Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bountiful

God is in the business of answering prayers, y'all.  And not just in any old way.  BIG ways.  Ways that you cannot deny Him.  I love it.  His presence has been and continues to be so evident in our family as we walk our journey with Hannah.  Such amazing and blessed grace He continually pours out on us.



Yesterday was a big day.  Hannah endured the first of several surgeries she will have in the course of her lifetime to address her cleft lip and palate.  There were many fears and anxieties going into this first surgery and many very specific prayer requests made.  He answered.  Each and every single one of them.




Hannah was so peaceful and brave throughout the process yesterday.  So, so very brave and resilient.  She is a fighter.  We had precious time with her in pre-op, seeing some last huge smiles, scrunched nose giggles, and puckered up lips.  We each got our final clefty kisses and felt at ease with the change about to occur.  The anesthesia team was amazing and ever so attentive to her needs as a newly adopted child.  Our prayer now is that we will get to work with both the same anesthesiologist and the same anesthesiologist nurse for her next surgery this summer.  Their passion and compassion was evident each step of the way.  We are so thankful for their sensitivity (down to treating her differently to avoid night terrors as she woke up!) and attention to detail in keeping our daughter secure and comfortable yesterday. 




Our surgeon, Dr. L....  We cannot sing his praises enough.  He was so compassionate as he knew our emotional attachment to how Hannah looked with her cleft.  He was skilled in his work with her and so gentle and relaxed in his interactions with Hannah.  He was cautious and wise to ask us to stay the night (even though none of us wanted to) and readily accessible to us for all of our questions.  His work on Hannah's face is astonishing and brought a flood of tears to my eyes as I saw her for the first time yesterday.  She looks so very different, but she is still our sweet Hannah.

Our nurses.  Y'all.  Our NURSES!  They are so much an important factor influencing the quality of your time in the hospital.  God did not disappoint us with either of our nurses.  The sweetest thing?  I had specifically asked my Bible Study group to pray for us to have opportunities in our time in the hospital to share the gospel through adoption and just share our passion for the orphan.  God blessed us with two amazing nurses and a precious nursing student who just took to Hannah immediately and obeyed the nudging in their hearts to ask us more questions about adoption, about Hannah, and about our journey to her.  We were able to truly share our hearts and it was so glorious to see the spark in the heart of another yet-to-be mama who is feeling the flame of passion for the orphans of this world.  What a gift it was to share so freely all of God's doing in our journey and also see such sweet, passionate nurses doing all they possibly could to make our time in the hospital as bearable as possible.  Seriously, our second prayer request, in addition to the anesthesiologist for next time is for the same nurses.  Nurse Katie and Nurse Emily are rare treasures and we hope we get to see them again and continue to form friendships and bonds over our love for orphans!

Hannah--I have no words to express the transformation in our baby girl.  The bonding that has occurred through the course of this surgery with Hannah, myself, and Chris has been so precious.  Hannah has allowed Chris to care for her in ways we could have only dreamed of.




This week has been so much of God's weaving and planning.  Blessings heaped upon blessings.

Hannah is home now and working on recovering.  I hope to post another about her post operative prayer needs.  Thank you for loving us, for loving our girl, and for faithfully beseeching our Lord in prayer.  Our cup runneth over....


Monday, April 27, 2015

Surgery Specifics

Once again, our family has been overwhelmed by the flood of loving support and encouragement to us as we approach Hannah's first surgery tomorrow.  You are each a gift to us and your prayers are such a tremendous blessing to each of us.  Thank you.

I haven't been very specific about some aspects with Hannah's surgery because--well--we just didn't have all the specifics until today.  Now we have the full picture of what lies ahead (sort of) and we'll fill you in so you can know best how to pray for us tomorrow.

God is already showing us His supreme care and protection for Hannah.  One of our primary concerns with any of Hannah's procedures has been the need to deny her food--a huge source of trust and comfort for her.  We were not looking forward to this and were anxious about what potential damage it could cause in our relationship with her.  As of about three hours ago, we were set to be the second procedure of the day--meaning Hannah would not even be taken back for her procedure until about 10:30 in the morning tomorrow and we would have to deny her food until that time.  This had us nervous.  Huge praise!  Protocol with the little ones at the hospital is that they go in order of age.  Youngest kiddos go first.  There was one child younger than Hannah scheduled for tomorrow.  We got our call a little after 12 and found out that the child prior to Hannah had cancelled just minutes before!  We are now the youngest case and therefore, FIRST!  It means we have to be at the hospital while the world is still sleeping, but I cannot tell you the relief we feel about not really having to deny her food--or at least for not a long period of time.  Her surgery is scheduled to begin around 7:30AM (Eastern) tomorrow morning.  We have to arrive to the hospital at the wee hour of 5:30AM.  We do not yet know how long to expect her procedure to take.

Some have asked what this specific procedure is for.  This will close the cleft in her lip and nothing more.  The cleft in her gum line and palate will remain.  Her nose will be shaped some as well.  In addition to this procedure we have decided to move forward with placing ear tubes and have requested those be placed tomorrow as well.  There will not be a graft involved in the closure of her lip.  Isn't it amazing how God created our bodies?!

When will we close the cleft in her palate?  I had originally thought we could do all of it at one time (and some surgeons out there still do it this way for adopted children).  We have agreed with our surgeon that it is best for Hannah and her recovery to do one thing at a time.  Too much at once would just be too painful and difficult for her during recovery.  Once Hannah's lip is fully healed (about 3-4 months from now) we will have a 2nd surgery to close the cleft in her palate.  We are told the palate surgery is far more difficult than the lip, so we are bracing and preparing for that.

What do we expect as far as recovery with this procedure?  We have no idea.  Having never experienced something this significant with Hannah before, we have no idea what her tolerance for pain is or just how resilient she is.  We venture to guess she is far more brave than either of us could be.

Will we have to spend the night?  Typically this procedure is done on an outpatient basis.  Since Hannah's medical history is a great big question mark for us, we have no clue how she will respond to anything, including all the anesthesia.  So--at this moment in time she is scheduled as an "observation" patient, meaning she could potentially spend the night.  If all is well and she is tolerating things nicely, we will get sent home early.  I have packed bags with the intent of spending the night there and really hope the mere act of doing that has guaranteed we won't be staying.

How can you pray?
  • Pray for sweet closure for all of us as we say good-bye to this amazing smile.  We truly adore it.
  • Pray our attachment with Hannah is not hindered at all by this procedure--in fact, we hear from many others that surgical procedures actually strengthen attachments.  This is our prayer.
  • Pray for an anesthesia team that is open to learning the needs of an adopted patient and willing to work with us in making sure Hannah's needs for security are met.  Pray specifically she is able to be asleep when she is taken from me and also that we are able to be there the instant she awakes.  These are specific areas we are sensing a degree of resistance from the hospital on.
  • Pray for swift and easy recovery for Hannah and patient endurance for Chris and I as we help her through these next few difficult days.
  • Pray for minimal scarring.  This is her sweet face, y'all.  It will be her first impression her whole life.
  • Pray for God to be ever present in and through Dr. L tomorrow morning.  For him to truly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  For Dr. L to get excellent rest tonight and to feel fantastic and energized tomorrow morning.
  • Pray for the ENT placing the tubes.  For the tubes to be easily placed and for Hannah's hearing to dramatically improve.
  • Pray for outstanding fully functional lips that can quickly learn all the things they need to do for successful speech development.
  • Pray we get to come home tomorrow and do not have to stay the night.
  • Peace.  Peace on all of us.
Have you told Hannah about what is going to happen tomorrow?  Does she understand?  Well....she's two.  We have done our best and she can fill in the part of the script.  I'll leave you with that.

Mommy: Tomorrow we are going to go to the.......
Hannah: Hospital!
Mommy: Yes!  And we will see the .....
Hannah: Doctor
Mommy: And when we get there Hannah is going to take a great....big.....
Hannah: Signs for sleep emphatically
Mommy: Yes!  A big sleep!  And when Hannah wakes up from that big sleep?  What will be different?
Hannah: Puckers and points to lips.
 Mommy: Yes.  Hannah's lips will be different.  And Mommy and Daddy will be there with you for every bit of it.

Til Tuesday......




Sunday, April 26, 2015

Etching It In

We knew this day would come.  From the moment we laid our eyes on her and knew she was meant to be ours, we knew this day would come.  I have followed other families that have adopted, specifically families that have adopted children with the same "special need" as Hannah's.  I knew this day could potentially be emotionally difficult for us, but until you live it, you just can't know for sure.



Two days from now, Hannah will face the first of her surgeries needed to repair her cleft lip and palate.  Our household is a mixed bag of emotions.  In one breath I can say how truly thankful and grateful I am that we have the honor of providing this life changing surgery for Hannah, but then in the next, I can truthfully admit there is a certain level of grief and mourning happening in our home.  We have had to answer some tough questions in our house: "Mommy, why do we have fix Hannah's lip if that is how God made her?" and "I wish we didn't have to change Hannah.  She's so cute now!"  or "I'm gonna make sure I get lots of clefty kisses from her between now and Tuesday!"



Since the day we got home the most frequently asked question about Hannah has been, "When will you do the surgery?"  There was a sense of eager anticipation of getting the ball rolling on her recovery and correcting all that needed to be corrected.  In the world's eyes there may be a sense of eagerness and anticipation leading up to Tuesday.  But in our eyes, the totally biased eyes, of her parents?  We are grieving and longing for more time.  One more big, wide smile.  One more tongue out moment of concentration.  One more giggle about food dribbling out.  Another attempt to blow bubbles or the seeds off a dandelion.  One more kiss.




Please don't get me wrong.  We would never want Hannah to face her life with an unrepaired cleft.  Having her surgery will change her life dramatically.  She'll be able to speak clearly and have an outward appearance that is more socially accepted.  She will have the ability to hear more clearly and get the nutrition she needs.  We want her to have all those things and we know the surgery is essential for her to have a lifetime of health.  Knowing all this still doesn't remove the ache or the sting of loss.  You see, these lips, this face, it is precious to us.  It is the only way we've known Hannah and it is the Hannah we laid eyes on in September 2014 and fell in love with.  It is likely a large part of the weaving of her story and how she came to be our daughter.




On Tuesday, Hannah will enter the operating room our little Hannah.  She will emerge a time later, still our Hannah, but looking unlike anyone we've met before.  It will be as though we are meeting all over again.  I know the day will come that we will see her smile and the sparkle in her eye and it will just be...her.  Who she is.  We will adjust.  She will adjust.  And much of this will all be memory.



So that is what these last few days have been about in our home.  We have celebrated her amazingly beautiful little face.  We have savored it, taken it all in, and secured as many memories as we possibly can.  We cannot forget this little girl, with the wide, uncertain eyes who came to our family so angry and afraid, yet has blossomed into a child whose smile radiates joy.  I am stealing as many clefty kisses as she will give.  I am taking as many pictures and videos as my phone will hold. So she won't be forgotten.  Just as she is.  I hope that one day she will look back at all these pictures and see what we see.  Our daughter, full of life, and full of beauty.



I assure you, on Monday night there will be tears.  Tears of sadness of saying goodbye to something so sweet and precious to us.  Tuesday morning there will be tears of uncertainty, but there will be a sense of peace.  Peace that the journey is just beginning and that we are so humbly thankful we get to walk through it with her.  Precious daughter.  Loved.  Cherished.  No longer alone to fight these battles with no one by her side.



So we spend the next two days painting a canvas of memories with her.  Tuesday morning we will kiss her sweet lips one last time and say good-bye to this chapter of our time with her.  Soon we will kiss her new beautiful face.  Soon her pain will subside to offer what will be the first of her forever smiles.  And we will cry.  Tears of sadness, tears of mourning and loss, and tears of joy and thankfulness.



So until Tuesday we will be here, with our daughter, just etching it all in.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Beautifully His


Do you know, silly, precious little girl, that you are BEAUTIFUL?  Just as God created you.  His beautiful craftsmanship is on display in and through you.

"For you formed my inward parts...."


Your eyes.  Your hair.  The color of your skin.  Your beautiful face.  Every inch of you.  Designed by Him.  A reflection of who He is and His love for you.

"...you knitted me together in my mother's womb..."



Your cleft?  All part of His plan for you.  Not a mistake.  Not a freak of nature.  Not a "less than desirable" birth defect.  Not something to simply "overcome."  Not a cultural sign of a curse or of being unlucky.  No.

"...I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."


Your cleft is what makes you who you are.  A distinct part of your deep beauty and such a part of the weaving of your story, the creation of your journey to us.  We adore it.  We are blessed by it.  And we have been blessed to teach many others not to be afraid of it.

"...Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well..."


We rejoice in the way God formed you.  Your inward and outward parts.  We praise God for the child you are and we eagerly anticipate how He will use you in the days to come.  It is no surprise to us that it is ever so clear His plans for you are BIG.

"....My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, 
intricately woven in the depths of the earth..."


We walk proud.  Proud of you.  Proud of who you are and how far you have come.  Unashamed of all He created you to be.  We are thankful you are ours, for this time, but we know, ultimately, you are His.
"...Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, 
every one of them, the days that were formed for me, 
when as yet there was none of them..."


On April 28th, we will prayerfully place you into the capable hands of Dr. L and he will repair the first part of your cleft, your lip.  We are faithful God will be working in and through Dr. L, weaving and working to complete His plan for you and your appearance.  We will place you in his hands with a skip in our hearts and a catch in our throats, but we know we will see ultimately God's plan and glory displayed in the changes yet to come.

Let you never question it.  Not for a moment.  You are beautiful now.  You will become yet even more beautiful as He works in and through you.You are and always will be beautiful.  Beautifully His.

Ten Weeks and Ten Things

Ten weeks.  We have been home ten weeks.  I've written a lot about the hard in the last ten weeks.  It is good to write about the hard stuff; good for those yet to walk this road, and quite frankly, it is therapeutic and cathartic for me to write.  We aren't running a sprint.  The hard stuff is going to be ongoing.  This is a marathon and it will require ongoing cheers from the crowd.  Having the crowd behind you at the start of the race is sure nice, but man, as you approach the finish and your feet feel like lead and the legs are like rubber--that is when you need the cheerleaders to really kick in.  In this journey there is plenty of hard, but today?  Today I chose to be intentional about the good.  I decided to pray this morning for God to help me intentionally quickly see past the hard and forget about it, but to really take notice of the good and make mental markers of those good things, so I could come back to rely on them when the going got tough.  Know what?  God answered my prayer.  Yes, there was hard today and yes, I could spend this post talking about it, but mixed in with all of it, there was good stuff--good that I may have overlooked had God not so graciously honored my prayer.

So, here it is.  Home ten weeks today and ten good things.

1.) Today (and yesterday too!!) we were 100% cuss free!  No kidding!  Cuss free zone, y'all (we won't mention the lay on the floor kicking tantrums, 'cuz we were CUSS FREE!)!  This is a big day.  Oh, and I know she wanted to do it.  So bad.

2.) We started our day too early, but an early start lead us to a wonderful early morning 30 minute power nap to reset our outlook on things.  It was much needed and well received by all parties.



3.) Little Miss "I Hate Milk" actually drank milk.  I've started just serving it each day at breakfast and trying to get her to take a few sips before I switch it out to her water.  Most days it never makes it past her cleft lip lock down (Is that even possible?  Somehow it is.).  Today?  She drank way more than I expected and actually acted like she might be getting used to it.  Maybe?

4.) She played happily with legos throughout our entire school morning.  Hooray for a new table activity to grab her attention (and work that lazy little finger!).

5.) Two of her siblings sweetly sacrificed time riding their own bikes/scooters to push her around the garage on her tricycle (her legs just don't quite reach the pedals yet) so that I could finish fixing dinner.  She loved it and giggled the whole time.




6.)  Hannah got to spread dandelion seeds today with Grace.  She can't blow them off like Grace can, but she sure can smash them!

7.) She acted happy when Daddy came home from work tonight!  Praise!

8.) We got through two entire meals tantrum free today!

9.) She let me play "kiss monster" with her for a long time today.  Usually she doesn't tolerate games that involve prolonged physical contact or closeness for very long periods of time.  She will often quickly shake her head no and ask me to stop.  Today she giggled and giggled and let me carry on easily for a minute or two.

10.) We spoke to her surgeon today and officially scheduled her first surgery (more on that in another post).

....And I will throw in a bonus one...

11.)  She's just silly.  And cute. I adore her and I am so glad she is my daughter.



Ten things of good.  Ten weeks of pure privilege. 

Undeserved Grace

When we traveled to China, we did it with a great deal of financial freedom.  Hannah's adoption was financially feasible because of so many of you.  We cannot tell you the countless number of people who simply mailed us a check--some of you people we haven't spoken to in years or even met face to face.  Each day I would walk to the mailbox and just know that with the turn of my key in the door, I'd open it to be smacked with more of God's goodness.  It was really a lot of fun to see Him show up like that--each and every day.  It was also incredibly humbling, especially knowing there were many sacrifices made on the opposite end of all those checks.  I don't know if many of you know this, but we were able to adopt Hannah debt free.  What a glorious testimony to God's goodness to us.

We received three grants--one from each organization we applied to (Show Hope, Lifesong, and the Love Does Foundation).  With each application laboriously submitted, we really didn't expect to get anything.  Yet we did.  A lot.  Those grants pushed us over the edge and allowed us to have the cash we needed to wire to China, right at the final and most pivotal of moments.  People mailed us checks.  People handed us cash.  Anonymous friends sent envelopes loaded with cash.  Adoption is not cheap and we knew it was going to be a huge financial mountain to climb when we stepped out in faith and said "yes" to Hannah, but we knew that God would see us through.  And He did.  In so many countless ways.

When we got home, we expected this to stop.  The checks to stop coming.  The flood of His presence to stop pouring in through our mailbox.  But it hasn't.  Maybe it has even been a bit more humbling, since our adoption of Hannah is final.  Since coming home we've had yet more people step out in faith to support us.  People have sent gift cards for groceries, gift cards for meals out at local restaurants, gifts for the older children, gifts for Hannah, and even an entire box packed to the brim of things to take care of Mama to help me keep my energy and focus on fighting for this little person's heart each day.  An anonymous gift was given to our family that completely covered the cost of our insurance deductible (a wonderful blessing to have as we approach Hannah's first surgery).  We....are....floored.  And so humbled.  And in all of this there is the undercurrent from Chris and I.  Each time something happens we say, "But why us?  Why are people being so undeniably generous and kind to us?  We are sinners!  We fail!  We don't serve as much as we wish to!"  Yet, there it is.  These gifts.  These powerful, tangible pieces of evidence of God's goodness to us.

Truth is, we don't deserve any of it.  Not one iota.  None of us do.  We do not deserve the grace that has been extended to us.  What a gorgeous picture of the gospel all of this has been in our lives, in the lives of our children, and in the lives of those around us.  What I can tell you is that we have been forever changed by it.  Our eyes have been opened anew and the passion in our hearts for the orphan stoked even more.  We will give differently because of you.  We will pray differently because of you.  Our children will give and pray differently because of you.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being a part of this gospel journey with us.  It has truly been remarkable.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dancing Through Spring


Parenting any child is like a dance, but I see it the most in my parenting of our adopted child.  I'm the lead and I try to nudge her along.  Sometimes she falls gracefully into step with me and the dance is beautiful to watch.  Other times we get a little off beat or our right feet and left feet mixed up.  We're still headed in the same direction, but we're just a tad tangled up.  Then there are other times that we are flat out dragging one another in opposite directions because we both want to lead.  Adoption parenting is a lot like that.  Sometimes things are smooth sailing.  Other times, they just aren't so smooth, so pretty, so glorious to watch.  Sometimes we get where we need to go, but it was a tangled mess getting there.  Sometimes we forget steps we've known forever or get jumbled in something that ought to be easy.  Sometimes we try to conquer steps that are too advanced for our level.  Or we might glide gracefully through something we were certain would have derailed us entirely.  You just never know what sort of dance it will be each day.  Graceful and slow?  Jumpy like a quickstep?  Easy and natural like a waltz?  We are moving forward....and...a little backward, too.

We've done a lot of moving forward lately.  We've also done a good bit of moving backward.  Missteps we thought were long behind us resurface.  Insecurities come and go.  Moving forward doesn't mean all those little things of the past are cured and gone.  They may be forgotten or pushed to the side in the moment, but they are certainly not gone.

What does moving backward look like in our home?  In our home right now it looks like a little girl who has easily gone at least two weeks without requiring the security of a snack cup in sight at all hours who suddenly needs it again--ferociously.  It looks like a big sister who is fumbling with where she fits in her Mama's heart and attention these days, so she does and says things that are out of character.  It looks like a big brother who can't seem to fully trust Mama and Daddy to do an adequate job of parenting, so he steps in and tries to parent despite knowing he shouldn't.  It looks like a little girl who continues to have night terrors during her naps.  It looks like massive meltdowns over food that had long dissipated.  It looks like a little boy who suddenly requires full assistance for all forms of self-care that haven't been needed for months.  Or little people who won't nap, but need to nap.  It might look like a frazzled mom whose temper is short and ability to focus limited.  It might be a Dad who doesn't know who to handle first--the disobedient child or the frustrated and at wits end Mom.  Or a Dad who has to fight for his daughter's heart (and even mere acceptance) on a daily basis.

So yes, we are moving backward some.  Backward is hard.  Some of that stuff was hard to deal with when we were there the first time and while it hasn't gotten any harder than it once was, it feels harder.  Why?  Because you've seen what moving forward looks like.  It looks good.  Very good.  You've basked in the gorgeousness of moving forward, so going backward has a bit of a sting--reopening wounds that were partially healed.  Eventually the sting fades, just like the burn of alcohol on a wound, but instead of slapping a band-aid on it this time, you decide to dig a little deeper.  What is causing this wound to reopen and resurface?  How can we help it heal?  For good.  So you get down to work at studying the dance and really try hard to master these early steps so that when things get harder you don't have to go back and relearn all the basics.  You get the momentum going again and things start moving forward.

What does moving forward look like?  It looks like a little girl who is secure enough in her home to simply be tucked in--no rocking or patting or bouncing needed--just simply tucked and loved.  It looks like parents swallowing the lump in their throats and contacting the surgeon with a list of possible dates for the surgical repair process to begin.  It looks like daily renewal and grace given to each member of this home.  It looks like little fingers mastering the pincer grasp for the first time in months.  It sounds like giggles and laughter.  It includes shoulder rides with Daddy and ball games in the backyard.  It's catching bubbles and making sure each one of them pops.  It is a meal without a tantrum, a restrained fist that wants so desperately to hit, or a mouth speaking love that would rather hurl insults.  Moving forward feels good.

In all this moving forward and backward I am reminded, day in and day out, that this is not always going to be this way.  Forward movement will happen with more frequency.  Backward movement will slow.  It is simply a season.  It can be easy, at times, to feel stuck in this season--like it is the bleakest of winters.  I pray I don't get stuck there often or at all because I would be failing to see what it truly is.  It is the prettiest of springs, this season we are in.  It includes the most magnificent of blooms.  The prettiest butterflies.  The smells are rich and deep and fragrant.  Seasons come and go and seasons change.  Right now, I am content to stay right here in this season of forward and backward (and some inside out and upside down).  Spring really is the prettiest season, in my opinion, and I am glad to watch in this front row seat of mine all the glorious things God is ready to unfurl.  Spring is in full bloom in our home.  Rich, full, deep, glorious bloom.  And I'm so glad I get to be part of it.  We are going to dance the prettiest dance we know right through the tulips and daffodils, the bumblebees and ants, the cherry blossoms and pollen.  We are going to dance and blossom and bloom.  Together.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;
....
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance......"
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Back to Basics

For those of you more familiar with our story (and Hannah's story), you will recall that way back in December Little Miss injured her right index finger pretty significantly in a metal folding chair.  Upon meeting Hannah, we noticed it didn't look "right" and that she would not use it and kept it held straight out and stiff from all her other fingers at all times.

You can see it fairly well in this photo from "Gotcha Night."  It is the hand in the bottom of the photo.  She kept that index finger away from all the other fingers at all times.

And here, you see her pointing to the picture in the book with her middle finger, rather than that index finger.

When we had our first appointment at the IAC, the doctor took one look and agreed with our super medical diagnosis in China that it was not "right."  She ordered additional x-rays.  The results of the x-ray indicated that she had not impacted the bone (as China had told us) and that it was a significant amputation of fatty tissue off the tip of her finger.  We were sent to consult with a surgeon.

The surgeon took one look and agreed that our assessment was correct, it wasn't "right."  However, his review of her x-ray and the finger itself did not indicate the need for surgery.  Sure, it doesn't look "right" and sure, we could make it look better, but it will not make it function any better than it currently does.  In fact, surgery might drive her from using it even more.  It hurt for so long that she has a bad case of neglect and has almost totally "forgotten" to use it.  He told us to just try to encourage her to use it more and eventually she'll realize that it doesn't hurt and get used to its new sensations and feelings with it, we'll get her brain rewired and she'll start using it.  Just lots of practice.

We've been hesitant to force the issue of practice until we knew for sure that it actually doesn't "hurt" her.  Knowing this now, we feel like we can encourage getting that beautiful pincer grasp back to what it once was with the index and thumb, rather than middle and thumb as she is currently doing (honestly, none of this would be a big deal if it wasn't on her right hand.  She appears to be right hand dominant and the finger will impact pencil grip, etc. down the road so she really needs to start using it).

Yesterday we played a game to hone in on some fine motor skills using q-tips and a Parmesan cheese container.  I got her to use that "lazy little finger" to do some chomping and squeezing on those q-tips, but she kept trying to be sly and use her left hand instead.  Today, I tackled lunch. Behold....

 "Chomp, chomp, chomp those fingers!  Grab that fishy by the tail!"


 "Good chomping!  Make that little finger work!  He says, "don't forget about me!  I want to do some chomping!""


 The best sign for "more" we have ever seen to date!  Look at all those fingers so neatly tucked in and touching at the tips!  No scaredy cat finger sticking straight up in the air making things look messy!


Look at me, Mama!  My finger is chomping some cheese!  CHEESE!!

When you are an adoptive Mama you realize that no task is a small task for your child to attempt.  The hurdles are big and the wounds run deep.    You rejoice at even the smallest of things.  This looks like a mundane, regular lunch to many.  To me--this is two months at home, fear conquering, tough girl bravery.  This was no small thing and she will continue to need lots of prompts and reminders to get that finger back into regular use, but she sure did conquer it.  From not letting us touch it, to finally allowing to me clip the nail on it, to today--using it to pick things up.  Big stuff for a little girl.  Would you just look at that pretty little pincer??

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Joy

I've had this blog post swirling in my mind for a week or so.  It has been written, rewritten, and reviewed.  I hesitate to share it.  I love being real on here, but is this too real?  Do I really want to invite unknown people into this part?  Truth be told, no, I don't want to.

Let's just get this out there right from the start.  I do not have it all together.  I am not super mama.  I am not amazingly spiritual.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but in the last week or so, the enemy has crept in and filled my mind with lies and stolen my joy.  Just like the blink of an eye or the flick of a switch--poof--joy gone.  Joy that used to fill my heart and soul with abundance and joy that kept me going even in the tough stuff.  Somewhere, in the midst of all these lies, mothering has become a job.  Not just any job.  A job I don't always want to face, a job I want to slack off on, a job I want to quit at times (yes, it is true), and a job I quite frankly don't feel qualified to do.  My heart's cry has been for Him to restore my joy.  Please God, please....restore my joy.  Help me to find fulfillment in this job.  Help me to want to do it.  Help me to see it as privilege and not burden.

Something happened.  The jump from three to four children, the ages of all four combined, the needs to manage a home with six people living in it, the demands of schooling one of those children full time....something happened.  It is a lot.  I am spread thin.  I feel often like a machine.  I get up, I feed mouths, I clean up, I dress bodies, I launder and fold, put away and hang up, I prepare another meal, clean up, referee fights, discipline, train, educate, wipe up messes, and clean up mountains of toys.  It feels so....mundane.  So boring.  So useless.  Please God, get me out of this Arctic tundra of joylessness.  Dry as the Sahara.  I am parched and need watering.

What has happened?  I don't know.  I struggle to find time for anything other than the basic and mundane.  Please excuse the state of my home the next time you are in it because doing anything more than a random vacuum or swipe of a Clorox wipe is well beyond my abilities right now.

There is so much hard about mothering four children (and those of you with more than four are laughing, saying how easy four really is).  Each day I lose my temper (y'all think I have it all together, but let me assure you, I do not).  I fail.  I say and do things I have to apologize to my children for.  I go to bed with regret and tell myself tomorrow will be different.  A good bit of sleep and I will rise with the joy.  It will return.  Then I wake up (an hour earlier than I typically do in attempt to be able to get ready entirely alone....a huge part of my sanity and start to my days and that has yet to happen since China).  Instead of peacefully getting ready, focusing my mind on Him, I have one child throwing a massive tantrum on the bathroom floor before I can even wrap my shower drenched body in a towel, another instantly whining that oatmeal is not an acceptable breakfast option, a child dancing around who cannot obey me to go to the bathroom alone as asked, and another complaining that the others woke them from slumber too soon.  Did I even get all the conditioner out of my hair?  Is that a zit on my nose?  When was the last time I actually brushed all of my teeth?  Sigh.......  And I stand in the middle of my bathroom half dressed and dripping with five unhappy bodies crammed into the smallest room in our itty bitty house and I want to cry.  Will today really be any different than yesterday?  I feel my blood boiling and it isn't even 7AM yet.  God, where is my joy?!  I want to stomp my feet and demand that He give it back.  Right....this....instant.

And the enemy creeps in and whispers more lies in my ears.  These circumstances are hard.  They are wasted minutes.  Useless time.  All this wiping of bottoms, creating of meals, training of children--wasted and useless.  What about ME, right?  Who am I?

My joy is being determined by the circumstances around me--how much snot, saliva, food, and play dough I have caked to my shirt by 9AM is dictating how joyful I feel.  Yes, in the bigger picture and grand scheme of things, it is pretty challenging right now to survive a whole day.  Getting through an entire day is victory.  In all my demands for God to return my joy, I feel like things have actually gotten worse.  Doesn't He hear me?  How can anything good come out of the chaos my life has become?

Then I see the cross.  I see the gross and the gory.  The undeniable reality that on Good Friday it appeared that absolutely nothing good could possibly come from what God was allowing to happen to His Son.  Circumstances were hard.  Very hard.  Pain was intense.  Hearts were breaking.  Cries were being shouted to heaven.  And in God's great mercy and grace, He allowed the pain to continue.  Had He taken Jesus down from that cross, we wouldn't have the joy that comes with Easter, would we?  They joy yet to come far outweighed the cost of enduring the pain of Good Friday.

Maybe my hard right now is God's tremendous grace and mercy to me.  Because He knows that after I walk through this time, where the joy isn't abundant, that Easter will come and the rejoicing and shouts of praise will return.  Maybe I need to look harder.  The joy is there, but the enemy is trying to shroud it in negativity.  I just have to look harder.  Things that are frustrating and hard can be seen as precious. 

Instead of begrudgingly wearing Hannah yet again in the ergo carrier to fold laundry and prepare meals (things I can accomplish in half the time without a 22 lb load strapped to my chest), I can find joy and praise that He provided me with a child who wants to be held, who can tolerate that closeness, who seeks to experience that level of connection.  I can praise Him that she fits so perfectly in that spot, to nuzzle up and set her cadence to the rhythm of my heart beat.  Instead of hating that I have to face yet another battle over school, I can rejoice that I have the privilege of educating my child at home and get to choose another approach for next year that might help us both feel more excited.  Instead of seeing all the minutes lost while calming a hysterical child over a discipline issue, I can praise Him for the minutes of snuggles afterward and the eyes opened to things requiring attention.  Instead of getting annoyed at the constantly injured child, I can thank God that this child runs to me and knows me as Mama and healer of all boo boos.  The joy is there.

But joy is not and cannot be determined by my circumstances.  Joy must each day be based upon reality.  Reality is that I am a horrible sinner.  I fail every.....single....day.  I drive a wedge between myself and God over and over and over again.  But then there is Jesus......  Jesus, who cleanses me of all this muddy, messy failure.  Who presents me as whole and blameless.  I deserve death and eternal wrath.  Yet there He is, on a bloody cross, where the circumstance seems so utterly and profoundly like a mistake, but oh no.  It is no mistake.  It is precisely where God wanted Him to be.  Reality is that I am still and continue to be precisely where God wants me to be.  He called me to mother these children.  He placed each one of them in my care.  He never said it would be easy.  He never promised the joy would bubble over ferociously.  He simply placed me here and gave me a job to do.  And so I mother them, whether the circumstance provides me with joy or not.  Because the joy comes from the knowledge that I am His and He is weaving each part of these hard, demanding, draining days together for my good.  And I trust Him.

The enemy tells me my days are awful.  My clothes are stained.  The knees of my jeans are worn from crawling on the floor.  I have marker on my sleeve, crusted oatmeal on my chest, boogers on my shoulder, saliva dribbles on the other shoulder, sticky juice in my hair, and tear stains down the front my shirt.  I've forgotten to unhook the belt of the ergo carried strapped around my waist and it dangles uselessly to my knees.  I've disciplined three of the four before we hit the breakfast table.  The enemy says this is a hard day.  A worthless day.  A day to wallow in self pity and grumbling about the lack of joy. It is hard and  the enemy tries to make me feel isolated and alone in the hard parts.

But then He tells me my days are packed with meaning.  He sees my clothes as radiant white.  He tells me I've rebuked sin and pointed toward the gospel.  It is a day He ordained for me.  It is where He wants me.  It is what He has called me to do.  He reminds me that I have been blessed that mothering has brought me such joy for as long as it has and He promises me that it will, indeed, return one day.  He tells me He never promised me that it wouldn't be hard, but He does guarantee I will not face it alone. 

So that might be more real than you wanted me to be.  Things are hard.  Mothering four isn't easy.  I fail.  But I have blessed assurance that Jesus is mine.  You know what else He tells me?  The joy?  His word tells me sorrow lasts only for the night and the joy comes with the morning.  I know the joy will return.  In the meantime?  I rest peacefully knowing that this hard--it is exactly what He ordained for me.  I walk securely knowing the joy of Easter will come.

**As an aside for all you wonderfully concerned blog readers and followers, no, I am not depressed.  No, I am not struggling with post-adoption depression.  No, I do not need suggestions for how to "get happy."  I do find joy in life.  I do smile and laugh out loud.  I'm merely struggling with "the job" right now.  Things are hard and challenging, but I am by no means experiencing total misery.  Thank you in advance for wanting to ensure my total and complete happiness.**

Friday, April 3, 2015

Snippets

While we were in China, I posted daily to a private page we had created on Facebook to keep our closest family and friends in the loop about our travels.  We tried to keep things as private as possible to protect our family during that time of travel and being away from our biological children at home.  Looking back at it, there are many things I posted that I'd like Hannah to have one day.  I'm going to highlight some of my favorite posts here so she can have them all in one place.  For those of you who followed us on Facebook, this post will be repeated information for you.  Ir is also going to be a rather long post.  Don't say I didn't warn you.....

January 2, 2015
It hit me. It is January. January people! There is a very real possibility we will travel THIS month and if we don't, it will be very early February. We might be meeting Hannah THIS month! Whoa. That feels good to say......
A little status update: The CCCWA has been shut down since December 28 and will re-open on January 5. The shutdown was to make some computer system updates. Please pray this system is running smoothly with no glitches. I have heard that the last system update didn't go smoothly and caused several delays. We are hoping they learned from the last time how to avoid some of those glitches. Our Article 5 "should" have been picked up yesterday, January 1, but since that was a holiday and they don't pick up on Fridays, it will likely be picked up on Monday the 5th. I will get an e-mail notifying me once it is picked up (usually a day or so after it actually gets picked up). That packet of paperwork will be sent to Beijing, where it will go to the CCCWA to get our Travel Approval. Once we get that, things will go wild and we'll get out Consulate Appointment and start booking travel. There is a very real possibility we could hear about TA by the 2nd week of January. Join us in praying that TA will come quickly and that all will continue to go smoothly for us from here. We are very eager to get Hannah home and want so badly to get there before the Chinese New Year in February.

January 5, 2015
The mama's heart in me is a little heartbroken today. And I have shed a couple of tears. It truly isn't over anything earth shattering and it isn't the end of the world, but we hit another little delay.
Our Article 5 was dropped off on December 18th. This process is typically a two week process. Ours would have been due to be picked up on January 1. That was a holiday, so we assumed we'd be picked up on the 5th, which is today. From here we'd be off to Beijing and waiting on TA. Well, we got word today that our Article 5 won't be picked up until Thursday, the 8th. Our two week Article 5 wait just became three weeks. Our papers likely won't make it to Beijing until next week for the TA wait to begin. Most of you will say, "Oh, it is just three extra days, it won't be too bad!" The trouble is that we will likely get TA, but now that the CCCWA is back open, many TA's will be issued. As TA's are issued, Consulate Appointments will be claimed and days will be filled. There is a very real possibility, with each passing day, that we will get our TA and not be able to secure a CA until AFTER the Chinese New Year in early March. It is not impossible for us to travel prior to CNY, but with each passing day, that chance gets smaller and smaller. Mother's, know my heart....the thought of potentially getting Hannah in late January or very early February vs. having to wait until MARCH....it is way too much for me to handle. Please join us in praying that we might get Hannah prior to the Chinese New Year. Please, please pray. Families that got their LOA the same day we did are all getting on a plane to get their little ones in three days. THREE days. And here we sit. Delay after delay. I know God's plan is big--way bigger than mine and way better than anything I could dream up, but oh, how my heart longs to hold this sweet little girl of ours. So, so badly.
In other news, we got another update on Hannah's finger today and new photos. It still looks very painful and awful, but it does appear to be healing. We heard from the doctor at the International Adoption Clinic about it and she was not overly concerned...she said she may never have a full tip on her finger or may experience loss of sensation, but it should all be very minor.
So, that is a long post today. Please just pray. Pray we can get her prior to Chinese New Year.

January 8, 2015
We are officially in the "watch and wait" phase of things. Our Article 5 was confirmed to be picked up today at the consulate in Guangzhou and we are officially waiting on our Travel Approval (TA). Things could go any direction at this point--rapid TA and rapid travel prior to the Chinese New Year (still think we have a shot at this, so I will continue to pray!) or, slow TA, delayed travel till March. Once we get Travel Approval (which, prior to the computer shutdown, we saw TA's come as quickly as 4-7 days.....not the typical 2-3 weeks!), we will secure our Consulate Appointment and pray for an open day with those as soon as possible. TA could literally come at any point, so I will literally be married to my phone as we wait for "the call!" Continue to pray that we get a very, very, very fast TA and that a desired consulate appointment is available to us. It is getting so real!
On a side note, I have China dreams all the time now. Last night was really bizarre. I dreamed it was Gotcha Day and when we got there they gave us a boy about Jacob's age. It seemed to take me a little while to realize this was not right and then approach the officials that this was not our child. Then they told us that Hannah had accidentally been matched to more than one family and we could take this boy instead, as Hannah needed to go to another family. I was crushed! So bizarre, yet so vivid! How can you love someone so much that you have yet to meet? Truly all by God's design.

January 13, 2015
I am constantly reminded of God's tender care for adoptive parents while they wait. Last night, someone gave me something that was very cherished and dear to them. They bought it on a trip to China and really didn't want to part with it. But I've been on her mind, our adoption has been on her heart, and she felt God asking her to let this item go, in order to bring joy to my heart. She gave me a beautiful silver charm for a necklace. It is the Chinese character for the word "love." She told me, "I just really felt God telling me to give this to you and that is hard for me because I love it so much. It means "love" and I want you to have it because there is someone in China that you love so very much. I hope you will think about how much you love her while you wait." I cried. And hugged her. And told her I would return it once we got Hannah home. Her answer? "You do what God leads you to do with it. If you want to save it and give it to Hannah one day, that would be okay." I am wearing that necklace today and will wear it until Hannah comes home. So thankful for sweet friends who are sensitive to God's prompting on their heart--and the balm their actions can be on my soul.
Be sensitive to God's prompting. You never know how a small act can have deep impact on someone who needs it.

January 15, 2015
Jumping for joy (and freaking out a little bit), we got TA! WE GOT TA!!! Now, we hurry up and wait.....on our confirmed Consulate Appointment. We have requested first available. We should have this date confirmed tomorrow or the next day. Pray we are able to get a CA in February. Hannah, baby girl, we are coming!!!

January 16, 2015
Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow! We got our assigned Consulate Date this morning. Our appointment is set for 2/3! SO.....what does that mean? It means we booked tickets and I can officially start this:
SLEEPS UNTIL:
China--7--We depart ONE WEEK from TODAY on 1/23!!
Hannah-10--We meet our daughter TEN DAYS from today on 1/26!!

Prayer requests to follow!

January 22, 2015
24 hours remaining. Wow. What a journey this has been. It is so surreal that the time has come.
Pray for us today as we pack--for wisdom about what to take and where to pack it. For peace that we have what we will need for the journey.
Pray for our kiddos. We send them off with one set of grandparents tonight. It is going to be so hard to say goodbye! Lots of quality hugs and snuggles today!
We will do our very best to update while in China, but we keep hearing internet is spotty at best in the province.
Continue to pray for health and travel mercies!
Tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!

January 24, 2015
It was a very long day of travel, but we are finally here and checked into our hotel room! Exhausted.

January 24, 2015
It is 6:15 AM here, Sunday morning. Tomorrow we meet Hannah at 3pm our time (so about 2am eastern Monday morning). We covet your prayers:
For a natural and smooth bonding process
For calm hearts and spirits
For Hannah to have strength to be brave as she meets us
For us to be able to get as many questions answered about her
For us to know how to guide her through this time of grief.

January 25, 2015
It is 4:30 AM in China on Monday morning! We meet our guide at 11AM to go get supplies for Hannah at Walmart and then at 3PM we go to Civil Affairs. Happy Hannah Day!

Housekeeping just dropped the crib off and we leave in 45 minutes. Our guide shared more about Hannah with us. She had her goodbye with the foster family just this morning. This is going to be such a hard day for her!!

January 27, 2015
She loves the fountain in the lobby of the hotel....and snacks. Did I mention that she likes snacks? Girl can eat!!!

A funny: in China you suddenly feel like an incompetent parent. Our guide is constantly telling us what to feed her (or not feed her) and we seem to break some sort of social code in parenting almost daily! For those waiting to travel, baby bundling is NOT taken lightly here. Bring a heavy coat (even if you come where we are and it is 75 degrees out). Our guide asks me each time we go out if I have her thick coat or a blanket, even though I am in a t shirt and sweating. Serious business keeping these babies toasty!!

Learned some interesting things... Hannah's Chinese name means "morning treasure."
Tomorrow we will go to see the orphanage where she spent the first six months of her life. This will be a hard journey (7 hours round trip) and emotionally taxing for all. Please pray that it goes smoothly. We will also visit her finding place.
Today we saw a brief glimpse of the anger and grieving that is yet to come. She is fighting so hard, but the pain and loss is real and overwhelming. Pray for us to have patience, wisdom to respond, and compassion as she goes through this.
Bonding is going well. She is well attached to me, but is cautious with men. Chris is doing a great job taking it slow and doing all she will tolerate or allow.
Food is an exciting thing to explore. She could eat non stop. She loves fruit and yogurt. She even gave American peanut butter a try! Not a fan of my cheeseburger today nor of the French fries, but she loved the nuggets!
She has a tremendous amount of energy and is very active, however, she will get restless with me holding her and gets very angry when I put her down or leave the room.
None of these things come as a surprise to us. We feel well prepared by our agency and well supported by the in country staff. Please continue to pray. She is beginning to realize she is stuck with us and emotions are beginning to flow. Pray we can work through all of it together. We can feel your prayers and thank you for them.

January 28, 2015
So much to say about this day.... We took the seven hour round trip to Hannah's birth city. We saw the public park where she was found and then also saw the orphanage where she spent the first six months of life and then visited twice a month. So many things, but not the words just yet. She was sad so much if the morning and slept a big portion if the trip. I literally could feel her heart rate increase as we entered the gates. Then we took family photos where her referral photos and videos were taken and we watched the joy return as we waved goodbye and blew kisses to the nanny and director. Orphan no more. Farewell Yulin City Social Welfare Institute. Thank you for giving us our girl.

Milestone tonight ! Hannah grabbed Chris' hand and coaxed him down to play on the floor with her. And play they did!! Still doesn't want him to hold her and all interaction must be on her terms, but I see glimmers of change in her heart and channels of trust being built. I am certain that when we get home with the other kids it will cement it in her mind even more. Baba is indeed, by far, a way more fun parent than me! I am enjoying watching their relationship slowly unfold and the changes in dynamic each day.

January 29, 2015
In the day we finalized Hannah's adoption, the orphanage gave us some gifts. A silver bangle that is child sized with the name of the orphanage engraved on the outside in Chinese and then Hannah's Chinese name engraved on the inside. What a treasure! We were also given a cd of photos. We looked at them last night and found so many treasures !!! A newborn photo and tons of her with her foster mother! Then we found probably about 4 or 5 of her with her foster mother looking at the photo book we sent to prepare her. Hannah came back to us with the toy and photo book we sent. We were not able to meet the foster mother because we feared the emotional trauma would be too much for Hannah at the time so we are so very thankful to have these!!
Soon we will all wake up and pack for the journey to Guangzhou. Pray we get there safely and with all our luggage.

Got to tour a gorgeous park in Nanning today. It was so pretty there and felt so much like home to us since our family loves to hike.
Our time in province is drawing to a close and we are very eager to move on to Guangzhou where we will be surrounded by many other adoptive families and less of a freak show. We depart the hotel at 8:30 tomorrow morning and arrive GZ around lunch. I have no idea how I will get everything packed again!!! Wow.
We are half through our trip. We miss the kids at home terribly. We are eager for the last week to start and the countdown to home to begin!
Continue to pray for Hannah as she works through things. We have a lot to process and a lot to tackle. She clearly rarely heard the word no.......
 
January 30, 2015
We made it to the Garden hotel in Guangzhou. Hannah did well on the flight here....slept most of it, but really fought the confinement while awake. This is concerning with a 15 hour flight looming ahead of us. Please begin praying now for that flight home.
This hotel us much nicer and Guangzhou much easier to handle than our time in Nanning. We are glad to be here.
Please pray for us to have wisdom as we parent Hannah. She has so much anger and it is difficult to know how to respond. Please pray for strength for me. She still will not allow Chris to hold her or care for her and that makes it hard. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I am totally maxed out.
We should meet the other families from our agency tomorrow morning. We look forward to being with others who understand this journey we are on.

January 31, 2015
Today was a difficult day. Emotionally I felt better, but Hannah did not. We saw more tears from her today than we have seen since we got her. Rage and anger continues, but there is also deep sadness setting in. She gets very upset each time we return to the hotel room. I think she is beginning to realize we are here to stay. Today she cried out for mama and it wasn't for me. She has so much to process.
This morning we had our medical appointments for her visa. I felt like I was in 1950. Nurses with caps and doctors with mirrors strapped to their heads. Hannah did not enjoy any part of this process....at all.
Chris and I spent a long time talking this afternoon and also connected with another family here dealing with an angry child. It was so good!!
Better yet we borrowed a stroller from the hotel and Hannah tolerated it well. She doesn't love it, but she doesn't hate it and the break from carrying her while we were out tonight was a little slice of heaven for me. My neck and shoulders are so sore from holding her or wearing the ergo.

February 1, 2015
So far today has been a tremendous day. Hannah has a long, long way to go, but we see her moving forward. Today we played hard and through me hugging and kidding Chris, Hannah gave her Baba his first hug and kiss!!!!!! Massive milestone! He is so eager to snuggle his girl.
We had two outings with our group and she was fantastic at both! Got antsy and grumpy toward the end, but it was past lunch and she needed a nap. We are overall very proud of how she handled today. Tomorrow we go to the zoo and ought to be of more interest to the kids.
We are connecting with the other families in our group from our agency and it is a breath of fresh air (as fresh as it gets in China.... Ha!!). They all totally understand exactly where we are and the is so much safety and encouragement in that. We went out to eat last night with a group and it almost felt..... Normal. It was refreshing.
Continue to pray. Hannah made large strides today, but there is still so much to accomplish and her mind is clearly so full.

Today we went to the jade and pearl market. Soooooo many things to see! We bought each daughter her wedding pearls here because the prices are so incredible. My only regret was not getting a strand of my own. We went to en embroidery shop and got several gifts to take home and things to give to Hannah over the years. Then we went to the Chen Family home. Here a man did calligraphy for us.... The scroll says "Lin Chen Zhen Hannah Ruth" and then lists her gotcha date and province as well as the location where the calligraphy was done. The artist marked it with his chops and also marked it with a special family blessing chop. So neat!

February 2, 2015
We went to the Guangzhou zoo today. We saw pandas, though they were inside... Too warm for them today! Hannah loved it till she fell asleep. All these wild emotions have turned her into a two nap per day baby.

One step forward and two steps back. The morning was so great, but after nap... Not so much . Rage was in full force--perhaps way too much pleasantness the rest of the day and she simply couldn't cope. She truly believes we are abducting her and a lot of it is rage and anger and some likely fear. We saw some of her best moments today and some of the worst. The glimmers of hope are what we cling to.

February 3, 2015
US Consulate appointment day! We had to go to the consulate very early this morning and already when we got there there were so many people lined up! We got a special pass to the head of the line for adoptive families. We took an oath, submitted paperwork, and answered questions about her medical need. Lord willing, tomorrow, we will receive her Chinese passport with her US visa inside. She will become a citizen once we process immigration in Detroit.

Two more sleeps and Lord willing we will be on our way back to US soil. I miss the kids terribly and want ice cream sooooooo badly!
Tomorrow we should receive Hannah's visa... Her ticket to enter the US. We will spend the morning shopping on Shaman island. I am looking forward to this as it is a scenic place and a popular stop for adoptive families.
Hannah continues to adjust. Lots of work to do, but already I see bonds being formed and trust creeping in. She still hits and throws tantrums, but we are working through that. She is moody, but we are figuring that out too.
Please cover us in prayer as we fly home. We depart the hotel at 6:20 am on 2/5 (that is 5:20 pm on 2/4 US time) and arrive home at 11:10pm on 2/5.
We are still open for friends to welcome us home. We are on delta flight bound from Detroit and land in Lexington at 11:10pm.
We cannot wait to see all of you!!

February 4, 2015
Golden ticket!! We got her visa to go home! Let's get out of here!

It is time to finally wrap up our time in China. We are eager to get home and wrap our other three up in a giant hug. Please cover us in prayer as we travel home....for space on the long flight, for Hannah to sleep a large part of it, and for overwhelming peace and strength from the Holy Spirit. We depart the hotel to begin the journey on 2/4 at 5:20 eastern time. We wrap it up 30 hours later when we touch down in Lexington on 2/5. If you think of us at all in that time, please pray for us.
Pray also as we return home and start the process of teaching Hannah what family means. Truly our journey has only just now begun and your support, encouragement, listening ears, help, love, and kindness toward us will be needed more than ever. Grant us grace as we adjust...we plan to keep Hannah's world as small as possible for a while as she acclimates and forms bonds and trust. You may not see us out, but we still need you to love us and check in on us!
So, farewell China. Thank you for our daughter.
Here we come USA!

Please continue to pray as she processes. She realizes she is stuck and all we can do us try to help her get through.
 

Eight Weeks of Awesome

Hannah has been home, on American soil, for eight weeks as of late last night.  Eight weeks.  Somehow it feels impossible that it has been that long.  She just got here, right?  On the other hand, it feels like it is impossible it has been that short!  She's been here forever, right?  I was reading my one month home update and some things have changed, others haven't.  Things are beginning to plateau in some ways.  I said in my one month post that it was a month of extreme highs and lows.  This month has been filled with much the same, though I would remove the "extreme" portion of it.  We still have lots of highs and lots of lows--they just aren't always quite so extreme on the scale, which suits me just fine!

She has changed physically in some ways.  She's now a full pound up from what she weighed when we brought her home.  Her hair is really starting to grow (and get wild).  Her desire to communicate is growing and she mimics everything we say.  Sadly, I am not learning ASL fast enough for her taste and her vocabulary is strictly hampered by my ability to learn the new signs she needs.  She's added a few new ones this month....shoes, socks, self control.  She's figured out hitting and "cussing" always lead to the same form of discipline and will put herself in time in when she does them.  She had one night last week that she actually stopped herself from cussing and made wiser choices (today.....not so much!).  She's dancing this bizarre dance with Daddy that is on again off again and sadly hasn't changed as drastically as we'd hoped it would this month.  We have seen glimpses of what she will be like with him down the road, but yet, almost as though she realizes she is getting too friendly, she'll snap back to being rather angry with Daddy.  Chris is amazing and takes it bit by bit and just works to win her over each day.  She is now sleeping (through the night most nights!!) in her big girl bed with Gracie!  Last night I tucked her in, gave kisses, and walked out of the room!  No rocking and bouncing and patting till she went to sleep.  I'm not sure if the was a fluke or a new thing....we'll have to test it a little more.  She's gotten to break out a tiny bit from her cocoon and attend church, our co-op, and two different stores with me (not quite sure we are ready for all the shopping stimulation).  She no longer eats every bite off her plate and I can't tell you the last time I filled her snack cup to carry for security around the house (we do still need it for security if we leave the house).  She's seen several doctors and handled all of those appointments like a true champ.  She still has things to work through.  Her sense of security and trust with me is growing, yet she struggles to fully trust.  She continues to have moments of intense anger, but it is nothing like it was in those early days.  It is very much one step forward, two steps back, but the forward progress seems more apparent to us now than it did before.  We have worked hard to protect her here in this cocoon and hope we are laying the groundwork of a good foundation for her.

Some days are hard.  Some days are easy.  Some days are a bit of both.  We're getting each other more and more figured out and it is good.  We are so thankful she is here.  By the way....two months of waiting felt like time was standing still.  Two months of her home??  I have to remind myself it is APRIL now and not still February.  Time flies!

This month we got Hannah's Certificate of Citizenship.  She became a citizen in Detroit the moment we processed through immigration in February, but this month we got the hard copy evidence to prove it!  She's as American as you and I are, now!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

To Be Known As Mama

What makes me a mama?  What sets me apart and makes me Hannah's mama?  On a balmy January day (really, it was in the 70's that day), in Nanning, China, our daughter was ushered into a room, plopped on the floor in front of us, nudged in our direction and was told, "Mama!  Baba!" For the months leading up to our meeting, in our hearts and minds, we were fully her parents.  We were Mama and Baba.  We had prepared our hearts, our children, and our home to add Hannah as our child into our family.  Hannah, on the other hand, was not afforded as much grace.  Yes, she had received a photo book of our family and we do have documented photos of her looking at those pictures, but how many times did she read it?  How much did she understand? Does she even know what it means to be Mama or Baba?  When I held her in my lap that day, I knew I was her mother.  Today, I know I am her mother.  I know what that means and what her future holds as my child.  She doesn't.  I am not her Mama right now.  I am the lady who provides food to her, holds her when she needs it, tucks her in at night, and kisses her boo boos.  I don't mean that in a derogatory way, calling myself the lady.  I think it is an affectionate feeling toward me, as the lady who is currently in her life, but it isn't necessarily unique.  The lady is possibly temporary in her mind and likely replaceable.  Each day I interact with Hannah, I fight to move myself from the status of the lady to Mama.  Each day I pour out the best I have.  I provide for her.  I shower her with love and affection and all my attention.  How does she respond?  I assure you, she does not tell me thank you.  She is not glad this happened to her.  She is not thankful for her adoption story.  She does not see the end of her story.  She does not understand my intentions for her are all good--the best we have.  She responds in grief, not joy.  Yet still, I pursue her.

We are friends with many adoptive families and we follow several of them on Facebook or on their blogs.  We have rejoiced to see their little ones adjust to their new lives in America.  One thing, however, has really stood out to me and has created a cavern of longing within me.  Something each family has posted at some point in time is a post about their child calling them Mama for the first time or saying "I love you, Mama."  I have not had the opportunity to receive that gift yet.  I know it will come....I have no doubt it will come, but oh, to hear the word, Mama, in reference to me, come from the lips of our child......what a day that will be! She can't say a discernible Mama and while I have taught her the sign, she never really uses it to address me. I have struggled with that some. I long for her palate to be repaired and to hear her voice call out to me with a true, discernible Mama.

I think about that longing--the one in my heart to hear my child call me Mama, and I am gloriously reminded of my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  Each day He fights for the places of my heart that I cling to, that I fight to keep private and tucked away.  Each day He provides for me and lavishes riches upon riches on me--things I do not deserve.  Do I thank Him?  Do I respond with praise on my lips?  Or do I lash out when it doesn't go the way I had planned?  Do I doubt His intentions and goodness for me? Sure, I affectionately see Him and the traces of His hand, but do I know Him?

Last night was seriously one of the worst nights I've had as a parent. It actually involved biological children more than it did Hannah, but boy....it was B-A-D (so bad I had to shut the windows on a spring night--it was that bad). After all that and finally getting the B-A-D situation resolved, it was time for bed and the house was in our general state of organized chaos as everyone was getting ready (I sense a post coming about our organized chaos and how that fits in with my super planned organized self). Hannah was fussing at me and I couldn't discern what she wanted.  I finally just picked her up and said, "Do you just need some holding from Mama?" We were standing alone in the kitchen. I don't think I'll really ever forget that particular moment. Y'all......it lasted all of about 1-2 minutes, but in that 1-2 minutes something happened. She looked at me. And it wasn't just looking at me. She saw me. AS HER MAMA. She looked at me and stroked my face as gently as she ever has with those sweet little Asian hands and she held my face cheek to cheek with hers and just stroked me. And looked into my eyes. And pulled me in for long, sweet, clefty kisses. Last night was the closest thing I have gotten to hearing her utter the word, Mama.  It was the closest thing I have gotten to having her acknowledge me in a way other than, the lady. I knew in that split moment, as she just needed holding from Mama and she pressed her face against mine and pulled me in for kiss after kiss--she got it. I....am....Mama. And then like the wind that blew that moment in, it was gone. Those moments don't come everyday and it won't be everyday that I think she fully sees me as Mama.  This wasn't a miracle moment that changed our relationship forever, but it was a step in the right direction.  It was a glimmer of hope that she is piecing together that I am different in her life.  I am not just merely, the lady. Last night--after that horrible, no good, very bad evening from nap till bed that we had experienced as a family, she needed holding. And instead of brushing her off, side tracking her, or pressing on with the chaos of bedtime, I stopped and picked her up. And I am so glad I did. She is getting it. In blinks of moments she is getting it. But somewhere deep in the recesses of her little heart and mind, I.AM.MAMA. And it felt good.

And it dawns on me now.  Is my Father simply, The Father?  Or is He Abba Father?  Does He long for me to break down the walls and draw into His presence and really see and know Him?  To see His intentions for me are nothing but good as He lavishes love upon me?  As an earthly parent I long so much to hear my sweet child acknowledge me as her Mama, to assign me the place of honor I want desperately to have in her life.  Do my lips utter the words Abba?  Do I know the intimacy that comes from knowing Him as only a child can know her parent?

My heart's cry is for not only me to draw yet nearer to Him, but in so doing, that as Hannah comes to know me.....imperfect, flawed, sinful me....as Mama she can someday have the ability to know Him as Abba.

Oh, sweet Hannah.  If only you knew who I was, what my intentions are, or what the bigger picture is.  All I have for you is the best I have to give.  All I have for you is for your good. Little girl, I see the tiny bricks being laid.  I know the day will come.  It won't just be a glimmer of a moment or as fleeting as the wind.  You will know.  And I will know.  I am fully your Mama.  Not just a Mama.  Yours.  And your lips will utter it with full assurance, "You are MY Mama."  And the doubt will be gone.  And the grief will be just a quiet murmur in the background of life.  You will be secure in the arms or your Mama.

 Studying our photos in the album we sent her.


 Learning about forever Mama from her foster Mama.
 

 You, my dear, are my child--the one I longed for and prayed for.


May you always know the safety and security of rest in your Mama's arms.  You are right where God intended you to be.