Tuesday, December 30, 2014

An Update from China and Glimpses of Love

Yesterday we received our final update about Hannah.  In that update we found out about an accidental injury involving Hannah's index finger.  While we were so sad to hear this news, it allowed us to communicate directly with the orphanage and foster parents to ask some questions in follow up to that piece of information.

Chris and I talked and came up with a list of questions, to ensure Hannah was getting the best medical care possible (we are not talking about a small scrape here....I did not share the photo, but this is a pretty significant wound).  We got the answers to those questions today!

Hannah is receiving outstanding care and all the things we would have wanted to happen here, are happening there.  God is loving our girl and protecting her!  They were not able to do stitches due to the nature of the injury, but it is being kept wrapped well with a special ointment on it.  Her foster parents take her to the hospital every other day for the doctor to change the dressing and ointment.  The nail has fallen off, but the doctor feels confident that it will grow back in with time.  She was given antibiotics at the time and for a few days afterward.  They are now monitoring her for a fever and if there is any sign of infection, they will start the antibiotics again.  She was also given an updated tetanus shot at the time of the incident.  All wonderful news!

When we got the news, there was a word or two from the foster parents included.  They were apologizing to us for being negligent and letting this happen to her.  They were very concerned we would be upset by it.  Since we got to communicate with China about the incident, we also got to send a message to the foster parents (what a rare gift!).  We could tell from the first message from them that they care a great deal for Hannah.  We were able to send a note telling them we were not angry at all and that we were so thankful they responded quickly to get her medical care right away and that they were with her for us through the ordeal.  We are grateful for the care they are providing. 

Well, that message was relayed to them and they responded back.  They said they were thankful for our understanding, but that they continued to feel so bad about it.  They look at Hannah as their own baby and feel so painful about her finger and they hope it will be better soon.  Y'all these people love our daughter.  I cannot tell you what this glimpse of their love for her does for my heart.  While the waiting is hard for us, it helps me to realize that while I wait, they are counting down precious last days with her.  This is going to be so hard for them.  What a blessing.  They love her.  This shows me all the more that Gotcha Day is going to be a glorious mess of brokenness and heartbreak for so many people and on so many levels.  These foster parents are giving up a child they view as their own.  She has been with them since October of 2013.  Would you join me in praying for them?  I know their hearts are going to ache with so much emptiness.  My heart is aching for Hannah now, but I get to go get her, and keep her...forever.  They will likely never see her again.  I can't imagine.  If they seem to love her as much as they do, Hannah is going to grieve over them, as well.  I cannot be them.  I cannot replace them.  So much brokenness.  It weighs heavy on my heart.

This brings me to some new prayer requests:
  • Pray for Hannah's foster parents--to prepare them to say good-bye and make some special memories with her in these last days and weeks.
  • Pray for us to have the opportunity to meet her foster parents.  This is not a guarantee, but does occasionally happen.  I want very badly to meet them.
  • If it is at all possible, I would love for God to pave a way for us to remain in contact with them--sending photos or updates.  I do not know if this is even possible or permitted, but I will be bold and pray for it.
  • Pray for Hannah's heart.  It is going to be hard for her to leave them.
We are getting so, SO close.  There are several families that got their LOA the same day we did that got their TA and CA yesterday and today.  They are leaving next week!  We got a little delayed in processing, but we are right behind them!  Our Article 5 should be picked up from the consulate this week or Monday at the latest and then we will be waiting for TA.  TA time frames vary...anything from several days to a couple weeks.  Once we get TA, things are going to move very quickly.  I guess that means I need to get to work on my "to do" list and get some shopping accomplished!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Big Day!

Today was a very, very big day!  We started it off with a call this morning from our social worker notifying us that she had received our final update on Hannah.  Yay!  We got new pictures, measurements, and a video!  Hannah has grown some in the last six months, but not a lot.... only gained 0.7kg, grew 3cm in height, and added two new teeth.  She did not change in foot size, head, or chest measurements.  This means that likely my clothing I have out for her should fit.  We're planning on about size 12 months with a few 18 month items thrown in for just in case.  She continues to look happy and well loved.  I am thrilled to see her "playing" with a cell phone in the latest photos--so many of these kids aren't even really exposed to toys or know how to play.  I also love that she is playing outside.

As an added bonus we got new video footage!  All 27 seconds of it! 

We also found out some sad news.  On December 21st, Hannah was climbing on a folding chair to watch TV (she was alone).  Somehow she got her index finger caught in the folding mechanism of the chair and injured her finger significantly.  The fingernail has fallen off completely and she had to go to the hospital for treatment.  They did x-ray the finger and the bone is fine, but there is significant damage to the tissue.  I will spare you the gory photograph they sent us of it.  The email indicated the foster parents were very sad this happened and apologized to us a great deal for "their negligence."  It sounds like she has some very loving foster parents and we are so thankful they were there for her and got her treatment immediately for this!  I will be in contact with our international adoption clinic here and see if there is anything we should do further.  We know it is currently kept wrapped up, but we do not know the extent of treatment beyond the x-rays.  It is always sad when a little one gets a boo boo.  I wish we could have been there to love on her through it!

So that made for an exciting morning!

Chris has spent the better part of the day assembling a dresser for the girls' bedroom and I have finally moved all of Joshua's clothes into the closet and dresser in the room he shares with Jacob now!  I got to hang all of Hannah's clothes in the closet and will tuck away sweet PJ's and such once the dresser is complete.  Chris is humming a tune about us nesting.  It is nice to nest!

Then, to add to the excitement, we were notified today that we have been chosen to receive a grant from Lifesong for Orphans!  It is a matching grant, so they will match, dollar for dollar, what is given to us up to $3,000.  This is a tremendous blessing!  We cannot believe we were chosen!

So, without further delay, I will get to all that you are waiting for.  Hannah!

Goodness, I love this girl so much already.  This waiting business is really getting old!  Simply cannot wait to hold her!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Today I was reflecting on all God is doing and has done for us throughout this adoption.  All of it is so clearly His hand on this, making provision each and every step of the way.  We've faced challenges and bumps in the road, but always, His presence has been very clear through it all.  I heard this song on the radio today and it so perfectly sums up how I feel:

Overwhelmed-by Big Daddy Weave

I see the work of Your Hands
Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice
All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross
Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God

All that You’ve done is so overwhelming
I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful
Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful
You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful
Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful
You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious
Oh God, there is no one more Glorious
You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious 
I find myself doubting, wondering, and worrying often at this point in the process, and then I remember Him.  He is in this with us.  He has ordained all of it.  He won't desert us now!
Praise God for all He has done to get us so far.  We are sooooooooooo close to having our adoption fully funded.  We are soooooooooooo close to holding our daughter in our arms.  It is overwhelming.  HE is overwhelming and we want always to praise Him for what He has done for us!  Praise God for getting us here.
Oh, and P.S.
Our Article 5 dropped today  at the US Consulate in China.  In approximately two weeks it will be picked up and we will be waiting on TA.  The best part of the Article 5 process?  At some point in the next two weeks we should get an update on our precious girl including final measurements and a couple more photos.  Would you pray that update comes soon?  This mama's heart is so desperate to "see" her Hannah again it almost physically hurts.  I simply CAN NOT WAIT!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Dear Hannah,
It becomes more real with each passing day.  You are going to be ours.  You are coming home.  There is a bed with blankets and pillows on it, chosen specifically for you.  Your great grandmama crocheted a blanket for you.  Your grandpa built you a bunk bed to share with your sister.  Grace picked out a stuffed panda bear for you to have.  There are stacks of beautiful clothes sitting in mommy's room waiting for you to wear.  You are really coming.  Soon.

Today Baba and I submitted the very last document we needed to submit in order to come get you.  Now we are just waiting to hear when we can come get you!  While I feel like I ought to be really rejoicing over that, I'm not.  I feel very sad and my heart hurts. How is that possible?  We've come so far and we've done so much and we rejoice at being so close to coming for you, but yet, my heart is so heavy.

My heart is heavy, dear Hannah, because I cannot stop thinking about the profound loss you are about to experience.  What will be one of the most anticipated and momentous days of our lives will be likely one the most emotional and traumatizing experiences of your life.  I want you to know, sweet daughter, that your loss and pain will not be lost on me.  I may be giddy with excitement at times, but I experience deep, gut wrenching pain when I think of the brokenness you are about to face and walk through.  I wish I could walk through it for you.  I can't walk through it for you, but I can walk through it with you.  You will not face the emptiness, brokenness, fear, or trauma alone.  I cry with you and for you already and I will cry with you and for you on that day when we finally meet.  I wish you didn't have to feel the pain of loss, but I am so thankful God ordained me to be the mama to wipe your tears.

I am praying for you, baby girl.  Soak in those snuggles from your foster mama in these last days.  Memorize the sights and sounds.  Taste the tastes and smell the smells.  Soon, all of that will change.  You will not understand and you will not know the end of the story, so it is going to be very scary, but if you will allow us to earn your trust, we hope to show you there is nothing that compares to the true, deep, always and forever love that a mama and baba can give.

Oh dear girl, your loss is not lost on me. 

We love you so deeply and profoundly already,


Done.  We are done.  Done, done, done, done.  I'm just trying out that word.  I like the way it sounds.  Done!

Late last night the computer system at the National Visa Center finally updated and showed our daughter's pretty little Chinese name, all listed in the correct order!  I was able to log in and complete her DS260 (visa application).  I sent confirmation of that to our social worker late last night.

This morning, I had an e-mail from Mary (I adore Mary at the NVC now!).  Our adoption letter was complete and had been cabled to the consulate in Guangzhou.  I forwarded this document to our social worker this morning.

What does this mean?  Our Article 5 is now complete and will be dropped off.  I am praying it will be dropped off tomorrow, but we may miss that drop.  If so, it will be dropped off Monday at the latest.

Now what?  We wait.  Again.  The Article 5 process generally takes two weeks, so in two weeks it will be picked up from the consulate and sent to Beijing.  Once in Beijing, we will just be waiting for the officials to grant us Travel Approval and we'll grab the earliest available Consulate Appointment.  Then we GO!

We do still have some minor pieces of paperwork to complete that are adoption related (some training to finish up and a travel form to fill out), but, all "official" paperwork related to bringing Hannah home is DONE on our end.  Our next round of official adoption related paperwork will occur with Hannah in our arms!

Done, done, done-itty, done.  Yup.  I still like the way it sounds.  DONE!

What's in a Name?

The last week has been one full of trials and challenges.  On Thursday, we received our long awaited GUZ# from the National Visa Center.  We could now complete the DS260(visa application) online.  Right?  Wrong.  Immediately upon opening the e-mail containing our GUZ# I realized that our daughter's name was not listed correctly.  After getting in touch with our agency about it, we quickly realized that what I thought would be a non-issue was about to become a really important, all consuming problem.

We began by making some simple telephone calls to the visa center.  The NVC is open until midnight each night and our work on this issue started very late into the night on Thursday.  I spoke to someone, got no where, and was transferred to a supervisor.  It really seemed like such a simple thing to fix.  All her names were there, spelled correctly, but listed in the wrong order.  After my conversation on Thursday night I really thought the matter was corrected and awaited an e-mail confirming the resolution from that supervisor.

On Friday, no e-mail came, so we began calling again to inquire.  Calling isn't a simple process.  It is an automated system, you speak to someone new each time you call in, and you wait on hold a really, really long time (we're talking hold times up to an hour at a time), there is not a voice mail system, and if you want to talk to a supervisor and none are available at the moment you call, you cannot go back on hold.  You have to hang up and start the whole process over again.  At this point it was late at night and my emotions were running very high.  We'd made several calls and no one was helping us, no one was calling us back as they said they would, no supervisors were available, we were told things like "Oh, just fix it when you get to China" and "well, this is your problem" and "you are welcome to call back and inquire again for a supervisor to help you."  Honestly, things got rather rude on both ends of the telephone.  I completely lost my self control on someone Friday night, for which I am completely repentant.  If I knew his name I would call back and apologize.  Late Friday night we pulled our agency into the situation and requested support.  They were very quick to jump right into the deep end and get their hands dirty in this mess right alongside us.  The director of the China program actually stayed up until midnight on Friday night with us, making calls.  We always really respected and liked our agency, but this past week really brought them up another level for us.  While she wasn't able to get through on Friday night for us, just knowing we weren't calling alone made a world of difference for us!  Still no resolution on Friday.

The NVC isn't open on the weekend so we had all day Saturday and Sunday to chew on it and gather up any additional thoughts and information we think might help us to get this situation resolved quickly.  I am determined to have it resolved by Monday.

Monday morning and I went to work trying to call immediately at 7AM when they opened.  Our social worker along with the China director also were in touch with me.  By 8:30AM I was completely unable to get through....busy signals constantly.  I couldn't even be put on hold!  I contacted our agency and asked for help.  I needed to teach school and have three kids here who needed my attention.  I simply couldn't fight the NVC battle all day long.  They jumped right in and started calling.  Our social worker was able to get through around 10:30 in the morning.  She was advised that all name corrections had to be submitted via e-mail.  Interesting.  No one had told us that yet.  She was given a different email address than what I'd used to get our GUZ#, so we tried it.  And waited.  And waited.  We are still waiting to get a reply from the address that we sent that inquiry to.  Late in the day there was still no response, so our social worker advised we had best continue to try calling.  I tried a myriad of times at various times throughout the day and never got past the busy signal.  I began to think they'd blocked my phone number!  Ha!  Chris began trying to call when he got home from work and he also was not able to get past the busy signal.  I began to feel very defeated.  How could we fix this if no one would respond to e-mail and we couldn't get through on the phone?!  I really wanted to just give up.  Our agency China director stayed up with us again on Monday night calling until midnight.  Did I mention how much we love her?  As a last ditch effort I sent a second e-mail to the address I'd used to get the GUZ#, even though it was not the one we were advised to use.  I figured it couldn't hurt anything.

Tuesday morning I woke up with fresh resolve and pleaded with God to provide us with someone who could help us.  I spent about an hour hitting busy signals, but finally got through the line around 8AM and sat on hold only about thirty minutes.  A new record!  A friendly voice answered and her name was Sandy.  I got way more information from her than I'd ever gotten, though it was still not fixed.  She was actually kind and listened to me!  She saw where I'd worked with someone named Sylvia the week prior.  I remembered Sylvia and she was really very nice and seemed on top of things.  I knew she'd be familiar with the situation and I knew she'd call me back (because she had called me back once prior).  I left her a message, just praying.  Within about 15 minutes she called me back.  Immediately she recalled our case and quickly identified what was wrong and how to fix it.  While on the phone with her, an e-mail popped up from a wonderful woman named Mary.  She was responding to my e-mail.  The e-mail I'd sent as a last effort to the address I happened to have--not the one given to us by the employee at the NVC.  She also knew exactly what was wrong and how to fix it.  Together, Mary and Sylvia got to work and had the issue resolved within a matter of hours.  Mary immediately e-mailed me the great news and that is all I really expected.  I was floored to then later also receive a personal follow up call from Sylvia informing me that it was resolved.  They both told me they love adoptive families and really try to take care of them.  Praise God for people like Mary and Sylvia!  I was so touched by their help after this long trial that I actually sent a huge e-mail to their supervisors informing them of the impressive amount of work they did for us after so many others refused to help us or even try.  They let me know today that they were both publicly recognized for that effort and I am glad they were.  They deserved it.

This was a trying experience.  It tested our patience and resolve.  It forced me to not use flowery filler language and just be totally direct and to the point about what I needed.  In the grand scheme of things it was a small blip on the journey to get Hannah, but I assure you, in the heat of those four days of working to resolve it, it felt much, much bigger.

So, today, we rest assured, our daughter's name is correct on her visa application.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Check and Check!

In a previous post, I listed the following items yet to accomplish:

  • Get verbal confirmation of I800 approval
  • Receive hard copy confirmation of I800 approval
  • Contact National Visa Center for GUZ#
  • Complete DS260
  • Contact National Visa Center for cable letter
  • Drop off Article 5
  • Await Travel Approval and confirmed Consulate Appointment
Today, I am happy to report we can check some items off that list!  We received verbal confirmation of I800 approval on Monday.  Today we got the hard copy confirmation of I800 approval in the mail and  were issued our GUZ# from the National Visa Center!

So what is left? 
  • Complete DS260
  • Contact National Visa Center for cable letter
  • Drop off Article 5
  • Await Travel Approval and confirmed Consulate Appointment
Really, I have to fill out the DS260 and request the copy of the cable letter...then we are done.   The ball will be out of our court then and our paperwork for this leg of our adoption journey (the side without Hannah in our arms) will be complete (aside from the pesky few training items we still have to complete!).  Sigh.  Relief.  Rush of emotions.  Getting sooooooooooo close to hearing them tell us, "Yes!  Come get your girl!" 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I-800 Approved and Mathematics

I called again today to follow up on our I-800 application.  Praise God, it was approved last week on Friday; however, it was not mailed to the National Visa Center until yesterday....  So, what does that mean?  Now I wait about five days and start e-mailing the NVC daily to get our GUZ#.  What else does this mean?  It means we have hit the point now where it is completely mathematically impossible for us to submit our Article 5 and await TA prior to the shut down on December 28th.  It also pushes our prospective travel dates much further back into January and quite possibly into February.

How do I feel about it?  Disappointed, but, I realize there is a much bigger picture to all this and I can only see a fragment of it.  God has a reason to give us this added week of waiting to refine and prepare all of us just a bit more.  Perhaps we'll have a sick little one in that time who desperately needs mama and Daddy, or perhaps He wants us to just slow down and really drink in this Christmas without the stress and craziness of preparing to travel. Maybe Hannah's heart just isn't ready and she needs these extra days in the arms of her foster mama.  Perhaps we'll receive a grant that we otherwise wouldn't have received prior to travel.  Regardless of what the reason is, we know He has a reason so all we can do is trust and faithfully wait (a little longer) till Hannah is home.

Please continue to pray for us: for me to manage these next few steps of the process fairly easily, for the finances to continue to come together, for us to appreciate this last Christmas as a family of five, for peace to overwhelm our hearts in the wait, for our TA to be one of the first ones issued after the shut down, and for Hannah to continue to prepare for us to come for her.  Pray that we make good use of this added time of waiting to really savor Christmas at a slower pace and enjoy fellowship with one another.

Never a dull moment in the journey....

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Baby Steps and Potential Set Backs

Things are really rolling right now on the adoption front and while the majority of the time it feels like it is truly flying by, there are other moments that it feels like things couldn't possibly move any more slowly.  If you recall, we didn't get our hard LOA the day we expected to get it.  That one slight hold up has translated to about a full week of delay.  In the grand scheme of things it wouldn't seem like much, but late last week we heard about another shut down coming in China.  For over a week.  And likely due to this one very minor delay with our LOA, we will be just simply twiddling our thumbs through this upcoming shut down.  This makes no sense to most of you.  Let me sum things up a bit.

So, currently we are waiting to receive our I800 application approval.  That could not be submitted until our LOA was signed and sent in with some supporting documents.  Our one day delay in receiving it caused us to wait the weekend for shipping it back to our agency, plus another business day for them to review our documents and send them out.  To give perspective, three other families got LOA the same day we did and all three of those families have received their I800 approvals (the week of Thanksgiving) and have already had their Article 5's dropped or will have them dropped tomorrow.  I thought we were about one week behind, so I called to check on the status of our application late last week.  When I called, I found out we had just been assigned to an officer who rather curtly told me, "It just got to my desk today and I've got 9 other I800's sitting on my desk.  I'm not getting to yours today.  Maybe tomorrow."  The Thanksgiving holiday has added a couple more days onto our wait.  Hopefully our I800 was approved on Friday of last week, which will allow us to move on to the next step this week.

Once the I800 gets approved it is mailed to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire and logged into a computer system there.  This will generate a GUZ# (assigning our case to the US Consulate in Guangzhou).  We should get our GUZ# about one week after our I800 is approved.  Once I confirm our I800 is approved, I will start e-mailing the National Visa Center daily to get the GUZ#.

Once we have the GUZ#, we can complete the DS260 application online (this is Hannah's application for her Visa to enter the United States).  We will also then start e-mailing the National Visa Center daily to get a PDF of the cable letter they sent of our case to the Consulate in Guangzhou.  We need all of these documents to start the Article 5 process.

When we have a hard copy of our I800 approval, GUZ#, completed DS 260, and a PDF of our cable letter, we can have our social worker submit the Article 5.  Our agency will send all of our documents to their representatives in China who will drop it off at the US Consulate.  The Article 5 process takes about 2 weeks.  Once it is complete, our information is sent to the Chinese adoption authorities where they will issue our Travel Approval and within forty eight hours of that we should have a confirmed Consulate appointment and we can book our flights and schedule Gotcha Day.

All of this together would likely take us about 3-4 weeks to accomplish.  Enter the next big Chinese shutdown.  Regardless of where we are in the process, nothing will move in China from December 28th through January 4th while they update their computer systems.  We were likely going to be looking at TA the week of Christmas or shortly after and now it will likely not be issued until after the shutdown on the 4th.  It just adds yet another week of waiting at a time when it feels like every moment is precious time wasted with Hannah.  I would so love to have TA prior to the shutdown so we can efficiently be using that time to book flights, prepare Grandparents, and start packing.

So, in a nutshell, here are things we need to check off the list:
  • Get verbal confirmation of I800 approval
  • Receive hard copy confirmation of I800 approval
  • Contact National Visa Center for GUZ#
  • Complete DS260
  • Contact National Visa Center for cable letter
  • Drop off Article 5
  • Await Travel Approval and confirmed Consulate Appointment
You don't really need to understand any of that (and you still may not....it is all very difficult to explain at this point in time--I'm not sure I even totally understand all of it!!), but we have had many, many people asking, so here it is.  Mathematically speaking, it seems near impossible for us to receive TA prior to the shutdown on the 28th, but there is still a slim chance we could squeak through (very, very, very slim chance--like record breaking slim chance).  Our previous experience with a shut down is that they try to clear as many desks as possible prior to a shutdown and push lots of paperwork through.  We certainly never dreamed we would get our LOA prior to the APEC shutdown in November, yet miraculously, we did!  While it is really easy for me to shutdown myself and feel rather discouraged with the likely delay, I also keep trying to view it as yet another opportunity for God to reveal His power and glory.  Honestly, the details can be consuming, the figuring of dates and seeing how many others are getting TA's and when, how long processes are for others, but really, all that truly matters is that God knows when Gotcha will be.  He's got it marked in red pen with a big star and circled on His calendar and not revealing that special date to us just yet is all part of His plan to refine our faith in Him.

So, for now we rest in Him, knowing He knows the details and that His timing is so very specific just for us and for Hannah.  And we pray like crazy that we get that magic TA prior to December 28th.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nitty Gritty

We have had many people ask, since we got our LOA, when we will be booking flights to travel, etc.  We wish the LOA were the final piece of paperwork we needed, but unfortunately, it isn't.  We will continue to plug along in the mass of paperwork and fees for several more weeks before we can officially book our travel and head to get our girl.

For those of you interested in the nitty gritty, this one is for you.  Here is what lies ahead and where we are currently:

  • Right now we have submitted two things.  First, we have submitted our I800 application to US Immigration.  Earlier in the process we submitted an I800A.  This document approved us to bring an immigrant into the United States in the form of an adopted child.  The I800 is officially "matching" our "approved immigrant" to Hannah.  We can't just go over there and bring any old child back into the country.  It has to be Hannah and only Hannah.  Once Hannah lands in the United States, she will become a US citizen with all the same rights you and I have (except she can't become President since she wasn't born here).  We should be hearing back from this within the next week or two.
  • The second thing we have currently submitted is our Chinese Visa application.  While we are getting things squared away to bring Hannah back into our country, Chris and I need all the necessary paperwork to enter her country.  We sent all of that via a courier to the consulate in Chicago and it ought to arrive back to our home mid-week next week.
  • Once we get the I800 back, we will await a cable letter notification from the National Visa Center and complete another form, the DS 260.  This is all to prepare Hannah's visa at the US Consulate in China (we will go there to get her Visa once we've finalized the adoption in China).
  • After those items are complete, we will begin the Article 5 drop off and pick up process.  Once our Article 5 is dropped off and picked up in China, we will be waiting for all the information to go to the adoption authorities in China, where they will issue our Travel Approval (TA).  This means all our paperwork is in order and we can come get Hannah!
  • Once we get TA, our agency will request a date for an appointment at the US Consulate (to get Hannah's visa to enter the USA).  This is called CA (consulate appointment).  We will not book our flights until we have a confirmed CA as our entire trip will hinge around that appointment.  The CA usually only takes about 48 hours to get once we get our TA, so we should know when to book flights fairly quickly.
  • Then, about two weeks after TA and CA, we are wheels up and off to Gotcha Day!
It really doesn't seem like that many more steps when you line it all out like that, but each one takes a couple weeks or more to accomplish.  Of course, there are tons (tons, tons, tons) of things to do behind the scenes to get ready to go.  I've started reviewing packing lists and trying to figure out the best way to prepare all of that without losing my mind at the same time.  It is a lot and it is overwhelming, but it will all get done and I'll have a nice long 15 hour flight to decompress after the madness of packing.

So, that is where we are in a nutshell.  Still about 8-12 weeks out, but the countdown is on!  Hannah, we are coming!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Time of Preparation

In most cases, I will tell you the waiting part of this adoption is hard.  Really hard.  And while it is hard, it isn't pointless or meaningless time.  These are our last days as a family of five!  We need to spend some sweet time with our kiddos while we wait and create lots of great memories with them.  Chances are that when Hannah gets home, I won't be as free as I am now to color pictures or play board games.  We need to use this time wisely that we have before us.  There is tremendous preparation happening in our home and in our hearts...moving furniture, buying items for Hannah, talking about what life "might" look like when she gets home, and so on.  We are praying and trusting the Lord to show us what work we ought to do now to assist in a smoother transition post-adoption.  In all our hectic preparations here, it is really easy for me to overlook that I need to also prepare those of you who aren't living directly under our roof for what it is going to look like when Hannah comes home.  Bringing home an adopted child is drastically different from a newborn infant.

When Hannah was born, for reasons we will never fully grasp or understand, her mother made the choice to leave her.  I am sure it was agonizing and I am sure she thought Hannah would be exposed to a better life and better opportunities as the result of her agonizing choice.  Regardless, the person Hannah was most attached to, her mother, was now gone.  She was placed in a orphanage from the time of her birth and lived there for six months.  While I know the conditions in orphanages have drastically changed over the years, it still isn't home or family.  I am sure Hannah had caregivers to love on her or squeeze her, but there are only so many workers per so many children.  Hannah likely had to cry (or learned not to cry) to get her needs met and even still may not have had them met.  She likely had to eat her meals in a set amount of time and was on a regimented schedule.  After six months time, she was placed in a foster home, where she currently lives.  This is great news for our baby girl, as she likely has access to a more "family like" environment with less children and more one on one time with a caregiver.  This also means she is going to grieve her old life much harder than if she had remained in the orphanage all this time.  There will be real people with real faces and smells and sounds that she will be missing.  Prior to our arrival to pick her up, she will be placed back in the orphanage for a period of time.  This makes my heart very, very heavy.  She will begin grieving her foster parents without a new set of parents to help her get through it.  It is SO MUCH transition for one little person to handle in less than two years of life.  By the time we arrive to get her, she will have been in the orphanage, a foster home, back to the orphanage, and then to us.  Too much for a little girl!  All that transition makes her lose her ability to trust the people in her life.  Why would she trust me?  I will just be yet another caregiver in a string of many caregivers who eventually abandon her, right?

With a newborn baby, you bring them home and hold and cuddle and snuggle them.  They cry and you meet their need.  You do this over and over and over again and the infant trusts you.  You are mom and you respond when they have a need.  You are loving and kind.  There is safety in who you are.  Hannah did not get this type of consistency and as I mentioned above, there is nothing that sets me apart from all her other caregivers.  She may have lost the ability to cry or make her needs known.  She may not trust that I will feed her.  She will not trust me to provide her love and safety.  She knows nothing about the commitment I am making to her--to always love her and never abandon her.  In order to help her learn all of these things and to earn her trust, we have to prove to her we will be consistent and we will respond.  That means when we get home, we will likely treat her very much like we would a brand new baby.  We will hold her...a lot.  We will rock her and soothe her.  We will wake when she wakes in the night.  We will provide all her meals.  We may continue giving her a bottle for a time (she still takes one in the foster home).  We will do all of this to help her realize we are Mom and Dad and we are always going to meet her needs.

What does that mean for you?  Why do you need to prepare?  It means things will be different (and perhaps a little difficult) when we get home.  We might ask you to do (or not to do) strange things.  Please, please trust us.  Trust that we aren't "spoiling" her or think that we are keeping her from you.  We know it will be hard, but if we do the hard work now, in these first weeks and months of being home, then that means she will attach stronger and better to us and it will allow you the freedom (down the road) of experiencing life with her just like you experience life with our biological children. 

We'd like to address some ground rules now, so that there will be no hurt feelings or misunderstanding when we get home.  We completely understand your excitement and want you to know safe ways to express it.  First, some things we will ask you NOT to do:
  • Please do not pick up, hold, place in your lap, or attempt to take Hannah from our arms--she needs to learn to find safety and security with us, first
  • Please do not give her full body hugs and squeezes
  • Please do not offer her food or gifts unless we explicitly tell you to do so
  • Please do not kiss her face
Now for the things we WANT you to do!
  • Pat her back or give side squeezes (preferably when she is being held directly by mom or dad)
  • Blow her kisses--lots of 'em!
  • Hold her hand or kiss her hand (again, preferably when she is being held directly by mom or dad)
  • Give her a high five or fist bump!
  • Talk to her and babble with her--tell her all about how excited you are, how much you've prayed for her, and so on.
  • Make silly faces 
  • Redirect her if she approaches you to be held, fed, or have a need met to go find mama or daddy--do not meet her need--let us do that!
  • Love on our current children--lots!  Don't let them get lost in the shuffle of excitement!
  • Help us with meals, our biological children, running errands, etc!
Please know that none of this is a permanent situation!  As our bond and attachment grows stronger, she will be able to expand her circle and start offering and displaying affection to those around us.  Know that if we do the hard thing now, it will be better for her down the road (and better for us).  You are not being asked to never ever hold her or kiss her....just for now, in this period of adjustment.  We will be sure to tell you when things change.

So yes, please, come to the airport and welcome us home, stop by the house to visit or bring a meal, call and check on us, and all those wonderful things!  Just let us be the ones to meet Hannah's needs and understand why we can't get out and about right away.  We will cocoon Hannah at home for a while to help her learn about home, safety, security, and family.

We are so thankful for you, for your excitement, and all your encouragement.  Join us in this time of preparation and start preparing your heart now for how things will look a little different and remember.....it is only for a time.  It isn't for forever!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chuggin' Along, Checking Things Off

Things are really moving rapidly at this point in our adoption.  It feels overwhelming at times and it literally occupies my mind every waking moment of the day.  I'm struggling to fall asleep at night because my mind is flying through all there is to accomplish pre-travel.  Most of all, I know there are things I am overlooking and will be wishing I'd done NOW rather than the day before we get on the plane, but I don't know what those things are....  Sigh.  This is just a glimpse into what is happening in my mind these days.

So, we signed our LOA and shipped it back to Birmingham last week.  It arrived at the agency on Monday.  They reviewed the documents and got it all set to send out to USCIS (again...you go through immigration approval more than once).  Our agency sent that packet of information out to USCIS on Tuesday of this week.  We should hear confirmation that it arrived there fairly soon.

On Monday night I also shipped out our Visa applications (along with our passports....GASP!).  I've been watching the tracking on those and got confirmation that they arrived at their destination today in Illinois.  The courier there will take the applications and passports to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, where we will get our approval Visas to enter China.  Sending our passports has been a major issue for me (by issue I mean, anxiety causing).  The courier gets too many applications each day to totally hold our hands through the process so there is no confirmation other than the tracking.  She will also notify us the day she sends it back, but that is all.  The directions were meticulous and I am certain I made a mistake on it somewhere.  If all goes well, she will drop the applications at the consulate this coming Monday and then pick them back up the following Monday (12/1).  They should get back to us that same week...the week of my birthday.  It is crazy to think that I am expecting Visas that week when, for the last couple months, I was certain we would be just getting LOA that week!  Wow!  LOA in thirty days less than expected.  AND before a major government shut down.  Totally crazy.

I started working on getting all the gifts we need to take with us for our guides, and orphanage staff, etc.  I've got almost all the women taken care of aside from the foster parents.  I still need to get the gifts for men as well. 

We still have some online training to complete and we started that.....  My dad arrives in less than two weeks with the new bunk beds for the girls and I plan to shop for bedding this weekend....

We got approved for a grant!  Yay!  This is huge!

I know there are more baby steps we've taken, but I can't think of them all.  Between homeschool, China, Christmas, upcoming early Christmas with my family, Thanksgiving, parties, work, church.......  I feel like each day I get out of bed  just run all day.  Literally, my mind is spinning.  All....the....time.  But it is all worth it and I know at some point the spinning will stop or it will just spin with new things (appointments, therapies, school, etc.).  This is the life of a mom!

We are so thankful we've made it this far!  It becomes more real with each passing day.  Soon, we'll be going after our girl!

Friday, November 14, 2014


Last night Chris and I signed our LOA for Hannah, officially accepting her as our future adopted child.  If I look tired in the photos below it is because I truly was exhausted.  There was much emotion for me yesterday.

I was an emotional disaster and I'm still easily brought to tears, but it is all good.  Wonderful, drive you to your knees in praise, good.  God has it.  And I can relax.  And it is so good to trust that.  I believe God's word is true and I also believe with all my heart that where He calls, He equips.  So with all my might, I take the leap, and I say YES.  (Deep breath in.)  YES, Hannah, you are worth it. (Deep bending knees.)  YES, God, I trust you.  (Closing eyes.) YES, I believe I have been specifically called to mother this specific little girl.  (No looking back.) YES, I know that God works all things together for our good. (Big giant leap.)  YES!  YES!  YES!  Hannah, you are ours, we accept our adoptee!  We're coming for you girlie! 

 Signing the LOA.  YES!  We accept the adoptee!

My turn to sign!  They don't leave a lot of room for a full "passport" name on these documents!  It is a beautiful document with both Chinese characters and English on it and a red official seal.

Lookin' a little overwhelmed and tired, but all in a good way!  Major milestone.  Yes, Hannah!  We want and accept and choose YOU little girl!  We are coming!

And it's off!  This little piece of paper is well traveled!  All the way from Beijing, China last week, to arrive in Birmingham, Alabama on Tuesday.  Arrived in Kentucky on Thursday and went out again on Friday, headed back to Birmingham--should arrive Monday!  Next stop, USCIS headquarters where we seek immigration approval for Hannah!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Flood

Today, our LOA arrived.  It also opened the floodgate of emotions I've had looming and have been pushing to the side.  Today I expected elation and a sense of giddiness, but instead I got a beautiful release of tears.  There were no tears yesterday when the Fed Ex truck didn't arrive, but oh, today....today there were tears.  I wasn't kidding you when I told you the emotions related to adopting are so much like those of pregnancy.  They are wacky and irrational.  Up and down.  You feel like you are going bonkers. Why the tears?  Best answer?  I don't know (isn't that a typical pregnancy related answer to tears as well??).  There has been so much leading up to this LOA.  So much tension, fear, anxiety, and building anticipation and now....it is here.  In my house.  Later tonight Chris and I will sign it and commit to making Hannah ours.  We will package it up and take it to drop off for overnight shipping to our agency.  There is a lot wrapped up in that to unpack and I can't really explain all of it.  Being a mother is not a job I take lightly.  It is the hardest, most sanctifying thing I've ever done.  Committing to mother and love and raise another child is a big deal.  Our lives and hers will never be the same.  I'm so overwhelmed by all there is yet to do and accomplish, yet, I am also so fully thankful for all God has accomplished for us thus far.  The tears are also in awe.  Total awe of where we were just a few short months ago to where we are now.  Just a few short months from adding sweet Hannah to our family.  The flood of emotions has arrived and I've finally let go enough to just let it come.  There are tears.  Happy ones.  Scared ones.  Anxious ones.  If you ask me about China in the next coming days and months I cannot guarantee that I won't cry when I talk about it because I don't know when these floodgates will close again.  Please don't take it as though I am not excited.  I'm over the moon, but I'm strung so thin with so (so, SO much) happening in such a short amount of time.  I cannot do my slow, deliberate, introverted processing that I so much enjoy.  Things are happening lightening fast and I can't wrap my mind around all of it.  Honestly, these tears are so welcome and so wonderful.  Cleansing.

Okay, deep breath in, exhale out.  There is an LOA sitting on my kitchen table and I have Visas to apply for!

Today, the flood came.  And so did our daughter's LOA.  Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

False Labor

Yesterday our LOA should have arrived via Fed Ex.  It did not arrive.  I waited and waited and waited.....  Our Fed Ex truck tends to come later in the afternoon, so I never expected it till around 2PM or so, but when it got on around close to 5:00 I really began to wonder.  Thankfully I got in contact with our social worker prior to her departure for the day.  Our LOA should have been sent over night to us on the 11th, therefore arriving yesterday, the 12th.  It did not get sent out on the 11th and from the sounds of it, it was still on a desk at 4PM yesterday with the promise that it would go out that day (the 12th).  Due to the delay we were promised "expedited" processing when we send our documents back for immigration processing.

There are a lot of emotions tied to this adoption and many of them mimic "real" pregnancy emotions.  This hiccup was entirely part of God's plan for us and for Hannah and we are fully trusting in that.  I did have a moment (or two) of feeling a bit deflated.  I felt like I was 40+ weeks pregnant and went to the hospital thinking I was in labor, only for them to tell me it was false labor and to send me home to walk some more.  It is frustrating, but getting worked up about it won't change the situation.

So.....hopefully and prayerfully TODAY I will greet the Fed Ex truck with great enthusiasm.

Longing for and dreaming of Hannah!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fed Ex is my Friend

Our hard copy of our LOA arrived in Birmingham, Alabama today.  They have packaged it all up safe and secure in a Fed Ex envelope and have sent it out overnight to our home.  The very nice Fed Ex man will deliver it to our front door some time tomorrow.  I hope that poor Fed Ex man has dealt with the crazed pre-adoptive mama crowd before, otherwise, he is about to have his socks knocked off, and he may be shaking his head for days to come.  There will be much, MuCh rejoicing when that truck arrives.  I cannot be fully responsible for all that may happen.  We *might* run out to meet it at the curb.  We *might* ask to have our picture taken with the truck.  We *might* even request a photo of the actual Fed Ex man.  There *might* be squeals of joy and uncontrollable laughter or maybe even a few tears.  My hands *might* shake and I *might* babble rapidly about how we've been waiting for this for a long time.  I *might* embarrass myself doing a few cartwheels or old school cheerleading jumps.  It feels like such a huge weight off to have this document coming....yet...

The paper chase is far from over.  I received our "next steps" packet of information in my e-mail today.  Overwhelming is far too small a word.  I felt "overwhelmed" when I opened our first packet of information when we began our adoption journey.  Petrified might be a better word now.  We thought we had a lot of abbreviations to keep up with before, well, I'll be educating you on MORE in the days to come....800 applications, NVC's, Cable Letters, Article 5's, GUZ's, CA's, and TA's.  Not to mention we have to actually get ready to travel amidst all of this swirling around.  I am beginning to seriously doubt there is another corner of space available in my brain for all of this.  Home school is becoming harder and harder to remain focused on.  I am thankful for an upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas break!  My brain simply cannot hold anything more, so if I forget something I told you, or say something wrong, or show up late or not at all, would you please extend me some grace?  Many call this "pregnancy brain."  While my belly isn't swelling, my heart certainly is, and it takes all the energy and focus my body has right now!  I've also reached that stage where getting to sleep is difficult, staying asleep even harder, and many of my dreams now include Hannah.

So, while we rejoice that our "hard" LOA is on a plane, headed to our home right now, we also need our prayer warriors to stick with us, stay strong, and help us cross the finish line!  Continued prayer needs:
  • For all these "next steps" to fall into place and happen quickly and smoothly.
  • For me to find peace and rest in all of this.
  • For the finances to continue to come together.  Y'all, God is providing, and I'm so humbled to be a part of this part of the story!  We are incredibly blessed!
  • For our kiddos here at home.  These are our last months as a family of five!  Please pray for me to come out of the cobwebs of my adoption brain to be fully present with them in this time, helping them realize they are fully loved and going to be amazingly wonderful big brothers and sisters to Hannah!
  • For our parents and close family.  We are about to make them grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins again.  This is a big adjustment for all families, but Hannah may be especially challenging.  We will have some restrictions as we bond and attach to Hannah (watch for another blog about that soon!) and while these restrictions are for the best for Hannah, they may also be difficult for the aching arms of grandparents.  Pray for their hearts to be prepared for how it will be different to welcome an adopted grandchild home from how it was to welcome an infant grandchild home.
  •  For us!  For our hearts and minds to be open and clear right now.  For stamina, energy, and health in these coming months.
  • Lastly, for precious Hannah!  She has no clue what is about to happen to her.  Her little heart is going to break and we're going to have to try to put it all back together as best we can.  Pray, pray, pray for us to bond right away, for healing to come rapidly, for her continued health, and for her heart to be at peace in this process.
So much more yet to come, but so much done and accomplished!  Keep running the race with endurance!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ephesians 3:20

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think...to him be glory..." Ephesians 3:20-21

Yesterday, we saw a God who parts seas, creates from nothing, heals the sick, and raises the dead.  Today, we see a God who does far more abundantly than we can ask or imagine!  You know, God is in the business of doing mighty things.

Yesterday, I walked with a light spring in my step.  Our file was reviewed.  Today, I jump for joy.  Our file is match reviewed!  What does that mean?  We have "soft LOA."  LOA is on it's way, people!  Once we receive the actual document, we will have "hard LOA."  Who cares about the technical jargon...

we are t minus 2-3 months from Hannah!

 Our super lame attempt to spell out LOA.

Hannah, Gotcha Day is within our reach!  Won't be long now!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day 60--And Then God

Today is day 60 in our LOA wait.  The wait is long and it is hard, but there are certainly lessons to be learned in it.  My heart's cry through this process has been for me to remain open to what the Lord is teaching me, showing me, preparing me for.  The wait isn't just a bureaucratic nightmare that is meant to simply be endured by those of us who seek to travel this road.  You have to look beyond all that--the hoops to jump through and the jungle of red tape--to see the real purpose behind all of it.  God doesn't just do anything.  Our lives have purpose, each day has purpose, and often He is using what is in this day to prepare us for what is to come down the road.  I've seen that in this wait.  I've been more aware of Him working in my heart as a mom, showing me areas of weakness that will require work before Hannah gets home, before I'm prepared to parent a child who is not biologically my own.  I've also been aware of Him pointing out areas to pray over my children, as they prepare their hearts to welcome a new sibling.  I've seen the areas that need work and I've been ready to jump in and do the work, so we can be best prepared for Little One to come home.  There is purpose in this wait.

With that said, it has also been a difficult wait.  Some days fly by in a flurry of activity and other days seem to stand still as I watch videos of Hannah over and over and over.  It is difficult not knowing where you file is in the stack of other files.  It is difficult to know how quickly things are moving or not moving.  However, all the while, there is a sense of movement.  While my file may not have been reviewed personally, perhaps the one ten files ahead of me was reviewed, so I'm getting closer in line to "my turn."  I've envisioned standing in the longest line ever and just waiting patiently to be next in line.  While it is slow progress, it is still progress.  There is still movement.

Yesterday, we were informed of a random, completely unexpected shut down of the adoption authority in China for one week.  It is a mandatory shut down.  People are being encouraged to leave the city of Beijing and go on a week long holiday.  All this in the hopes of minimizing air pollution and smog for the upcoming APEC meeting, to be held there in a couple of weeks.  Suddenly, there is no longer movement.  The line isn't moving.  The sign says "gone to lunch, back in a week."  Now we just stand.  And wait.  Waiting with movement is hard.  Waiting with no movement is painful.

I got that news yesterday and I was very disappointed, but I also quickly saw God's hand in all of it.  During my BSF lesson this week, our speaking leader said something in the lecture that spoke to me.  She said, "Do you feel stuck?  God could do one thing and move you along, but He doesn't budge?  He wants to use this time to talk with you."  God could do one thing and make this adoption process fly along, but He want to talk with me.  With me! After getting the news of the shut down yesterday I quickly went to Him, asking what He wanted to show me in this wait--the not moving, get out of your car, parked on the freeway, sort of waiting.  I went to my prayer warriors and asked for peace and quickly it came.  I reorganized time lines in my head and figured, okay...we'd hoped for LOA by Thanksgiving or early December and then hoped for travel by late February or early March.  We'd hoped to get to Hannah by her 2nd birthday.  The shut down sets everything back a week...pushing us likely to LOA in the first two weeks of December and likely not getting to Hannah by her 2nd birthday.  It would be okay because, of course, this is God's thing, not mine, and His plan is way, way better than my own.

And then God.  I love those words in the Bible.  You know something big is coming.  And then God.  God moves mountains, parts seas, provides manna from nothing, changes water to wine, heals the sick and raises the dead.  We got to see our "and then God" today.

Yesterday, I'd let go of the hope to get to Hannah by her birthday.  Today, I got a phone call from our social worker (Can I tell you, I love, love, love it when she calls me right now?!).  She told me she was calling because she wanted to report to us that there had been movement with our dossier!  We moved!  We've been waiting to be reviewed, then match reviewed, then we get the magic LOA.  The longest wait is to get to the reviewed point.  Match reviewed moves very quickly and LOA comes immediately after.  Today, we were reviewed! Being match reviewed is typically a very short wait and could come as quickly as tomorrow, or as long as about 10-14 days from now.  With the shut down looming in Beijing (starts on 11/7), we more than likely won't hear that we are match reviewed until after their week long holiday, but, it should come very soon after they return!  I won't lie and say I am not praying for God to work yet another miracle and let us squeak that match-reviewed in tomorrow (our social worker certainly said it is possible!), but I also cannot begin to tell you how much relief and peace this has provided me while we endure this unexpected shut down.  What does this boil down to?  Once we get LOA, which will come to us any day in the next 1-14ish days, our travel to get Hannah countdown will begin and we will likely be approximately 2-3 months out from Gotcha Day!  What does this mean?  Getting to her prior to her 2nd birthday is feasible!

How can you pray now?
  • First, praise Him for moving in this adoption and getting us to this point prior to the shut down!  Yay!  We are reviewed!!
  • Pray for our final leg of finances to come together.  There is still a big gap between where we are and where we need to be to cross the finish line.  We have a quilt raffle running right now, a Christmas embroidery fundraiser running, and grant applications in various stages of done.  God has been so good to provide thus far, please ask Him to continue to provide.
  • Pray for us to continue to see clearly from Him what we can do to prepare our hearts and home for Hannah.
  • Pray for Hannah.  Her life will never be the same.  Pray for her last months in China to be sweet and treasured time for her, for her nannies and caregivers to work with preparing her heart to be adopted, for her health to be good, and for her to continue to feel loved and cherished.
Look out baby girl, we are coming to get you!  Won't be long now!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Quilt Raffle

Okay friends!  It is time to kick off another fundraising effort to help us cross the finish line to bring sweet Hannah home!  A dear friend of mine is extremely talented when it comes to sewing.  She has sooooo generously given her time and talent to make a gorgeous handmade quilt for us to raffle off.  The quilt is a "lap quilt," but it is certainly generous in size.  With fall weather creeping in, I can just see myself snuggled up under this with a hot cup of tea and a good book to read!  This would be an excellent Christmas gift idea as well!

So, here are the details: raffle tickets will be sold for $5 per ticket or you can purchase 5 tickets at a discounted price of $20.  The winner will be drawn and notified on Saturday, November 22nd, so you could easily have this in time for Thanksgiving and get one of your gift items marked off the list early!  To purchase tickets (cash or check are fine!) just simply contact me via e-mail, Facebook, text, phone call, or catch me in person.  You do not need to live locally to participate.  We will happily ship it to the proud winner!  One hundred percent of the proceeds from raffle sales will go straight toward our efforts to make Hannah one less orphan in this world.

It is truly a beautiful quilt.

Please share this post and spread the word!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Letter to Hannah

Dear Hannah, 
Today I found out that you received the care package Daddy and I sent to you all the way in China.  My heart skips a beat to think about you receiving this gift.  I wish I could see your face as you pull each item out of the box.  Did you draw the soft lovie blanket up to yourself and hug it?  Did you rub it on your cheek or bury your face in it?  Did you like the yummy fruit snacks we sent?  Most of all I wish I could have seen your deep charcoal eyes as you studied the photo album.  We met each other for the first time in the exact same way.  One day our social worker called and told me to read my e-mail and there you were.  I saw your picture for the first time and I knew in an instant that you were to be our daughter.  Sometime today you saw our pictures for the very first time.  Were you curious?  Excited?  Did you understand?  When I saw you, there was something in my heart that knew, without a doubt, you were Hannah.  Did you see us and know as well?  Did God tug at your heart and help you to know we are Mama and Baba?  Sweet girl, I am so glad these precious gifts made it to you and I pray every single day that you will study those pictures and wear the pages out as you get to know us.  I study you, too.  I have your picture out in our home and I like to watch the videos we have of you over and over and over.....  Daddy and I have even memorized what the nannies say to you in each of the videos.  I know you have no concept of what a mother or father is or should be and I know that despite the pictures, when we come to get you, you will be scared.  I pray that even in your fear, when you see us in person for the first time, you will at least have a sense of familiarity; an understanding that you have seen us before somewhere.  I want you to know I will be scared that day, too.  You won't have to be scared alone.  This journey to be woven together as a family is a scary one.  It is worth it and wonderful, but it is still hard and scary at times.  We have officially met each other and yet here we are....millions of miles apart and a span of what seems to be endless days before we can meet face to face.

Until then, we wait.  And pray.  The wait is hard, but it is also so amazing.  I see God working in me to prepare me to be your mama.  I see Him working in Jacob, Joshua, and Grace, too.  I know His plans for all of us are beyond our greatest imagination.  Someone told me this week that they could tell you were already woven very deeply into my heart and I quickly told them you were woven there long before I ever saw your face.  It is so true.  God placed a longing for you in my heart many years ago.  It brings me so much joy to see God accomplishing this in my life, so many years later.

I want you to know how much we love you, how often we pray for you, and how we eagerly mark the time until we can come get you.  My prayer for you, Hannah, is that you are loved--no, cherished--daily, that you know the joy of security and safety, that you are able to get the nutrition you need, and that God is working ever so diligently in your heart to soften it to accept us as your family.  We love you and we hope you love your gifts....probably the first things that have ever been given specifically just for you.  I cannot wait to hold you soon!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Care Package Update!

On September 24, we sent a small care package to Little One.  Our agency works with a wonderful woman in China who has a tremendous heart for the orphan and their adoptive families!  She works her heart out as a guide for many when they make their adoption journey to China and then she also provides a wonderful service to the families through our adoption agency; care packages.  Rather than simply packing up a box and haphazardly shipping it off to China with a blind hope that it will reach your child, we get to use this amazing courier.  She sends you an e-mail with very explicit instructions about how and where to send your package...right down her address and phone number ready to be copied to a packing label in both English and Chinese.  If you want to eliminate the guesswork of even that, she will actually shop FOR you and purchase your requested items to deliver to your child!  While I did like the fool proof notion of having her do the shopping for us in China, I really, really wanted to be the one to pack up Little One's package and send it to her.  I wanted to shop for her gifts, I wanted to touch them and hold them, I wanted to do it.  It is the first of many gifts we will purchase for her and I wanted them to come from my heart.  I knew shipping would be crazy and I also didn't want to draw too much attention to our package (read: have it get stolen) by making it super big, so we kept it incredibly small and simple.  Here is what we sent:
  • Jelly Bellies for the foster parents-These are made in the USA and an item that was recommended to me.  It is great to send gifts that are made in the USA.
  • Post cards for the foster parents--Just a couple of shots of things around our state, to show them where Little One will be living.
  •  Toddler snacks--For Little One.  Some of those freeze-dried yogurt bites.
  • A Lovie-For Little One to snuggle and hold and feel secure with.  I did a good bit of snuggling and holding it before I sent it.  I would soooooooooo love it if she still has this at Gotcha Day and can bring it home with her!
  • A photo album--A super small one that is appropriate for little hands.  It holds six pictures and was just enough space to include one of Chris and I together, one of each of the kids, and one of our home.  I labeled the photos in both English and Mandarin to hopefully assist the foster parents in looking at it with her.  This is another item I would be over the moon excited to get back at Gotcha Day!
While sending the care package was very therapeutic for me, we also hope it will serve the purpose of preparing Little One's heart to receive us when the time comes.  We hope she will study our photos and we won't look so "strange" to her on Gotcha Day.

So, we packed it up and sent it to the courier in China, hoping that it would get there safely, unopened, and clear customs without hiccups.  I got an e-mail today, and it made it! It has arrived at our courier's home!  Praise God!  Now the courier will package it up and handle the in country shipping to Little One.  Hopefully by this time next week I will have confirmation that she has received it and I can start imaging her sweet little hands hugging her soft purple lovie blanket.

While there are no guarantees that we will get any of the items back and we will have no way of knowing how much she actually gets to have access to the items, we wanted to send them to her--praying and trusting God to use the items as He sees fit in this journey.

Hopefully this time next week I can update saying SHE GOT IT! 

Oh, and did I mention sweet Little One has a name?  We don't have her full name decided yet, but her first name will be Hannah.  What a joy it is to call her by name!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lessons in the Desert

It is too early in the LOA wait to be lamenting the difficulty, but yet, here I am...just shy of 20 days into the wait and all the stuff that everyone said about this wait being the most difficult wait....they were SO right.

Some days the wait seems easy.  I am busy and content with preparing to bring our daughter home.  I breeze in and out of the day buried in house work, school work with the kids, and family activities.  I feed myself with a daily dose of all the wonderful blogs people are posting of their own gotcha days.  And I am at peace and content.

Then there are days when I read the blogs and posts of LOA and TA and my heart aches.  I watch 60 second video clips over and over and over and over again.........  Longing.  I know God knows my heart.  I know He knows my daughter's heart.  And I know He knows when it is THE time to move in our adoption.  I trust all of that.  But sometimes this wait known as the LOA wait is just....so....long (and I am admittedly VERY early in this wait!).  And hard.

Right now at our church we are working through a sermon series based in Numbers and I'm thinking of the years the Israelites spent in the desert.  Rather than praising God for the miracle He had accomplished and expectantly looking ahead for what He was yet to do, they spent their time grumbling and complaining.  It was contagious and grumbling took over the camp, leading to further misery.  God was using this time in the desert to train and prepare the people.  The time was not right for them to enter the Promised Land.  I feel a bit like we have been lead into the desert called LOA WAIT.  I have a choice, just like the Israelites.  I can complain.  I can whine.  I can grumble.  Or I can rejoice over what God has accomplished.  The miracle that just took place.  There is one less orphan in this world and she will soon be a daughter, sister, and grandchild.  She will be dearly loved and cherished.  I can rejoice over that and humbly thank God for for this miracle or I can grumble and my misery will only be heightened.

Lord, let me rejoice and expectantly look ahead for what You are yet to do and accomplish in this adoption.  While I sit in this dreaded desert known as LOA WAIT, I am going to choose YOU.  I am going to choose to allow YOU to quench my thirst.  I will keep my eyes intently upon You, trusting You will move according to Your plan.  Lord, help to to learn all the lessons You have for me in this desert and prepare my heart to enter the Promised Land of holding our sweet daughter close.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Way to Help

So many of you have been so gracious to encourage us in our adoption journey and we are so grateful for all of your help, well wishes, and prayers!  Some of you have even given time, energy, and precious financial gifts to make our adoption possible.  Thank you seems completely inadequate!  You are all helping us to bring sweet Little One home!

Some of you are wondering how you can help, or feel what you have to offer is too small.  Let me tell you honestly.  Nothing is too small for the Lord to work miracles with!  We know that with each gift we receive there is a story and the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit upon it.  We receive those gifts with such joy and thankfulness!

We have a new way to help us boost up our adoption fund right now!  If you love Mary Kay products (I have used them for years and will never ever go back to regular drug store cosmetics!), this is your time to jump in!  Not only can you stock up on all your favorite Mary Kay products, you can also help us bring Little One home!  My mother-in-law is a Mary Kay consultant and she has graciously offered to donate 100% of her profit to our adoption fund for Little One!  If you are not already connected with an outstanding Mary Kay consultant, all you have to do is shop and place your order between September 19th and September 29th!  You can place your order through her online catalog (www.marykay.com/jburris27), or you can contact me via facebook or e-mail and I will take care of placing your order for you!  No need to worry if you aren't local!  We will ship it to your doorstep!  You get the products you would likely purchase anyhow, and we get the profit to help bring our daughter home!  We both win!

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping us make this adoption a reality! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Us" in Six Photos-A Care Package

We are currently in the process of putting together a care package to send to Little One while she waits for us in China.  I found a small baby photo album that we will use to introduce her to our family and hopefully help her become acquainted with our faces.  There is room in the album for just six photos.  This presented a huge challenge to me!  If you know me, you know I take pictures all....the....time.  Having my camera conveniently located on my smart phone has only added fuel to this fire of subjecting my kids to constant, "Wait!  Wait!  Look this way and say cheese!"  Needless to say, it was a challenge to dig through photos and choose just one of each person.  I did have some specific guidelines in mind as I got started.  I wanted the photos to be current...current hair, etc.  I also wanted the photos to focus primarily on the face, so that Little One is able to study us without distracting images in the background, etc.  I thought I'd share what I came up with.  I am pleased with my choices and hope they make it into the hands of Little One safely.  We still have some items to gather up for our care package, but I do hope to mail it out within a week or so.


Big Brother-gege

Big Brother-gege

Big Sister-jiejie

Our Home

Our Family-家庭

We had space for a smaller sized photo on the front.  I'm considering including this one:

Little Sister-mei mei