Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy Birthday!

So, we got our little guy for a while while he was four, but Thursday he turned five.  Of course it is bittersweet.  We are so happy we had him for his fifth birthday and for all of the ones to come.  We are so sad that we missed his first, second, third and fourth birthdays and that all of them took place in an orphanage.  We love celebrating our children's birthdays and it is a time for us to remember the day they were born and celebrate how far they've come.  For him, we don't know anything about the day he was born and we know that whatever happened in the six months to follow, it involved a surgery and a great loss.  It's just different.  Happy and sad and full of joy and grief.  There is also and will always be a wondering about the mom and dad in China and how they feel this time of year.  Do they miss him?  Do they remember the day?  Do they count the years and know how old he is?  We don't know.  We probably won't know this side of heaven, and someday he will realize that he won't get to know either.  We love him so much and don't want his life to be mixed with so much pain and grief, but we can now add joy and hope and Jesus to his life.  We can add hugs and kisses and cake and presents and family around him to help him to know that he is so very loved.  Loved by us and loved by his creator.  Our sweet little boy is five now and we are so happy that he is here in our house and that we can celebrate him together this year.

Praise the Lord.  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.  Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.  Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.  Praise the LORD.    Psalm 150

Monday, March 9, 2015

Three weeks home

Well, we've been home for three weeks now and everything is going really well.  We are getting a little tired of the house, and we are trying to help him get some more language so that we can communicate better, but overall it has been a good transition.  He seems to be really happy in a family, the girls just love him, we are back to doing school and we have gotten him checked out by the doctor, we will get his orthotics this week, and we have an x-ray scheduled that should show us a lot more about his surgery and what is going on inside of him.

Honestly, the time home has gone so fast, and it seems like a long time ago that we were in China.  We have had time to reflect on our trip now, develop some pictures, and we are so grateful that it was such a wonderful trip.  If anyone ever wants to contact me, I would be happy to let you know any advice for going to China.  Our hotels were some of the nicest we have ever stayed in, the food was really good, we could find anything we needed at grocery stores (especially in Guangzhou) and we met some wonderful people.  The language barrier is definitely hard, especially any written language, but our guides were great and very helpful.  Overall, I think we packed just fine.  We did not know that the orphanage wouldn't give us his leg braces and walker, and he didn't like the stroller, so it was hard carrying him everywhere until a wonderful person loaned us a carrier that we used which was a huge help.  China has such a rich culture and it's amazing to see things you thought you would only ever see in pictures.  It's also a culture where you do not see disabled people, there are lots of orphans and it is just an accepted part of the society.  We even noticed in the commercials there that you almost always see two parents and one child.

Now that we are home and spending lots of time together, we are finding out so much more about his personality.  In China, he ate everything we offered him.  Here, he is showing more preferences.  He likes to pick out his clothes and toys and he loves to play with magnets and glue things and be silly to make people laugh.  We had so many people praying for him to just be knit into our family and he truly is.  Even looking at our pictures of Beijing, it looks like our family is incomplete to see pictures without him in them.  He has the most gorgeous smile and he is kind and playful.  We are just all so in love with him.

However, adoption is born of brokenness.  There is no way around that, and it is heartbreaking to know that he has had to go through years in an orphanage and go through a confusing transition and be insecure and have to learn a new language, but God will build a plan B that is beautiful.  He will now know love and God's word and hugs and kisses and sisters and a birthday and things that are just for him.  It's not going to be easy.  He is learning what it means to be in a family and how life works out side of an orphanage setting.  In the years to come, he will have questions that we do not have the answers to.  He will feel the brokenness and we can be here, but we can't know what he is feeling and what he is going through.

We are so excited to start to venture out more in the weeks to come and experience new things with him.  We are looking forward to him getting to know family and friends better, and celebrating his birthday and just getting to do life as a family of five.  Thank you still for prayers and support for us.  This is an amazing journey.  :)

 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.  James 1:16-18

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

They Will Know We Are Christians By Our LOVE

So, we got into the elevator at the hotel with another man who looked like a business man from Egypt or someplace close to there.  He looked at us and said, "I have to ask you a question.  I see lots of foreigners carrying Chinese children around.  Why are they doing this?".  We explained that we were all adopting the children and he looked confused.  Please know that adoption is not at all accepted or done in some other countries.  He asked, "So, you take them home and raise them forever?  Do many people do this?"  We explained that yes, they are ours forever and there are lots of families that do this, lots here right now.  We of course did not know how he would react, but he was to his floor now and he got out of the elevator and smiled at us and said, "It is good.  It is good."

I know that what saves us all is the belief in Christ, and not any good works.  However, James also tells us that good works will follow when we become believers.  I hate to think so many people in the world, especially in America see Christians as fake and hypocritical and do not see God's love shining through each of us.  In truth, we are all sinners and we are all fallen, but shouldn't people  be able to say, "Hey, those Christians certainly aren't perfect and they mess up, but you can really see LOVE shine through them."  No one should be able to deny that we are a fallen bunch, but we do our best to be Christ-like.

We are kind of in a holding pattern right now here in Guangzhou.  Since we got in barely before the shutdown for Chinese New Year, we do not have our consulate appointment until tomorrow morning and then we do not get his visa until Friday and they couldn't get us out on Saturday, so we will leave on Sunday. That means today is a hang out day, tomorrow we have an hour consulate appointment and then we hang out, then Friday we wait until afternoon for the visa, and then Saturday we head to Hong Kong.  There is another lady here with her daughter who is in the same boat as us, so we are getting to know her better and she is such a great person that God had us planned to be together here.  :)  It is actually the same person who got our LOA switched months ago.  So, we are having fun exploring Guangzhou and eating the delicious breakfast here and getting to hang out as a family of five.  :)

 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it.   In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  James 2:14-18

Saturday, February 7, 2015

In Guangzhou

Our internet has been a little spotty and we've been really busy, so I have a lot to catch up on.  We are now in our first full day in Guangzhou.  Today we had the medical exam and then a paperwork meeting to gather the paperwork for our Consulate Appointment.  I cannot say enough about the amazing staff here who have just taken care of everything and made it go so easy and smoothly.  We had an amazing guide, Lin, in Beijing, awesome people in Hohhot, Aggie and Rocky, and now Jack who is just the most organized person to handle the paperwork for 12 families at once!

So, on Wednesday in Hohhot, we went to a souvenir shop.  However, when I say souvenir shop, I'm talking about a three story two building shop which had lots of beautiful things from his province with good prices.  It was very nice to be able to get gifts for family and friends at home in one place, we bought things to give him on future birthdays, and the last room was lots of food, so he was able to pick out some favorite things that he likes and we could keep some familiar things around for him. Crunchy disks of cheese and little bags of seasoned beef tendons anyone?  :)  We were able to go to his finding spot and take pictures so I am so grateful that we will have those for him.  We also ate at a delicious dumpling place which was so good!

On Thursday, we went to a natural history museum, ate at a hot pot restaurant, picked up his Chinese passport and headed back to the hotel to pack.  On Friday, we got up to head to the airport.  It was a little bittersweet to know that he is leaving his birthplace, but we know that this will be a new adventure for him.  He did well on his first flight after a minor temper tantrum about the seat belt and having to sit alone and not getting to throw tomato crackers.  After that, he was happy with markers, snacks, a seriously generous lunch for an airplane, and then Monkey Lunch Box on my phone when it got boring.  We arrived in Guangzhou yesterday afternoon and oh my goodness The Garden Hotel is just amazing!  We got to walk around Guangzhou last night and replenish our water and snack supply and we ate dinner at KFC-total Americans.

We had the medical exam today, and it was crowded.  There are so many families here who were trying to get in and out before the Chinese New Year.  Everything went smoothly, though, and everyone was in good spirits and we got to meet some people from other adoption groups.  I met a totally nice homeschooling mom who lives in Pennsylvania.  She and her husband homeschool their five biological children and this is their 5th adoption, so 10 children!  She was great to talk to.  Tomorrow we get to go to Shamen Island, which is where all of the adoptions used to take place.  It's a little more historical and there are shops and apparently everyone likes to eat lunch at Lucy's.  Starting Monday, the people in our group who have children under 2 have their consulate appointments.

One thing I really felt called to share with everyone really came to me when we were sitting there waiting for the medical appointments.  If anyone out there is considering adoption, you can totally do this!  I don't even know you, but, seriously, you can totally do this.  While preparing for everything it is just so hard to imagine how this will actually look.  There's so much fear and I know it's so easy to just take the safe route, but these children are just beautiful and so happy and there are so many of them growing up in orphanages.  They are so excited to have a Mama and a Baba and as God's hands and feet on earth, I would like to encourage anyone thinking about taking the plunge-you can TOTALLY do this.  Now that I've seen it all play out, it's totally doable.

So, we're really heading to the home stretch of this part of the journey.  We tour tomorrow, have some free time Monday through Wednesday, Consulate Appointment on Thursday, get visa on Friday, head to Hong Kong on Friday night and fly home on Sunday.  Thank you again and again to everyone for prayers.  We feel surrounded by God and His presence is much needed here.

 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,; but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.  2 Timothy 9-11

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Day 2 Hohhot

Day 2 in Hohhot almost over.  Got to wake up early, around 4 am to little guy throwing up all over everything.  Not sure what happened, but probably a combination of more food than he's used to, a very hot room and him still overdressed from the orphanage and possibly a bug, because the other little girl who was adopted from his orphanage threw up on the way to the hotel this morning.  News to us, though.  Apparently when we asked the hotel (a very nice five star Sheraton) to take away the sheets he threw up on and bring us new ones, they called our adoption guide and were planning to charge us about $100 for new sheets!  She talked them down to just charging us a fee for washing them, but apparently you have to be careful with the sheets here in China!

Today we had our notary and Civil appointments, so lots more paperwork.  We also got an amazing surprise, because I guess he was part of the Half The Sky program, so we got a binder FULL of pictures and notes from his entire four years at the orphanage!!  I cannot even explain what a huge blessing that is and will be for his future.  It had pictures from around every six months from the last four years.  I truly couldn't believe it.  They also gave us a traditional hat and outfit from Inner Mongolia and it is totally adorable.  At first he didn't like the hat, but then he liked wearing it and bossing us around.  :)

The rest of the day we just spent hanging out in the hotel room.  I must admit that we will be ready to venture out a bit tomorrow.  We even did baths at 4 pm today as something fun to do.  He loves the water!!  We are now eating instant oatmeal for dinner (I would highly recommend bringing packets if you ever come here, because there's a kettle in every room, so it's a nice filling and familiar meal) and getting ready to wind down since we were up so early.  Tomorrow we are going to a shopping area and a dinosaur museum on Thursday and then Friday we head to Guangzhou.  The temperatures here have been in the 20's and 30's and they're in the 60's and 70's in Guangzhou, so that should be a big change!

Thank you again for all of the prayers for us.  He is such a happy guy, definitely grieving some, but he has totally attached to us and the girls which is a huge blessing and makes it a lot easier to be spending many hours together in the hotel.  It will be a lot easier cocooning at home where there is more space and no charges for ruined sheets.  :)

You are my strength, I watch for you;  you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.  God will go before and will let me gloat over those who slander me.  
Psalm 59:9-10

Monday, February 2, 2015

In Hohhot

Well, it's late here and all three kids are sleeping, so I will fit in as much as I can to update people.  We arrived in Beijing on Friday night and went right to the hotel.  I'm not going to lie, our flight was long.  I thought the girls would sleep more on the plane, but I think the unlimited movie screen in front of them was a heavy temptation, as well as the thought of sleeping in an airplane seat.  We all got around 3 hours sleep, which was actually a blessing because when we got to Beijing we were all exhausted and were able to go right to sleep which has helped us immensely.

We were very busy in Beijing and we got to meet some other families that we will see again in Guangzhou.  The first day we went to The Summer Palace, a silk factory, The Temple of Heaven and we saw an amazing acrobatic show that night.  Again, we all fell into bed exhausted after.  On Sunday, we saw the Great Wall which was so surreal and amazing.  I will post some pictures as soon as we take the time to load some onto this computer.  We flew to Hohhot last night, went to bed and got up early this morning to eat breakfast, exchange money and MEET OUR NEW SON!

I cannot even describe seeing him sitting in the chair in the lobby, like the pictures I have been seeing for a year come to life.  He was so happy and let Chris hold him right away.  We had to go to a meeting room and sign a bunch of papers and we could ask questions about his life from the orphanage workers.  We also found out that we are not allowed to visit the orphanage, so that was very disappointing because we were hoping to have some pictures to show him in the future.  He had a few tears, but for the most part he is just a joyously happy little boy.  So amazing!  He loves playing with his sisters and he has been carrying the cars we got him around everywhere.  He is so gorgeous!
Tomorrow we get up early to do the notary appointment which will begin the process for his passport.  Then we wait until Friday to receive it.  He is so good about playing in the hotel room, which is good because it is very cold here!  We just can't even describe the immense feeling of God's blessings that we were able to adopt him and make him a part of our family.  It's beautiful and we are so grateful for the part everyone reading this has played, through prayers and help in numerous other ways.  Please continue to pray for his heart, because he will continue grieving and missing everything he has lost, but for now we are so grateful for how the first day has gone.  I will update whenever I can and add some pictures too.  :)

 However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Thursday, January 29, 2015

We Are Off

It's so surreal.  We are heading to the airport in an hour, off to Chicago, and then off to Beijing.  It has been the biggest whirlwind of emotions and planning and packing in the last two weeks.  Are we ready?  Well, we have the paperwork, we have clothes, we have snacks, we have plane tickets and we have hotel reservations.  We have been wanting him for a year now since we accepted his file and saw his face.  I don't know about ready, though.  However, we don't have to be.  God will give us what we need at the time.  We don't have to be ready for his teen years today.  We don't have to have the house ready for everything that makes him comfortable today.  We don't have to know his favorite foods, or what he likes to play or have him signed up for swimming lessons.  We have to be open and trust that God will give us what we need today.  Then tomorrow God will give us what we need then.  Adoption is such a scary and exciting and emotional experience.  Adoption was not God's first plan, but our world is broken and so He helps us make it another plan.

Please pray for our sweet boy.  We have been praying that they are preparing him often and that his heart is as ready as it can be for the biggest event of his life.  He is going to be losing so much and he doesn't really yet know what he will be gaining.  Of course we would so appreciate you praying for our safe travels too.  This is a BIG trip!  We will do our best to blog and post pictures, but we are not sure how the internet will be there.  Just know that God goes before us wherever we go.  So it's all good.  <><

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:25-34