Wednesday, November 2, 2016

We Know the Drill {P-Flap Surgery}

We will celebrate twenty-one months home this Saturday.  We will celebrate the day in the hospital.  Again.  Our fifth tour of the OR in just twenty-one months with us.  Far more than she should have to endure.  Far more than I've endured in my full adult life and she's not yet even four.  She proves to me time and again just why she is the fighter that she is.  She has to be.  She works hard for every word said, every syllable understood, every point made.  It's work.  Hard work.  And yet she struggles on with tremendous amounts of joy and zest.  She amazes and humbles me daily.  While I can easily feel the weight of five trips for surgery, five periods of recovery, five rounds of pain I cannot fathom, she teaches me about hope.  Yes, she's gone five times.  Yes, it is difficult for all of us.  But in it, she's walked it with us.  Every step we've done together, in the safety and security of family and I believe family is what has allowed her to boldly endure each and every time.

We will place our sweet girl back into the hands of our surgeon hero, Dr. L, on Friday of this week.  She will have a procedure called a pharyngeal flap (or P-flap).  The goal of this surgery is to work on the soft palate, adding length.  This should allow Hannah to better control air flow between her mouth and nasal cavity, thus allowing her to better control air and air pressure needed for correct speech sounds.  She's generally a bit younger than a typical p-flap candidate, but it has been fairly obvious it would be needed for some time.  She works so hard and tries to do all the speech therapists demand of her, yet she just doesn't have the anatomical structure to accomplish much of what is asked of her.  It is our prayer this surgery will provide her with what she needs and allow her to continue to grow and blossom, especially allowing her to be better understood by those outside our home.  We are told the results from this procedure can be quite dramatic.  We pray this might be the case for our sweet girl.

So, here we are again.  Soft foods purchased.  Pain meds in stock.  Arrangements made for the big kids.  School adjustments complete.  Bags packed.  Off we go.  Again.  We know our girl better now.  We know she's tough.  She's resilient.  She's way braver than I could ever be.  We're ready to tackle this one and we know God will meet us in the ways we have asked and especially in the ways we didn't even know to ask.  We ask you to cover us in prayer.  While we know the drill, it never gets easier.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Wonderful-Unspeakable-Goodness {18 Months Home}

Eighteen months ago we covered half of the earth to return home--suddenly now a family of six.  God had started a tremendous work in all of us that day.  Something unspeakable.  Something hard. Something messy.  Something so unbelievably good.  Something I simply cannot put words to.  In those eighteen months we have changed.  All of us.  We are not the terrified new family that walked through our front door eighteen months ago.  We know who we are and we know more deeply the One who created us and has worked this miracle-unspeakable-wonderful thing in and through us the past eighteen months.

A family of six for eighteen months.  It is only by His powerful-unspeakable-wonderful work that we are here.  We bask in His love and goodness to us through this weaving together.  Only His creativity and imagination could let this be what it is.

Blessed beyond belief.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Bravest

This girl?  This little pint sized dynamo?  She went to speech camp throughout the month of July (two days per week for two hours at a time over the course of three weeks).  I was admittedly skeptical.  I feared the separation issue.  I doubted there would be progress.  I just simply hoped it would help speech therapy to be fun again.  Perhaps awaken her spark to work hard at it.  Maybe help me sort through my own set of "issues" surrounding the therapy, give me a little insight, shed some much needed light.

How did she do?  Nailed it.  Rocked it.  Was the coveted pea sized participant at camp.  All the girls wanted to take her home.  Mama?  Totally proud.....and a little surprised!

Did she cry?  A little.  Did she act like she wanted to go and then baulk when we got there?  Sometimes.  Overall did she enjoy it?  I think so.  Would we do it again?  Yes.  It was a worthy investment.  The progress was limited, but the intensity and frequency of this camp did allow us to see a tiny glimpse of fruit from her labor in speech therapy.  I had a conversation with the director of the camp on the second to last day and it was likely the most encouraging conversation I've had about Hannah and her progress in speech.  Everything she said made sense and assured me we are headed in the right direction.  Hannah is a fighter and she is trying so very hard to conquer all these tough speech sounds, but her palate is just not allowing her to do all that she needs to do.  Despite the difficulty, rather than grow frustrated, Hannah just battled through each session she had at camp and tried with all her might to do what was asked of her.  That is all a Mama can ask!  I am so proud of her and all she accomplished at speech camp this summer.  It was long anticipated and definitely a good thing for her at this juncture.

And now?  It's creeping into August.  We went back to school today in the Burri home.  Summer is drawing to a close and while we spent the summer busy, we're back into full throttle.  Ballet starts back up, AWANA resumes classes, our co-op is back in session, and it is time to dive back into "regular" speech therapy and all things medical for Hannah.  The break in June was good enough to make me consider it again next summer for all of us. 

As we enter the first week of August, we will find ourselves back in the operating room for Hannah.  I've been a bit in denial about this upcoming surgery since June.  I just don't want to put her through all of this and honestly, up until my conversation with the speech camp director, I was doubting a bit about the path we were on.  I have peace now and our fabulous Dr. L has smoothed my ruffled feathers more than once and reassured me that what we are doing is necessary and of utmost benefit to Hannah in the long run.  So we press forward.  Another set of tubes, a tonsillectomy, and some photos of her vocal chords await us next week.  We welcome your prayers.  We know she'll do great.  Why?  Because she's proved to us time and again that she's the bravest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


It has been a while since my last post in late April.  I'm taking my trusting and resting declaration quite seriously and it has been so needed--and so wonderful.  When you have a child with a unique set of medical needs, it is really easy for it to consume you.  All of you.  It sort of slowly creeps in and suddenly you find yourself in this place where it is all you think about, all you talk about, and all that occupies your thoughts.  It gets hard to see up or down, left or right.  It becomes difficult to make decisions or to put one foot in front of the other.  The water gets incredibly muddy.

Medically speaking, the months of April and May were some of the most challenging months we've dealt with--for me most of all.  Tough decisions.  Feeling lost at times.  Not knowing where to turn for information, support, or to ask questions.  Wondering if the right thing is being done at the right time.  I cried a lot.  I prayed a lot.  I doubted a lot and yes, I let worry overcome me far too many times.  I felt crippled too often, completely unable to make any movement.

Things just sort of worked out for us to take all of the month of June off from all things medical.  Of course, I say, "just sort of worked out" knowing full well this time of rest was orchestrated for us by a Father who saw my distress.  We had a regular dental appointment and one appointment for a second opinion during June.  That's it.  No therapy, no follow up appointments, no one telling me something new or adding on a new diagnosis.  She needed it.  I needed it.  The big kids needed it.  We've just had summer days stretching before us with our most pressing and important appointment being the planned trip to the newest playground in town and when to splash in the wading pool outside.  Glorious.

We may be 17 months into this journey, but I still feel very much the rookie.  I don't know how to advocate without getting emotional.  I struggle to weed through medical opinions to figure out what is really necessary and how pressing issues really are.  Are they really big problems?  Or are they just really big inside my head?  Where I once used to put full trust into the hands of the doctors we work with, I find myself more frequently second guessing, doubting, or going back for additional reassurance.

I've realized in the past couple of months of hard medical stuff that I am incredibly passionate.  I am passionate about my daughter.  I am passionate about her needs and her story.  And in that passion I can become easily frustrated, distraught, and angry with professionals who just don't seem to "get it."  I forget this is daily life for me, but it isn't for them.  I want them to "get it" and "get it" fast.  I see them as professionals and I don't want to be teaching them, but that's what I often find myself doing.  And then I doubt myself and what I'm teaching.  They question me or challenge me and the doubt comes back.  It created a cycle of doubt, fear, worry, anger, frustration, anxiety....  It just wasn't good.

The reality is, she's my birth or adoption...God ordained me to be her Mom and in that calling, He equipped me to know her better than anyone else.  So in my resting, I'm drawing myself back to that basic concept.  God called me to be her mom.  He knows just what I need to mother her, to make decisions for her, and advocate for her.  Though I feel horribly inadequate, I'm the one He saw fit to do this job.  So I will do it.  With boldness and courage, knowing He has my back and so long as our decisions are based on His leading, they will always be the right ones.

I have loved our month free from the medical and therapeutic, but it is soon time to get back in the saddle again. And big things are coming.  More surgery this summer and another procedure on the horizon by the end of the year.  None of it easy.  None of it pain free.  None of it without a cost, side effects, or risks.  But we rest knowing we are with the Lord, right where He wants us, right where He needs her. He is a good, good Father.  My mothering will fall short, but His Fathering is always perfect.  So we rest.  Right there.  In His goodness and perfection.  We may traverse hard, but we won't climb the mountains alone.

 "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
~Romans 8:37~

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It's Complicated {Trusting and Resting}

Today Hannah and I spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon visiting audiology, ENT, and plastic surgery.  It was a long day and would have been difficult for any adult to endure.  Hannah attacked it like a champion.  I couldn't have been more proud of her and the way she handled all that was thrown at her today.  It was a lot.

My brain is to capacity and swarming to overflowing.  We went seeking answers to a few things.  I was hopeful.  So hopeful.  Maybe too hopeful.  There is this deep longing within me to know...really know the answers to these questions.  I want to know so I can go about the business of fixing. Sadly, after our day of appointments there is possibly less knowing than there was prior.  All I can say right now is it's complicated.

Yes, I am disappointed and frustrated, but I am slowly beginning to see the bigger lesson there is in all of this for me.  It isn't about knowing.  It isn't about fixing.  It is about trusting.  Fully trusting to the point of complete peace and true, soul nourishing rest.  I have things to learn here.  This thing about trusting and resting.

I don't need to know.  I don't need to fix.  Because my hope rests in the Almighty, All Knowing Father.  He is her Creator.  He knows the answers I don't.  He knows the fixing that is needed and when and how it will come and while there may be things He is developing in Hannah in and through this, it is very obvious He is after my fully trusting, resting heart. 

It's complicated.  The answers aren't right there.  The answers aren't coming easily or naturally and I'm confused about what to do.  So I will seek Him.  I will seek to trust and just simply rest and let my Father be the One to worry about knowing and the business of fixing.

I didn't get answers today, but I did get to spend a whole day with my girl.  And you know what?  She's pretty great.  For now, I will just be her Mama and leave the complicated stuff to our Father.  It seems He is in the business of knowing and fixing and He is deserving of every inch of my fully trusting Mama heart.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Will Come

It was Good Friday.  We had speech therapy.  Just like we do on every Friday afternoon.  It is our special date, just Hannah and I.  The big kids eagerly anticipate a couple hours with Grandmama and Hannah relishes having the full control of my attention for that time.  It works.  Our little speech dates.

This Friday was a little different.  Two individuals were coming to observe Hannah's speech session from Fayette County Schools (we are in the process of getting her speech services through the public school system to supplement our insurance coverage).  As I walked out the door I mentally began preparing myself to come away feeling confused.  I fully expected them to challenge this or that and ask hard questions about Hannah's progress in speech.  I thought for sure I'd have things to chew on, pray over, and research.  I wasn't really fully prepared for what they were going to say though.

This Friday, as my speech therapist walked me out of our session, she asked to come with me out into the hall to share with me what the Fayette County folks had said.  Yes, they'd asked questions, but they pointed out another area of concern.  One I didn't know about.  One I didn't know to worry about, research, or pray over.  In all my cleft learning and growing, this was one thing I think I had heard of a long time ago, but it wasn't on the forefront of my mind.  And the speech therapist began to describe it and tell me more about it, that she heard it too, and that it would likely be something we had to investigate.  It involves an invasive and traumatic assessment.  It could potentially involve another surgery.  It might involve a new, additional type of speech therapy, above and beyond all that we are currently doing.   All this, in addition to the lack of progress and the likely need for a p-flap surgery once Hannah turns 4.

I listened and my mind reeled.  What was this thing she was talking about?  Was it really necessary?  How did I not know about it?  I didn't even know the questions to ask.  We finished our conversation and we took the mile long hike from speech out to the parking garage.  We got in and Hannah had her candy and I just sat there and stared blankly out the windshield for a bit.  And I cried.  I cried and in  my mind I was so overwhelmed, so frustrated, so confused....the truth...I wanted to quit.  I wanted to quit all of it.  Quit speech, quit tubes and ENT's, quit surgeries and special therapies, quit doctors, quit connected parenting, and attachment focused discipline.  I wanted to quit it all.  All of it.  And I felt horrible and inadequate.  How could I parent this child?  How can I get her the help she needs?  How am I suppose to navigate a sea of specialists for a thing I didn't even know existed till two minutes ago?  What would our insurance cover?  How much would it cost?  I just wanted to quit and stop wearing the adoptive mama hat.  I just wanted things to be "normal" (read this as easy).  It is hard to say.  I wanted to quit.  I wanted to give up.  And I cried out to God how on earth was this fair and how on earth did I get dealt this cup and how on earth could we get through this one?

I cried.  I pitched a fit and wanted to quit and pulled myself together and started the drive home.  And I began to reflect on Good Friday and I felt the Spirit nudge me ever so gently...."Take a deep breath.  God chose you.  He knows you inside and out.  He has a plan and charting these waters with Hannah is all part of that plan.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  I know you want to quit.  Look to Jesus.  Look to the cross.  Hear the words of Jesus.  Know that if you quit, you sacrifice something far greater, far better, than you could fathom."

And so I came home and I went back to those Scriptures.  I looked to Jesus.  I heard his words on Good Friday.  Jesus knew this was part of God's plan for Him and He was fully prepared to sacrifice His life for ours, yet His soul was troubled, to the point of sweating blood, over the full cup that was poured out for Him--the experience of God's full wrath on all of humanity for our sin.  Three times he prayed.  Three times He beseeched God to find another way--to accomplish His goal without pouring out His cup overflowing with wrath.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray."  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.....  Again, for the second tie, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done."  And again he came and found them sleeping....So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again." ~Matthew 26:36-44~

God heard the prayer of Jesus, He knew Jesus wanted to be spared, yet God knew He had something so much better.  Despite His prayers for a change of plan, God fully poured out His wrath.

"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" ~Matthew 27:45-46~

It would have been hard to see anything good in Good Friday.  It would have been difficult to see past the injustice of an innocent man being slaughtered on a cross after public humiliation.  It would have been hard to see that in the dark of that day, light would ever shine again.  How could God use this?  How could the world be right again?  How could life move forward?

But then.....Easter.  All the bad comes undone and all the good floods forth.  We begin to get glimpses of the good that was intended.  We experience the full blessing of His sacrifice.  We are saved!  We are made whole!  We can rejoice and stand in victory!  And only because He accepted what God had for Him.  He didn't quit.  He could have easily taken Himself off that cross and ascended back to Heaven.  But He didn't.  He allowed it to be finished.

"But the angel said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where he lay." ~Matthew 28:5-6~

And I heard that voice again.  The Spirit prompting me.  "Do you see?!  Do you SEE?!  ALL the good that came because He didn't quit!  Don't quit.  Don't give up.  Don't lose heart.  It is hard to see the good in Good Friday, but it is impossible to miss the good in Easter.  Easter WILL come."

There is so much joy and peace in that, isn't there?  To be able to live like we know how the story will end?  To know He has conquered death and is coming again to stand in final victory?  And we get to be part of it all because of all that happened on Good Friday.  He didn't quit.

Many of you have so sweetly inquired about Hannah's hearing since she had her surgery for a new set of tubes back in February.  I have avoided writing about it because I had nothing to write about.  We came away from a test we expected to give us concrete answers with nothing concrete and just another ongoing list of theories with no understanding of when the theories would be tested.  We had a follow up with the ENT today and I expressed a long list of concerns that were all very thoughtfully heard and attended to by the nurse practitioner we saw.  We had an unexpected (and not scheduled) follow up hearing test immediately after my concerns were heard and met again with the nurse practitioner.  The skinny?  There is definitely something going on and she is not hearing as she should.  Just what is going on is the big mystery.  Tubes could be plugged, they could have fallen out, who knows....but they are not doing what they are designed to do.  And so we go back in a couple weeks and retest and do more extensive looking in her ears to figure out what on earth is going on.  The nurse practitioner heard all of my concerns, listened to me advocate for my daughter, and joined in on my team.  She gave my shoulder a reassuring squeeze as we left and said, "We will figure this out.  She will hear as she should.  She will make progress in her speech.  We are going to help her." She has no idea how much this quitter Mama needed to hear that.  It would have been easy to not see the good in today.  Truly nothing was accomplished (other than the fact that I successfully survived an over two hour long appointment at the ENT with all four children in tow).  It would be easy to see today as a waste.  But I know the story of Good Friday and I know there is good buried in the hard.

And so I take a deep breath, put my big girl pants back on, wipe away the tears, send a few discouraged texts, and move on.  I don't have to solve this problem today.  I don't need the answers tomorrow.  God loves me and His plan is big and far beyond what I know.  Easter will come.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter, Y'all

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb,
taking the spices they had prepared.
And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb..."
~Luke 24:1-2~

"...but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus."
~Luke 24:3~

"...He is not here, but has risen."
~Luke 24:6~

He is risen!  Risen, indeed!
From our family to yours, Happy Easter, y'all!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


I know this post is a little late.  Okay, a lot late, but life is always busy and seems to rev up to break neck speed once the weather changes and the days get a little longer.  Better late than never, right?  I'll thank a puny, pitiful child who's been hit hard by strep throat this week for slamming on the brakes and giving me the chance to slow down just enough to sneak in a moment of writing.

Hannah recently turned three!  This was not her first birthday at home with us and it was very obvious she'd been around the block once before because she fully embraced the fun and excitement in the days leading up to and on her birthday.  The countdown was full throttle after the twins had their birthday and the excitement over a Minnie Mouse cake was palpable.  She....was....excited!  Let's get the party started!

I was out of town, traveling home from a conference I attended on her actual birthday so we dragged things out just a bit more and celebrated two days later.  She didn't seem to mind the ongoing and never ending celebration of all things Hannah.

She is so big!  Three!  Hardly a baby anymore, certainly not a toddler, she is most definitely a pre-schooler in all ways.  She tags along with so much of Joshua and Grace's school, I swear she is going to skip right through PreK and perhaps even K.  We've started a reading program for the twins and she is learning right alongside.  She is smart

Hannah is our loud, boisterous, hilarious, giggly girl.  She provides all of us with hours of entertainment with her dancing and gibberish tales.  She is affectionate and lover of all things Mommy (cooking, cleaning, nurturing, laundry--if I am involved, she is involved).  She adores her big sister and could play baby dolls and Legos with her for hours on end.  She's discovered a rich love for books and reading and rocks the cutest dark black piggy tales you have ever seen.  She is brave and so resilient.  She's incredibly independent and harbors an impressive bit of stubbornness.  She knows what she wants and she expresses it clearly.  She longs to be held, snuggled, and told she is precious and loved.  She is so incredibly bright and clearly very coordinated.  She is ready to start dancing like big sis and start her own adventure into gymnastics.  She works so hard to learn, to know, to understand.  She is so complex and I see deep in her eyes there are questions she yet doesn't have the words to voice, but I know they will come and I am unsure I will know just how to answer them.  She is amazing and we are so thankful and so blessed to have her as our daughter.

Happy Birthday, Miss Hannah!  We are so glad you are ours!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Celebrating You {Birth Mama Reflections}

A birthday doesn't come without you being here.  You are very much here.  Ever present in my mind.  You float through my mind wistfully when I see her giggle and play and cause me to wince as I lose my temper or raise my voice. 

You likely feel forgotten.  You are not.  You never will be.  I see you.  I see your tears fall and feel the same wetness, hot and relieving, rolling down my cheeks as well.  I feel the gut wrenching brokenness your heart must have experienced.  I know you did what you thought was best.  What would give her the best opportunities.  What would give her the best chance at a full life.  You did what you thought you had to do and slipped back into the shadows.  Perhaps you watched to be sure she was safe.  Or maybe you took one last lingering look and turned and walked away, unable to look back for the ache threatening to cause your heart to burst out of your chest.  You walked away and maybe you tried to forget or maybe you tried to cling to the memories you made in the short moments you'd had.  I will never know or fully understand.

You may have had to leave.  You may have had to make a hard choice.  You may think you will be forgotten and your lives will just simply move forward.  Separate.  Forgotten.  Gone.  But you can't be separate.  You can't be forgotten because I see you.  Everyday I see you in her.

Let me assure you that you are not gone.  You are very much here.  I see the deep seriousness of your eyes when I look into hers.  I see your beautiful grace and movement as I watch her spin, twirl, and dance.  I know your intelligence as I watch her blossom and learn.  I know your quirky sense of humor as I learn what tickles her funny bone.  I see glimpses of the depth of agony you felt that day as I watch her shout and cry out in night terrors.  You are here.  You are talked about.  You are loved.  You are cherished.

You may think you gave everything up that day. That she is my daughter now and no longer yours and while I am so thankful I have the blessing to raise her as she walks this earth, she is not just mine.  You gave her life.  Your womb put breath into her lungs and a beat to her heart.  Our Creator never wanted this for her--for her to know this brokenness and loss of not knowing her birth mama, but He knew the sin in this world, He knew the pain would make messes of things, and He created a plan of redemption.  Somehow in all the mess, He chose me.  I don't know why He would choose me.  I fail everyday.  I muddle through, I sin, I make messes.  I fall short and do the wrong thing.  I have a hot temper and am horribly introverted.  Yet in all that hot introverted mess He saw something in me that He could use.  I stepped out and said yes, and now, she is here.  In my life.  Everyday.  And I get to know all the good that came from your broken and hard and dark places.  You don't get to see that good and it seems horribly unfair.

It was her birthday this week. Your daughter, my daughter, our daughter just turned three.  And while I sang, "Happy Birthday" and had the pleasure of making a cake of pink Minnie Mouse goodness and opening glittering packages, you were somewhere on the other side of the earth, likely thinking about the hardest, most broken day of your life and you likely wondered where your daughter was.

Our daughter is here.  She is bright, she is happy, she is beautiful, and she is treasured.  She is full of fight and spunk.  She adores Minnie Mouse.  She loves to sing Jesus Loves Me and offer our lunchtime prayer.  She learns quickly and walks with a spring in her step on her tip toes.  She loves to dance and do acrobatics.  She loves to have Mama close to rock her and rests peacefully in the security of my arms.  She wants to be loved.  She wants to be close, all the time.

China Mama, I will never comprehend the circumstances behind all that happened that March day, but I will assure you, our daughter will be raised to hold the highest esteem for the gift of life you gave her.  I wish so much that you could be the one raising her for the sake of you both, to spare you both the brokenness of such loss.  But I thank God and glorify Him for allowing me the honor of stepping into the place you felt you were not able to go.

Today I celebrate Hannah and all that is her life.  Today, I celebrate you and all I see of you in her.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Had you asked us in August (or even any time during the fall), we would have happily told you we would not be visiting an OR again for some time.  A couple of years, even.  But, you know how this all goes.  Hannah is complex and God has other plans.  Hannah is having surgery tomorrow...again.  It will be her third surgery in less than one year.  This will be the surgery for her second set of ear tubes and the sedated, thorough hearing test. 

The tubes will drain all the fluid currently behind her ears and will be a part of her life for the foreseeable future.  Tubes are commonplace in the cleft world and something we fully expect to replace annually.  Her current set of tubes were placed at the time of her lip repair last spring and did not seem to last as long as I would have expected.

The hearing test should give us accurate information about what sort of hearing loss we are dealing with.  She could simply have loss related to all the fluid in her ears, which "should" be alleviated and drastically improved from merely placing the tubes (though I did not notice a great difference in her hearing after her first set of tubes).  Or, she could have permanent hearing damage/loss, possibly related to ongoing, chronic, untreated ear infections earlier in her life.  Either is a possibility and I go back and forth on what I think the results will tell us.  Parents who have walked this road before us say we will get the results from the doctor on this hearing test immediately following the surgery.

This should be a fairly in and out procedure (the whole thing is expected to last less than an hour!) with minimal issues related to recovery.  We do not expect any surprises or real difficulty with recovery related to this.  Honestly, I think it will take them longer to do all the pre-op stuff than it will for them to get it done and get us out of there.  We didn't even start preparing Hannah for it until today and as of right now, she is "cool" with it (though I did have to tell her over and over that there would be no owies when she wakes up this time).  And while we expect this to be completely routine and fairly a breeze compared to her previous procedures, we do recognize the great power and peace found in prayer.  We invite you to join us praying for Hannah and her procedure tomorrow--for minimal anxiety and discomfort for her and for a direct path to be laid out for us as far as assisting her with her current hearing deficits. 

One thing in all this remains quite clear and sure.  Hannah is brave.  Braver than most.  Again.

Friday, February 19, 2016

I Blinked {Joshua and Grace Turn Five}

They started so small and helpless.  Two miraculous bundles.  Bundles I never thought I'd have the ability or human capacity to carry to term.  Bundles I fully expected to come too early and have all sorts of preemie disadvantages to overcome.  But God had other plans.  God likes to work miracles.  God's creation is beautiful and my body did just as He created it to do (despite feeling like I had a torpedo residing inside my belly).  They came right on time.  My body held out.  They arrived healthy and robust.  Our little miracle bundles.

Then....I blinked.  And they aren't our miracle bundles anymore.  They aren't "the babies" anymore.  They are five.  Five!  It almost pains me to say it.  A whole hand!  Five fingers!  They are growing and maturing.  They are big.  They are treasures.  I cannot imagine our family without them.

Joshua, leading the way by one minute, is so eager to learn to read.  He keeps asking when he will learn and I keep telling him when he is five and in kindergarten.  Today he told me, "Mama, I am five now!  Will I learn to read in school today?!"  He is athletic and strong, aggressive and brave, yet he loves a tight squeeze, a warm snuggle, and he begs for me to rub his sweet little head.  He is ever devoted to his twin and looks up to big brother with stars in his eyes.  He is smart, quick, and the one who keeps us full of laughter in our home.  God has mighty things planned for his charisma and energy.

Grace, following by one minute, is very thoughtful and kind.  She has a true servant's heart and seeks ways to help, serve, and bless others.  She is graceful and feminine, tender and sweet.  She is devoted to her twin brother and an extraordinary big sister to Hannah.  She loves a good book and adores mothering her ever growing collection of baby dolls.  She cherishes her "girly time" at ballet each week and has many dreams involving pink ballet slippers and fluffy pink tutus.  She is all things girl: accessories, pretty hair, shopping for clothes, baby dolls, and play kitchens.  I know God is cultivating her beautiful servant's heart to be used for His glory.
We are no longer a home of babies.  We are a home of BIG KIDS!  I blinked.  And they turned five.  Happy Birthday, Joshua and Grace.  You'll find me desperately soaking in all of the moments I can until the next big birthday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Moments & History {A Letter to Hannah}

Dear Hannah,
You have been home, in our arms, for one whole year now.  It feels like a major accomplishment.  You and I have had some emotionally intense moments this past year--some beautifully messy and some hard and ugly, but we walked those moments together.  Side by side.  In a family.  Building trust.  Finding healing.  Building moments.

I will admit I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief when we hit the one year mark.  We are no longer in a time where all things will be new to you.  You have experienced all of it at least once.  You've had candy plucked into a trick or treat bucket, you've unwrapped your first Christmas gift, you blew out a birthday candle, and you feasted on your first Thanksgiving turkey.  You swam under the summer sun, felt the breeze of a brisk bike ride, and learned to love the playground swings.  I treasure those moments up in my heart.  They weren't your "real" firsts....but they were your firsts with us.  The funny thing is that while I treasure it all up, I'm also feeling even more eager for year number two and while I'm nostalgic, I'm not really sad to see the first year draw to a close as I may have otherwise been in the past.

There is a struggle for me at the times of these milestones.  I can so easily be swayed to look back, to overlook the moments I did have and long for the moments I never got to have.  We are in the season of birthday celebrations in our home and as always, there is much talk about the arrival of each child.  How big my belly was, how we knew you were ready to arrive, what time the arrival occurred, and so on.  It is very easy for my heart to be dismayed as I realize I can't tell you any of those stories.  I don't know what time you were born or what the day had been like prior to your arrival or if you cried immediately or not.  I don't know if you slept like a champ or loved your first taste of solid food.  It is so, so easy to drift into this area of the gloom of the unknown.  What I can't and won't ever be able to answer for you.  What can't be replaced.

But rather than sitting there in the past I can't get back for either of us, what I do have are the moments we have now.  We made it through the first broken, disjointed, challenging, hilarious, messy year.  And rather than being sweetly sad to see baby's first year draw to a close, I rejoice and shout from the mountain tops--ONE YEAR!  She's been ours for ONE YEAR!  What does that mean?  We have history.  We have a past.  There are stories and memories to share.  I can tell you the "remember last year at Christmas" story and talk about what costume you wore to Halloween.  We have a past.  We have a history.  Moments heaped up on moments just adding to the depth of our relationship.

So yes, I bid the first year a fond farewell and get excited about the next.  There will be more moments.  And it is all adding up so that our memories with you will be greater than those without you.

Hannah, nothing about what you experienced this last year was easy for you.  I am in awe of your strength, your grace, your passion, and bravery.  You are a strong, resilient girl.  Our family is so much richer because you are in it.  We love you fiercely and we can't wait to add more moments to our history with you.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Xin nian kuai le! {Happy Chinese New Year!}

It is our second Chinese New Year in our home.  Starting a new tradition is fun, yet much grace is required.  We are still figuring out what place Chinese New Year will have in our home and just how it will be celebrated.  We enjoy the cultural aspect of it and find it important to celebrate in some way, as it is the largest, most important holiday in the whole year in China.  It is the Chinese equivalent to the American Christmas.  It is a big deal!  We want to honor Hannah's heritage, but also make it our needs to be not just a Chinese thing, but also part of the Burri heritage too. 

So, it is our second year of celebrating and we are still very much in the process of figuring out just what it will look like from year to year in our home.  Timing is a bit of a struggle for us...Chinese New Year almost always falls late January to mid February and is a time of significant celebrations already happening in our home.  Late January is Hannah day, February 5th is Welcome Home Hannah Day, February 19th is the twins birthday, 2.5 weeks later is Hannah's birthday, and then another two weeks later is Jacob's birthday.  All this on the heels of an already festive Christmas and American New Year!  Phew!  That is a lot to celebrate.  So Chinese New Year sort of takes a back seat and gets sandwiched in and grouped together with some other activities we have going on, but we at least want to give it a nod of attention.

What did it look like this year?  Well, since it fell so close to Welcome Home Hannah Day, we went out for a Chinese dinner and celebrated both Hannah's arrival home and Chinese New Year at the same time.  We baked cookies cut out in the shape of hearts and China and used those for both celebrations as well.  On the start of Chinese New Year (which is actually 15 days of festivals and various celebrations in China), we set aside part of our school day to read many books about China, Chinese New Year, and Chinese culture.  The kids colored Chinese New Year coloring pages, and got to make lion masks.  The girls got to wear their Chinese silks.  We ate super long noodles for lunch (considered good luck for a prosperous year in China).  We ate China cut out cookies and will have dinner off festive CNY paper products (yup, you can actually buy that stuff right here in KY!).  We'll have mandarin oranges (another symbol of prosperity in China) with our dinner.  We hung red lanterns around the house about a week ago.  It isn't much, but we're still very much figuring it out.  Part of it will also involve learning what Hannah wants to do, how much she wants to celebrate, and how connected she wants to remain to her Chinese heritage over the years.

Overall, the main thing I've learned about Chinese New Year is that it is largely about family, being home, and being together along with a sense of a fresh and new start.  We are thankful Hannah is home and we already know that the Lord's mercies are new and fresh each day and that is ALWAYS worth celebrating, so celebrate we our own awkward Kentucky sort of Chinese New Year way.  Over the years I'm sure we'll find what works for us, what excites the kids, and what helps draw our eyes beyond the superstitions associated with the holiday and keep us focused on Christ and how He can equip us for a new year ahead.

So, in our awkward Kentucky Chinese New Year way, may we say,

Xin nian kuai le!


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Journey {12 Months Home}

We've been home for a year.  The memories of that flight home are still fresh.  Very fresh.  I haven't been on a plane since that trip.  I still don't know if I want to ever get back on one.  Thirty plus hours of travel with a child you've known for all of 10 days is beyond grueling. I can still remember the sheer panic I felt in the airport in Guangzhou and see the terminal where I shed probably at least three or four rounds of tears as Hannah threw a fit on the floor and people stared at her and me.  I remember running her around Shanghai and refusing to let her sleep and singing, "No sleeping in airports!  We sleep on planes NOT in airports!" to her like a crazed Caucasian maniac.  I remember the speed my heart was racing as we sat on that plane, just praying we'd have that row of four seats to ourselves.  I remember looking at Chris as the plane filled and filled and eventually the steady stream of passengers slowed and tears just ran down my face.  I was so grateful to God for providing those seats.  I may still be curled up in a ball somewhere on a Delta flight trembling  and rocking if it weren't for those amazing seats (we were in a bulkhead row, four seats to ourselves--we had purchased two adult seats and one lap ticket for Hannah.  There is no way we could have survived that flight with her in my lap the entire time).  I was shaking and crying and totally overwhelmed with those seats.  That was pure answered prayer and I know we had people at home praying us through those flights.

We didn't recognize Hannah that day.  Totally....different....child.  Yes, we had a bit of wild tantrums and screaming in the Guangzhou airport and I know we graced Shanghai and Detroit with at least a short burst of twitching and dancing and some crying, but it was nothing (NOTHING) compared to what we had experienced over the course of our stay in China.  She slept.  On every flight.  Almost entire flights.  Including the flight that lasted FOURTEEN hours.  She slept for the entire trip from Guangzhou to Shanghai (after a HUGE fight and massive meltdown on the tarmac) and then easily slept on the short trip from Detroit to Lexington.  We...were....stunned.  And in awe of God.

I remember watching the ground slip away in Shanghai and realizing we were leaving China.  Forever.  And all that Hannah had known there was now gone.  And I felt sadness, but truth be told, my panic over the flights ahead overshadowed a large amount of my sentimentality that day.  I remember seeing the lights of Lexington.  I sobbed.  Like for real.  Cried like a baby sobbed.  Nose running, eyes dripping.  We....were....home.  My arms ached from holding Hannah through all those flights, I was exhausted, I had no idea what time it was or even what day it was for the matter, but I knew those lights of Lexington and I cried like a little girl as we touched down.  I remember waiting for our gate checked bag and being the....very....last people off our flight.  And then came the escalator.

I remember wanting to sprint and hug the big kids so bad.  I had missed them so much and I needed the sense of security and normalcy that being with them brought.  I hugged my eldest and he broke down and sobbed on my shoulder, which of course opened my jet lagged, travel weary, adoption battle worn flood gates of tears and I sobbed too.  We....were....home.

Our journey was complete.  Right?  We'd traveled the globe.  We'd brought her home.  Mission accomplished.

Wrong.  While so many thought our journey was finished, what they didn't realize was that on that day, as we came down the escalator, our journey was far from complete.  It was just merely beginning.  The paper chasing was complete, the adoption was complete, the fundraising was done, but  the journey?  The journey hadn't even really started until we walked through our front door that cold February night.  And the journey continues.

We may be one year home.  We may have one year under our belts (and a lot was accomplished in that year).  But our journey is far from over.

When we said yes to Hannah we signed up for what is the longest, most grueling, most trying, most sanctifying, most personally gratifying marathon you could ever run.  Only we didn't get the super cool t shirt and medal to go with it.  We knew we were signing up for the marathon, we really did.  But do you ever fully understand just how FAR a marathon is until you try to run it?  Wow.  It requires everything you've got.  Physical stamina, mental toughness, training, preparation.

So we are one year home and while we are far from those early days, there are still moments that creep in and our home smells strongly of jet fuel.  We refer to those hard moments as "fresh off the plane" moments.  They are far less than they ever were, but given the right set of circumstances, they can easily slip back in.  We have yet to arrive.  We have accomplished so much.  She has accomplished so much.  We have asked so much of her.  SO much of her.  And she takes it all in stride.  We are so proud of her.  We are deeply in love with her.  Our lives are so much richer, so much louder, so much funnier, and so much fuller because of her.  Our family is profoundly changed because of her and we would never want to go back to life before she was in it.

Our journey didn't end when we stepped off that escalator.  Our journey doesn't end now, as we celebrate one year of stepping off that escalator.  We praise God for the endurance and grace He has afforded all of us as we have blundered our way through this first year together as a family of six.  We look forward full of great anticipation and eagerness to see what the next year holds.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

The journey is far from over.  God's work is not yet complete.  We thank Him for choosing us.  For using us.  We praise Him for leading us to say, "yes."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Trip Around the Sun {Celebrating Adoption Day}

She's done it.  Three hundred and sixty-five days, one full revolution around the sun....all while bearing our name.  Being a Burris isn't easy.  And it certainly isn't easy when you enter into it with no previous exposure or genetic pre-programming to help pave the way for you.  She's embraced it, she's run with it, and she's added her own spice and flare to it.  She's more American now than she was then--we are all perhaps a little more Chinese than we were then.

On January 27, 2015, she took our name.  We declared she was ours, always and forever.  Best.....decision.....ever.

Hannah then--So uncertain about all that was happening.
Hannah now--So sure of where she is supposed to be!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Meeting Him {Hannah Day Reflections}

I entered into this journey with false expectations.  I thought it was all about meeting her.  Getting her.  Bringing her home.  I thought it was all about her--and a little about us.  I was na├»ve.  I didn't understand.  I couldn't understand.  I had no clue what it was all about.  What He was going to make it all about.

She's been in our arms for 12 months now and while this day is all sorts of wrapped up in her, it isn't all about her.  Yes, this was the day I met her.  The first time I knew her weight in my arms.  The first time I changed her clothes and splashed with her in a bath and began memorizing all the intricacies that make her who she is.  The first time I gave her a bottle or discovered what she liked to eat (or not eat).  The first time I felt the limpness in her body tell me she had quickly gone to sleep in my arms or brushed the tears off her cheeks.  This day is etched in my memories.  I will never forget it.  And it isn't because this was the day I met her.

My life completely and drastically changed this day.  I can be and never will be the same person who walked into that Civil Affairs Office in Nanning, China.  I thought this was going to be a year about knowing her, discovering her, and weaving her into our home, our family, and our life.  And to some extent, that is true.  But there is a lot more.

That was the day I met her, but it was also the day I met Him.  Yes, I knew Him prior to her arrival in our home.  I loved Him, worshipped Him, and desired He be in control of each of my days.  But this was the day I met Him in a way that only the process of adoption permitted me to understand.  This year, this journey, has been less about her and more about Him.  I have needed Him in ways I could never express in words.  I have known what it is to truly thirst for a word from Him, to need His wisdom and strength in a way that I simply couldn't go on without Him.  I have seen my desperate state without Him and known the security of my adoption into His family.  I have felt His discipline, known His grace, and submitted to His leading this past year in ways I never could have without her.

On this day I met her.  I came to know her.  I am so thankful for her and all she brings to our home, our family, and our lives.  More than anything else, I am thankful for the process.  In knowing her, in shaping her into a Burris, I've known Him more and been shaped by Him more.


So, 12 months ago on this day I met her.  But I also met Him.  I am forever changed.  Forever thankful.  Forever blessed.


Happy Hannah Day, y'all.  It has been a year of tremendous challenge, tremendous growth, incredible change, and deepening of relationships.  On January 26, 2015 we met her.  And in so doing, we met Him and He met us....right where we were.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

How Can It Be?

Thus begins an ongoing litany of posts as I reminisce about the last year.  I always remember the arrival of each of my children around the time of their birthdays, but for some reason, my China memories are much stronger and much more vivid.  Perhaps it is that it has only been one year and the memories will fade with the coming years.  Perhaps it is because Hannah came onto the scene with such an imprint on our lives.  Perhaps it is because I faced the greatest of all "child birth and arrival" stories I'd ever faced.  The longest of pregnancies, the most painful of labors, the most challenging "first year."  I will never know.  All I know is that the memories are like a flood.

One year ago today, Chris and I embarked on the most life altering of journeys we have ever made.  None of us are the same.  We cannot go back to how we once were "pre-China." 

How can it be?  One year ago today.....

We'd fly entirely around the globe, cross the international date line, visit the Arctic Circle on our flight, and pass over Alaska.  We departed Lexington, arrived in Detroit, departed to Shanghai, China, and then hopped one final flight to Nanning.  We left our home at 3AM on Friday, January 23, 2015 (Eastern Time).  We'd arrive to our hotel in Nanning, Guangxi, China on January 24, 2015 right around midnight to check into our hotel (China time).  We spent over 30 hours traveling.
The countdown to Hannah Day was on.  Little did we know all that lie ahead of us.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Day 357 {Not the Same}

We are approaching the one year mark of holding Hannah in our arms and adding her forever to our family.  My memories are vivid and strong.  Moments, words, smells...they can all wash over me and in an instant draw me back to those hotel rooms and streets of China.

We've held her in our arms for 357 days.  She's shared our last name for 356. 

What can I say about those days?  The last 357 days?  The best I can say is we are not the sameNone of us are.  Yes, we've all done the usual things of a passing year: grown (if you're Jacob it is a few inches), gained a few pounds, added a new gray hair , noticed a new wrinkle, learned new things, gotten a little smarter, perhaps a little wiser, but those aren't the sort of changes I referring to when I say that we aren't the same.

There is this saying and it goes something like this: "It is easy to ignore the orphan until you know one."  I'm sure I didn't get that quite right and feel free to correct me, but that is the gist of it.  357 days ago we came face to face with an orphan.  We shared our hotel room with an orphan for 24 hours until the next day she took our name and became our daughter.  And because of it we are not the same.  The journey she took us on changed us all.  In big ways.

Our children think about adoption as part of their life plans.  China is a day to day discussion in our home.  Adopting again is something our eldest child frequently inquires about (and longs for).  We have conversations that we couldn't have, wouldn't have if it were not for knowing the life of an orphan and with the help of the Lord, making her ours.

We aren't the same.  It hasn't been easy.  Pruning hurts.  Sometimes more than others.  Molding, is hard, painful work.  Growing pains aren't just a made up term.  They are real.  It hurts to come face to face with pain, trauma, and brokenness.  Confronting sin (ugly, ugly sin) isn't easy and doesn't come without feeling stretched and broken a bit.

There has been pain.  There have been dark days.  But what does pruning accomplish?  It hurts, but what is the purpose?  It cleans off all the extra, all the unneeded, all that is sapping the plant from producing its best fruit.  Yes, the plant will still produce if it isn't pruned, but the fruit won't be the best, the sweetest, the richest, the most beautiful.  Pruning, while painful, allows the plant to reach its full potential as it bears fruit and make the harvest all the better.

We've been pruned these last 357 days.  It has caused pain to each member of our home.  But we haven't been without fruit.  And the fruit is what makes the pain of the pruning worth it.  Trust is born, attachments form, relationships deepen, understanding is greater, and perhaps we all embody the qualities of Christ just a little more than we did this time last year.

We are in some tender days...these days leading up to our one year anniversary with Hannah.  Don't ask me how, but ask around the adoption community and you will hear from person after matter the age of the child at the time of their adoption, they somehow know when important milestones are about to be reached.  Somehow that internal clock just.....knows.  It knows that this time last year something BIG happened and that something BIG was HARD and HURT and you'll do all you can to crawl inside the shell of yourself to protect yourself from experiencing it again.  Forever starts to sink it a little more.  I know Hannah has no clue what date is on the calendar, but I know her actions are telling me she needs just a little more reassurance, just a little longer of a snuggle, one more nap with mama's arms tight around her rather than alone, one more reminder that she will always be home here.  She's a little more vigilant and concerned about coming and going or being separated from family members outside our normal routine.  She needs a little more touch.  A little more kissing.  Extra hugging.  More tickles.  Frequent "I love you's."  And it is okay.  We are here to walk this road with her and we know these days may always be just a little more difficult for her.  The questions of why will come back, the longing to know more than we can tell her may stir a bit more, the trauma may bubble over the top.  We are thankful we can walk the road with her.  We are humbled she lets us in to provide her with comfort.

So we are 357 days into this thing called being an adoptive family.  What can I say about that?  I have  much to say, but the most concise way to say it is that we are not the same and never will be.  And that is a perfectly wonderful thing.

"Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
~John 15:2~

Monday, January 11, 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

Can you hear me now?

In March of last year, I took Hannah to see an ENT.  They tested her hearing.  She failed.  They wanted to place tubes that week.  We decided to hold off and wait to place the tubes in late April, when we did Hannah's lip repair to spare her the trauma of additional surgeries.  It was a whirlwind at the time.  We saw a doctor outside the University hospital where Hannah has received all of her care.  That doctor couldn't place the tubes for us at UK during her other surgeries, so in a flurry of activity, our cranio-facial surgeon lined up an ENT for us who would be willing to do it at UK.  We'd never met the person who did that portion of the surgery and we never saw them again after that day.  It was just something that needed to be done and the lesser of things that we were concerned about at the time.  So we did it.  We were told to follow up in six weeks at the ENT clinic at UK, which we did.

So we went in June and met with a pediatric doctor there.  On his last day at the University.  And it was clearly his last day.  He spent all of 30 seconds in the room with us.  Checked her ears, sad no worries about the fresh blood we'd seen drain just that week, and told us they wouldn't test her hearing again until it had been six months.  We tried to schedule the six month follow up and were told we couldn't schedule that far in advance and to call in October.  I was less than impressed.

Fast forward to November.  My concerns over Hannah's hearing were mounting.  She was still so loud.  So...very....loud.  And perhaps loud is just her personality, but I was starting to get a lot of loud, followed by, "WHAT?!" after a lot of what I would say to her.  Add this to the lack of progress in speech therapy and I realized that despite my lackluster experience with the ENT at UK to date, I needed to get her back in to see someone....either the doctor we'd seen in March outside the University or back at UK.  I mentioned my concerns to the speech therapist, who did a very basic test in her office and it confirmed my concerns.  She failed in the left ear and barely passed the right.

I opted to give UK one more try since they were the ones who'd placed the tubes in the first place and see if perhaps another doctor would give us a better experience.  I am thankful I decided to do this.  The new doctor was great with Hannah and seems on top of getting her hearing and hearing soon.  Hannah had her hearing tested again.  She failed, miserably, on the hearing test.  The ENT wanted to know all sorts of things that I was unable to answer.  No, China never tested her hearing, no, I am not certain that ear infections were caught or treated (ever or at all), no she'd never passed a hearing test while in my care.  What we discovered was that she has waxy ears.  No joke.  This is very common in Asian kiddos and we've seen that has poked around in her ears has remarked about the wax.  There's nothing we can do about it, but it does make exams difficult.  No, there is not enough wax in there to obstruct her ears or her hearing.  What we were able to somehow deduce is that one tube is apparently gone (already?!?!  how long do these things last??), and one is completely blocked guessed it, fluid!  Tons of fluid behind both ears.  No wonder she can't hear.

So what is the plan?  Sadly, it means there will be another surgery for Hannah to kick off 2016.  I'm bummed.  I'd hoped we'd be surgery free for at least 2-3 years.  God has other plans.  We were prepared for hearing issues to be a possibility, but prepared or not, we trust God's plan for all of us is sovereign.  We saw how we were able to impact the nurses during our hospital stays in the past.  We are willing to be used by Him wherever He chooses and if that includes the hospital, then so be it.  We just wish she could be spared all these procedures.  In late February, Hannah will have another operation to replace the current tubes, drain all the fluid in her ears, and also conduct a sedated ABR hearing test.  This will be a much more accurate hearing test and will hopefully shed some light on what we're dealing with.  It is possible Hannah's current hearing impairment is merely caused by the fluid in her ears and the simple set of tubes will correct it.  We will just have to stay more on top of the tubes and their effectiveness so we don't end up where we are again in six months.  Or, it is also possible that Hannah was exposed to multiple, prolonged, and untreated ear infections during her life in China.  Ear infections alone are not a big deal, but leaving them untreated and having many can cause permanent hearing loss or damage.  This ABR test should tell us what type of impairment she has and what we can do to help her hear to the best of her ability.

There are things that we know to be true.  We know she hears because she responds.  We know she hears because she speaks English now.  We know she is struggling to hear because she often needs us to repeat things and English is no longer the culprit.  We know she came home from China with a massive ear infection that we knew nothing about and she had no other symptoms with it--we happened to catch it at a routine checkup.  This tells us she is rather used to living with the pain of ear infections and just took it as part of normal life.  Nothing to fuss over.  Most of all, we know God placed her in our family for a reason and we know His plans for her are perfect.  We know He loves her far more than we ever possibly could.  We know that whatever mountain He places in front of her, He fully intends to equip her (and us) to climb it.  Was it what we wanted for her?  No.......but we see this as opportunity to yet again increase our faith and trust His will.  We know He works all things together for our good and for His glory.

We also know that our progress in speech therapy has been slow.  Very slow.  Things have been mentioned in speech that have made me cringe, but all I can do is sigh and say, "I trust you, Lord."  Our insurance limits the number of visits we can have with a speech therapist and the limit is far from enough for what Hannah requires.  Together  with the speech therapist, Chris and I have decided to take an extended break from speech therapy and resume once we know Hannah is hearing correctly.  We'll start back a week or so before her surgery, just to get into the swing of it again, and then proceed from there.

We know Hannah has the ability to function in a speaking world.  She can hear and understand and comprehend, but her hearing is definitely impacting her ability to make progress with her speech.  Please join us in praying for a quick procedure, clear answers to the reason for her current hearing impairment, and clear direction from the Lord as to what the next steps need to be.  We long for her to hear us clearly and grasp the sounds we are making so she can one day reproduce them herself.  We want her to fully hear the gospel and also fully be able to proclaim it herself one day.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good..."
~Romans 8:28~
May He continue to weave her story.  May He work this together for her good.  And may we glorify Him through it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Reflection {11 Months Home}

With a stroke of the clock, we bid farewell to 2015 and welcomed in the fresh promises of a new year, unblemished and free from any strife or struggle.  Our family has enjoyed a long week of "break" from school, work, and lots of the day to day responsibilities that can so easily distract us.  With this extra time, I found myself frequently reflecting on many things.  I found myself often thinking, "this time last year...."  This time last year we were fighting hard with the NVC over the importance of a name, sweating bullets over Article 5 drop off and pick up, and painfully crunching numbers over Chinese New Year shut downs.

For our family, 2015 ushered in so many changes for our family.  We brought Hannah home.  We experienced the joy of adding a daughter and sister and navigated brokenness.  We saw a child face difficult surgeries and yet still blossom before our eyes. It was a year we had long anticipated when we submitted that application back in July of 2013.

As I've pondered all that 2015 meant for us, all of it has been good--warm thoughts and meaningful moments--yes, wrought with a fair share of challenge, but all of it worth it.  As I've tried to step back and look at things from Hannah's perspective, I realize that she is likely ready to bid 2015 a final farewell.  It was a hard, hard year for her.  She left her homeland, said goodbye to the only people she had known as family, flew thousands of miles around the globe, and was planted into a southern American family where she not only had to acquire a new language and new tastes, but she was put through two incredibly life altering and hard surgeries.  We see there is good.  We see there is promise.  We know her outcome is secure in our home, but Hannah?  2015 was marked with deep and tragic loss, gut wrenching pain (both physical and emotional), and so much brokenness.  So much tragedy.  So much hurt and pain and deep sadness that could only be expressed through heated and lengthy tantrums and bouts of screaming.  She was so uncertain (and still is to some degree) about her place, her spot, in this family of hers.

As we look ahead to 2016, I pray there will be more peace for Hannah.  No more loss, no more tragedy.  May the cobwebs of doubt and fear continue to clear and may the fears of abandonment continue to fade.  This month we will celebrate one year of knowing Hannah, of feeling her weight in our arms, of navigating her needs, of making her a daughter.  You can expect much from me over the course of the next month, as we approach the time of a whole year of knowing Hannah.  There are many more thoughts and reflections swirling.

2015 was a beautiful mess of tragedy and loss laced with redemption and love.  We've watched Hannah emerge from all of what we threw at her over the past 11 months.  It is so hard to believe we are nearing one year of knowing her as our own.  Each day is a day further from tragedy.  May we all welcome peace in 2016.