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.