One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Trust and Gratitude: A Powerful Combination aka The Christmas Letter I Never Wrote

Trust and Gratitude:  A Powerful Combination
aka The Christmas Letter I Never Wrote
By Anna Giattina Lee

Christmas is over, but our gratitude is overflowing. Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am for the people in our lives that have come to our aid and supported our family and our mission this past year (and every year).

So many days, I feel emotionally alone.  It's not that people don't care, but our lives are fairly challenging to understand and we are admittedly a challenge to be around. Ironically, I'm an introvert who needs time alone to energize; yet God blessed me with people 24/7, making that quite a challenge.  The kids don't do well in certain situations – including any time they are separated from us. As I've come to recognize what those triggers are, I make efforts to avoid them -- so I miss out on some of the things I would like to do because I don't feel like I can do it without ruining it for others.

People always ask us how we financially support so many people with my husband's income. The answer has always been that God provides for us through the people who cross our path. Family, clients, friends, even strangers. Somehow, whatever we really need, and sometimes luxuries far more than we can justify, are literally dropped in our laps.

Money, clothes left on our porch, horseback riding lessons, a car, gift cards for the kids, diapers for an unexpected baby, help paying for crisis therapy not covered by insurance, money for a family vacation intended as therapy to help our family re-group after some awful trying times, funeral expenses, food, orthodontic care.  You name it – if we need it someone provides it.

Then there are the crazy unexpected things, like getting a sizable refund last week for adoptions completed in 2013, when we had no idea that we had overpaid.  And that time I was paid for work I did without sending an invoice because I volunteer part of my time and although I had not billed them in months, they knew our family could use the money.

My husband is an accountant and I am a former attorney, and we both know that none of this is logical.  It's not logical to have 21 kids on our income.  It doesn't make sense to keep giving more and continuing to support others who sometimes hate our guts, sabotage any chance for joy, and sometimes think we have nothing of value but what we will give or do for them.  It doesn't make sense to continue making ourselves a living target for rage and intentionally placing ourselves in the midst of chaos, trying to live in peace. 

While money is not a solution to all of our problems, it is a sad necessity.

The stress of providing for the basic needs of so many, not to mention some super thrifty yet gorgeous weddings and a few educations, is hard on my husband.  As the needs keep increasing – and no, they will never end as long as we are living -- his mental productivity is decreasing because he is learning that it is equally important for him to be emotionally present for some our children from hard places, a regular dad to some healthy kids, and the sole breadwinner. Seeing God provide always lifts his spirits - making him feel like the entire weight of our mission isn't up to him.  And that is a relief to me because I hate watching him struggle and I need his help with the children.

My husband has been a wonderful provider who NEVER complains about working his butt off for other people– even those for whom he had no legal obligation whatsoever.  He gives of himself every hour.  However, when the economy began to tank and his clients struggled, we also struggled.  Through it all we always try to live as a family by the basic principal that we do whatever we are capable of doing for whoever needs it, without conditioning our actions on the promise of payment. While never neglecting those that are paying for services, we will work overtime to meet the needs of others - never knowing how, or when, or even IF we will ever see any return on our investment from that particular person. 

Why? It’s not because we are uniquely holy people who have some special connection to God.

Come to think of it, if you read my last blog post entitled "Why Giving Freely Shows My Trust," then  you will see the kind of internal battle I sometimes have to fight with myself to remember to trust.

Nope.  We actually learned to trust the old-fashioned way.  Experience.  In spite of our circumstances, over and over again – even when nothing made sense --  we have never been without.

Part of that is literal.  We have a beautiful huge house and cars and utilities and good educations and food and diapers and medicine/oils, and so much more. 

Part of that is perspective.  While we certainly live an American lifestyle with cars and iphones and computers and Internet and freedom, we are satisfied with far less quantity than in our earlier life.  And while we rarely forgo quality (translated durability) we actually feel better living in this world now that we live predominantly from hand-me-downs, clothes left on our front porch in trash bags, thrift store bargain shopping, cars at least 10 years old, used and hand-me-down furniture and so forth.  For us, everyday is Black Friday. Finding a good bargain is as exciting as anything new and we know that means that we can meet more needs.

The funny thing is that God provides for our family through others - – emotionally, financially, spiritually, and in every other way  -- whether we trust Him or not. 

The kicker is that when we choose to trust, we get to rest and wait with anticipation.  When we fail to trust, we tend to worry and agonize, trying to find our own solutions as we are left wondering why we meet with obstacles at every turn. 

Somehow, true logic seems to say trust and skip the agony even though it doesn't make sense in the world's view, especially with a financial or business mindset. But I can’t always remember that. 

This year was one of those years that was extraordinarily hard both financially and emotionally.  Yet, as I reflect on the events of this year – I find nothing but good. It all came together for me on Christmas morning. 

Since 1995, we have had a family tradition of gathering on our stairs before the kids come downstairs to open gifts and my husband prays for each and every family member who is was not with us, or who is somehow struggling to overcome.  That includes all biological family members for each of our 21 kids.  Some years, prayer takes a very long time. 

But this year was different.  Many of our usual crew was missing.  There were only 13 of us on the stairs this Christmas morning.  Ironically, this was not because of some tragedy, but because everyone was exactly where we had been praying for them to be for years! 

All but one of my adult children who have children of their own were WITH their children this Christmas.  Either at their own home, sharing Christmas together as a complete family, or at our home with their kids.  It was at that moment, I realized that years of praying had produced fruit.  Fruit that is hard to see in the midst of chaos.

So, once again, God gave me a glimpse of all that we learned this year.  Things that are hard for me to recognize except in the context of some of our family rituals.

We learn every day to trust irrationally.

We learned – again - that we can live with even less than we thought we needed last year. 

We accepted that we can feel peace in the midst of chaos.

We continually force ourselves to remember the value of being content and grateful, no matter what.

We understood - again- that everything takes time and that there are no quick fixes to broken lives. 

We were grateful that after more than 8 years with us, children were reunited with their mother and new father and are doing well. Mom is working and has returned to school.  She is also working on writing her life story with me, which is a unique bonding experience.  Bonus: We continue to see them daily. (We raised mama too – so this is a win-win-win!)

We continue to be proud of one of our older daughters and her husband, who have voluntarily adopted one child and taken legal guardianship (meaning zero financial support from the state) for 2 more children over the course of 2 years.  These are kids that would otherwise have been in foster care.  My son-in-law is just like my husband, voluntarily working his butt off to provide for children that he would otherwise not be required to support.  And my daughter is mothering  3 under 3  and a pre-teen like a pro.  I love watching them give to others.

Another daughter is almost finished earning her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy so that she can help families get the kind of counseling we so desperately needed for our children. I love watching her grow and mature into this role.

While yet another daughter is has the most incredible heart for God and life, is finishing her college degree and planning to work for or start a non-profit organization/mission using her business degree. I wish I had known what I really wanted to do with my life at her age!

One child (who gave me fits as a teen) is a working mom and wife with incredibly beautiful children, whom she teaches and trains to be gracious and polite and humble no matter their circumstances. Watching her become a mother has been my privilege. 

The child who helped me so much with the babies when she lived at home is now a preschool teacher/nanny that gives of herself daily, even when it is hard. Everyone adores her heart and commitment to their kids and they trust her implicitly.

One daughter, who we were told would never live independently, is working two jobs, married to an incredibly supportive man who totally takes care of her, and is soon to be a mother.  Far from the description we got when she was a pre-teen, she is nothing short of impressive.

Yet another child is a hard-working mom to her children, who are all thriving under her direction – even though her life is still hard every single day.  Her children do not live the life she had to endure.

After a lifetime of challenges, the cherished mom of several of our kids has become a stable, working woman with a healthy relationship, who is re-engaging in her children's lives with us and is distancing herself from her traumatic past and terrible choices.  (We raised her too, so this is thrilling for us as well!)

I have connected with one of my adult children in a brand new way.  We went from not trusting each other, to living together long enough to find out that we not only could tolerate each other, but we actually liked each other.  That was a bonus blessing.

Sibling groups are being reunited physically and emotionally as they grow up and learn how to relate to each other in healthy ways -- as the people that they have become, rather than as remnants of their past selves.

Every day, my husband and I learn a little more about how to connect and bond to our children that have special emotional needs.

We are blessed by school teachers and administrators that truly care about our children and go far out of their way to help us with all of our unusual needs and situations with grace and understanding – even when our children don’t meet any other normal criteria for special needs assistance.

My husband’s clients are loyal and kind.  A few -- who I’m fairly sure don’t want to be singled out – have supported our family mission far beyond any polite gesture of support.

I don’t know if we unintentionally surround ourselves with good people, or we get special treatment.  Either way, our doctors, dentists, pharmacist, therapists, orthodontists, teachers, grocers, veterinarian, neighbors, and even our garbage and recycling collectors -- who empty 4 cans at our house each week without complaining because they know our unique situation and often wait for us to run down the last load – are wonderful, helpful and gracious, always giving us the benefit of the doubt and helping in whatever way they know how. I brag on them all the time.  

I don't think we are special people who deserve so much blessing, but let me tell you I love it.  Every year, I am reminded of the simple - but challenging to remember principal that the people we surround ourselves with are the hands and feet of God for us.

My life feels so right when others support us in whatever way they are capable. My role is to trust irrationally and to be grateful no matter what. 

As some character in the Princess Diaries once said, "The concept is grasped.  It's the execution that is a little elusive!" But I'm working on it. 


  1. Loved this piece. Not sure if I left my comment on here already. But I had some additional questions. Would you mind emailing me at

  2. You have a beautiful heart! Thank you for sharing your mother-blessings with me.

  3. I know I don't understand all that you go through, but reading this letter I feel a rare connection. I feel that you understand me in a way that very few people today ever will. Thank you. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for your blessed attitude. I will pray for you a long bath, a good book, and back massage!

  4. Are you still active on another blog? Found this one at Mega Families List. I would love to see updates if you've moved sites. Guessing though that life must be fairly hectic & perhaps you've had to take a break :)

    Rachael @ Diamonds in the Rough

  5. Rachel, Your guess would be correct! I am more than a little busy with life and as much as I would love to write more on my blog - I've added a little work to my life. All my energy is currently spent developing curriculum and teaching others how to create a culture of peace with their families, church and work. It's something I have been doing and living for about 20 years -- and much of it is based on ideas in my blog - but it's a different angle. Feel free to read my older entries. They are mostly timeless in terms of the issues addressed! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. I'm not sure why my own blog didn't include my name in my response! Oh well, this is Anna Lee. As far as I know, I'm not "unknown!" LOL

  7. يستخدم الكلادينج فى تكسية الواجهات الخاصة بالمباني التجارية والتكسية الداخلية تختلف اسعار الواح الكلادينج للمطابخ في مصر يمتاز الكلادينج بقوته على عزل الحرارة والحماية من اندلاع الحرائق حيث تعمل كمادة عازلة بالإضافة إلى الحماية من اشعة الشمس والحماية من الحريق ومنع انتشار الحريق فتمنع اوراق الفويل التى تغطي الكلادينج من الجهتين على عدم الاشتعال.