you to meet him! Our prayer is that this little guy will grow to see the beauty of his story, the love his birth family has for him, the love we have for him, and most of all, will grow to know the love of His Savior—His God who is with him and for him always and who’s love will never let him go (Romans 8:38-39).
Although Brooks is the highlight for all of us and the space where Immanuel (God with us) was most visible, we have certainly experienced his presence in numerous other mountains and valleys this year. We mourned the losses of my uncle Kenny, my dear friends’ mom, Pam, our cousin, Mark, and my dad’s cousin and life-long friend, AJ. Our hearts were broken and poured out for friends and family battling addiction, depression, difficult marriage situations, unmet expectations, bitterness, damaged relationships, and sickness—all of which made us long even harder for heaven where all the pains of this life will be healed, tears washed away, and relationships restored! Some of our mountain top experiences were making sweet memories vacationing with close friends, celebrating Luke’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with his parents and brothers at Camp Perkins, and camping with my parents along with my brother and his family, who came to visit from the East coast. Our biggest adventure was our trip to Georgia to pick up Brooks. Although unsure if we would be bringing him home, we made the decision for our whole family to go meet him and his mom. The memories made on the trip (including the blistering sunburns resulting from our horrible parenting fail of not reapplying sunscreen to our fair skinned children at the beach) were memories that will forever be cherished. With the addition of Brooks, we also made a decision to put an addition on our home. Though our 7 person family, an energetic lab, and a cat make our house feel overly full and chaotic at times, we are thankful to have space for visitors. We hope that whether you live in Boise, are passing through, or are coming for an extended stay, you will give us a call and enjoy a visit, a meal, or a few nights of rest in our home!
Thank you for staying connected with your Christmas cards and updates. We rejoice in what God has done, in His coming to us as a baby on that first Christmas night over 2000 years ago and His promise to remain with us forevermore. We pray you experience His presence in a new and beautiful way in the coming year and that we will have the opportunity to rejoice with you in it!
With much love, through the grace of Immanuel—God with us!
Luke, Katie, Hadley, Taylor, Hutch, Ellie & Brooks