Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Are They Worth It?

“Mom?  Are they worth it?” 

I looked into my daughter’s pleading eyes, trying to figure out how to answer her question without choking on my own tears.  Both her sisters looked at me, waiting for the answer to the question they were too afraid to ask.  

I stood there for a second or two, trying to decide if I should smooth things over with a safe answer or if I should be real and honest.  The honest answer might not bring my girls the comfort they craved, and at bed time, I wasn’t sure I was ready for an emotional meltdown (times three).

But when I opened my mouth, I could only confess the truth.  She wanted to know if these boys were worth the risk.  Were they worth possibly dying for and as a result, leaving even more orphans in the world?  

The thought had been weighing heavily on me as we grew closer to receiving travel approval.  We decided to apply to adopt a child in January and less than a month later we said yes to two boys.  There were nights when I couldn’t sleep.  Anxiety caught my breath and squeezed my heart as I wondered what we were thinking.  

We said yes to an older boy with disabilities we originally thought we couldn’t handle.  God told us we could.  Then we pursued a second older boy with the same special need, only less severe.  We said yes to both.  We would welcome these two boys into our family and love them unconditionally.  They could be terrible human beings for all we knew.  We could travel half-way around the world, bring them home and forever regret our decision.  

Or we could not make it back at all.

As the time for travel grew closer, all of the unknowns left my three daughters and I in a state of angst and tears.  

This adoption forced me to walk in blind faith and I was determined to pull my daughters along with me.  I knew that no matter the outcome, I had to trust that God had a plan and that it would be fulfilled.  If the plan was for Scott, Pacey (our 14 year old son who was traveling with us) and I to die in a plane crash on our way to China, then I had to accept that.  If His plan was for us to bring home two little hellians and love them through the chaos and damage they inflict on us, then I had to accept that as well.  

I wanted my girls to understand that blind faith involves taking risks.  I knew the odds were in our favor to come back in one piece, but I also knew that there were so many other things that could go wrong.  I knew without a doubt what we were called to do and I was not going to let fear stop us now.  So I looked at my girls and braced myself for the meltdown.

“I’ve never met these boys.”  I answered.  

Tears started streaming down my face and my voice quivered.  With all honesty, I could not say they were worth it to me.  If I knew that I was going to die going into this, would I just walk into this death sentence?  

“I can’t say that for me, they are worth it.”  I continued.  “But for God, these boys are worth it.  He told us to go.  He chose these boys for us.”  I was pretty much sobbing as I finished my answer with conviction.  “So we are going to do this.  We are going to trust in God and we are going to China to get your brothers.”

I looked at my precious girls’ faces as they all sobbed simultaneously.  We gathered together on the floor, held each other, and cried together.  I felt so silly.  But I felt their fear and it was very real.  I knew what they were going through because I was going through it too.  

Just the thought of leaving my babies for two whole weeks felt like an eternity.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it.  All I knew was God told us to go.  Faith was the only force stopping Scott and I from backing out and running hard in the opposite direction.  As I realized this, I saw the parallel between what was ahead for our family and what God and His son went through for us.

I can only imagine how much harder it was for Jesus to willingly walk into His own death.  His father said that you and I are worth it, so He agreed to separate himself from His father so that we could be adopted into His family.  My sacrifice was going to be nothing (even if I died in a plane crash) compared to what He did.  He knew that pain and death was ahead.  

I imagine His anxiety was so much worse than mine.  After all, I wasn’t in such agony that my sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)  But He didn’t let fear (of the known!) stop Him from fulfilling is mission.  

He said Yes.

This realization strengthened me.  What I was about to do was small compared to the sacrifice He made for me and my family. 

And so, our adoption journey drew me even closer to my Savior.  He walked a harder path than the one right before me.  He did so, knowing he would be rejected, persecuted, and hurt by many.  He was convicted enough to follow through, because He agreed with His father - we are worth it.  

In the middle of the sobs and tears, I gathered my girls in my arms and we prayed.  We told God that we would trust Him on this journey. 

How could these boys not be worth it?  While I still feared the unknown (I won’t lie - I was terrified), I knew our family had one choice:  We were going to do this.  If these boys were worth it to God, then they were worth it to us.  


I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.   John 14:18

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sending Smiles To Myles - And His Forever Family

Dear Friends,

This is a miracle in the works.  As Myles’ (also spelled Miles) story has been weighing on my heart, it has also touched the hearts of many others.  I just received word last night that Myles has a family who has started the process of adopting him!  

I want to share with you a little bit more about how this boy’s story is coming together:

1.  Myles will have 13 other siblings!  10 of them still live at home!

2.  The couple adopting him just returned from China last fall.  They adopted TWINS.  As I’ve shared with you from my personal experience, adoption is expensive, and adopting two is even MORE expensive!

3.  This couple has experience with Myles’ condition and they are ready to get him on the road to recovery as soon as possible.  

4.  This couple is still trying to financially recover from their last adoption(s).  The mom shared with me that they felt called to adopt Myles and that they are stepping out in faith.  They don’t have the funds, and she intends to fundraise to pay for the remaining fees of Miles’ adoption that isn’t covered by adoption waivers and grants.

5.  Because of the seriousness of Miles’ condition, the adoption agency intends on getting the family to Miles within 3-4 months, leaving them very little time to raise the money they need to adopt him.  On top of the added stress of coming up with financial support within a very short timeframe, this mom and dad will have paperwork to complete and plans to make as they continue to care for their other children.  Just the thought stresses ME out!

Friends, this is our opportunity to help this family.  The hard part is truly on them.  They are dedicating the rest of their lives to helping this boy and their other 13 children.  What they are doing is amazing!  

Here is the great news:  I found out that between some grants and waivers, this family only needs to raise $12,000 to fund Myles’ adoption!  This is so attainable!  

So now I’m asking you, what if we can relieve the stress a little by covering the remainder of their adoption fees so that these parents don’t have to fundraise?  What if they can just focus on getting to Miles?  

I need your participation more than ever, and it will only require a few minutes of your time and if you can, $10 from your wallet.

If you haven’t posted a picture with the hash tag, #SmilesToMyles, will you do so today?  How amazing would it be for this family to be able to share with Myles all the smiles that were sent his way.  What a story of hope and how it will speak in volumes to him about how, while he was waiting and lonely, God was moving people all over the world to save his life.  

In addition to blessing Myles, know that every smile posted is also a smile to encourage this brave family to keep moving forward.  I cannot even begin to express how scary the unknowns of adoption can be.  One of the best gifts you can give a family who is in the process of adopting is support.

Your smile is a symbol of hope, love, and support to this brave family who are living a life of sacrifice.  

Next, can you tag or message some of your friends and ask them to participate?  

You can even write something along the lines of, 

I just sent #SmilesToMyles and I challenge (list friends' names) to send him a smile too!

If you’d like me to add your picture to the website, tag me on Facebook and write that you give me permission to post it on the Love An Orphan site or email it to me at iloveanorphan@gmail.com

And last but not least, please go to http://reecesrainbow.org/93308/myles and donate $10 
(or more!)  

We need to raise this money as quickly as possible!  If each of us can get ten of our friends to help out by donating and then asking ten of their friends, this family will be funded in no time!  It will take 1,200 people to make this happen.  This number is not so big when you consider how many people there are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

So that is it!  

Your mission is to be one of the 1,200 people, and then invite your friends to be a part of this opportunity to bless a little boy!


Thank you so much to all of you who have raised awareness, posted pictures, and donated to help Myles get to his forever family.  You are a hero ~ and you are helping save this boy’s life.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Smiles To Myles

I came across his picture on a waiting child advocacy page on Facebook.  I hadn’t intended to stumble upon his story in such a way that I would be drawn in, but for some reason, it was in my feed and I clicked on the post.  I’d seen his face before and knew of his special need, but this night, when I clicked on the post, I discovered that the family who intended to adopt him changed their minds.  As if this news wasn’t tragic enough, he only has until June before he ages out and can no longer be adopted.

I see these stories over and over again, but for Myles, this news is especially tragic.  Myles has Thalassemia and without proper treatment, Myles will die.

Not being adopted is a death sentence.

The realization of his dire predicament hit me hard as I read further about his life from people who had visited him in his orphanage.

Myles is a kind boy, but because of his condition, he has not grown much for his age. He looks very small and it’s hard to believe that next summer he will be fourteen years old. Because he is so small, some other boys in the orphanage have taken advantage of his small stature and have bullied him.

I know that this is a typical scenario for children who live life in an orphanage, but when you see the face of someone who just needs hope...a chance at life ~ a family ~ the obvious truth of just how wrong this is really hits hard. All I could think when I read about Myles’ situation, is “something has to be done! “

Here we are, in the process of adopting two boys with Cerebral Palsy. I am going to be pouring every ounce of energy, time, and emotion into helping these boys transition into their new lives.

...BUT, I have an extra bed. It’s in the boys’ room. We have plenty of food and health insurance. We could be his family.

Did I mention that Myles likes to play guitar? I looked at the photograph of Myles. I took note of his pale lips and again, his small stature. He and Pacey would have something in common. They are close in age, although nobody would guess it. Pacey would protect Myles if he was his brother.






Fighting tears, I showed his picture to Scott. I told him about Myles’ situation, then gave up on holding back the tears. Someone should be crying for this boy. Somebody should notice him and the hopeless situation he is facing. The solution is so simple. He needs a family.

As I continued to talk to Scott about him, I wondered, “What if his parents gave him up hoping that someone would adopt him and be able to afford the healthcare they couldn’t provide? What if nobody comes for him?”

I cannot even imagine the amount of love and faith it must take to completely let go of a child and hope that someone good and kind will step up and rescue the one I gave birth to.

“Can you imagine,” I asked my husband, “having to make that decision for one of our babies? Can you imagine trying for the first few years to provide for him and after realizing we couldn’t give him what he needs to survive, taking that leap of faith?

How many regrets would you have if you later found out your child was never adopted and they died an early death, being bullied and feeling abandoned and hopeless?”

That’s not how this story is supposed to end.

More tears followed. This world can be such a cold, dark place.

Scott, the amazing man he is, told me to ask about him. Our home study only has us approved for two children. I knew that adopting three at once would be a long shot, so I tried to play out the scenario in my mind. How much would it delay the other two adoptions if we tried to do this right now? Could we handle going back a few months later? How can we make this work?

Myles is in a different province than the other two boys we are adopting and I found out he even speaks a different language.

“How hard would it be to have three different spoken languages to try to decipher between all of us?” I wondered.

I played the scenario through my head. I was stressed just thinking about it. How would the other two boys bond with him? Would they treat him differently because he looked and spoke differently?

I finally got the nerve to reach out to a woman who was advocating for him. I told her we were very seriously considering this boy and wanted to ask about him, but we weren’t sure if it would work. Since it was Fridaynight, I had to wait the weekend before I could act. Until then, I decided to do more research.

I reached out to a mother who has experience with Thalassemia. As she shared that he would need to go to a Thalassemia specialist as soon as possible and shared her biggest guess on what could possibly be his initial treatment plan, I tried to figure out in my head how we could make it work. It would require an out of state visit to the nearest specialist, then an aggressive treatment plan to get him on a healthier path.

As I logically planned out how we would pull this off, I realized that adopting Myles and trying to get the other two boys the treatment they need, along with bonding and settling, would be a tremendous burden on our family, especially if we were able to get to him during the school year. Yet, I wrestled with reason. I thought of ways to convince our social worker and the CCCWA in China that we could do this.

Through all of this, I prayed and prayed. I felt restless, the weight of the world pressed down on my heart and shoulders. My body literally ached with the burden I carried for this boy. That Saturday evening, I was awake more than I slept.

I replayed our situation in my head over and over again, trying to find a way to make it all work. There were so many things to consider, but at about 5:00 in the morning, I knew in my heart what I’d been resisting the last 36 hours or so.

I am not enough.

I can’t do it.

I can’t adopt Myles right now.

I grieved the disappointment and failure that I felt. There is so much that we have that we could offer this boy, but it still isn’t enough. I heard God’s gentle voice loud and clear, “You need to focus on the adoptions you are already working on. Stay on your path and let me be God.”

So I relented, “Okay, God. I hear you.”

The next few days, I had to remind myself to focus on our two boys every time Myles came to mind. Each time I breathed out a prayer, telling God that I know I’m not enough, but He is...

and then I said,

“But I’m still going to help that boy.”

I may not be the one who can adopt this very special boy, but Friends, I can share his story. A small group of people have moved to help Myles find his family. He has a Reece’s Rainbow account where a small group of Myles' supporters and advocates have been trying to raise money to fund his adoption. A small portion of his adoption fees have already been waived. But we need to do more.

What if we share Myles’ story and create a greater hope and reason for him to be adopted? What if we were able to raise enough money (Approximately $30,000) for his adoption to be fully funded so that his forever family doesn’t have to worry about the financial burden required just to get to him?

You can be a light in Myles’ life.

You can shelter this orphan from those who might intend harm.

You can help him to see what it is like to be loved.

You can be a messenger of hope.

You can help rescue him from death itself.


YOU can be a hero in Myles’ life.


Can you imagine the look on Myles’ parents’ faces if they were to hear how people all over the United States gave to save their son’s life? Can you imagine the overwhelming sense of love that would cover them?

What if each of us gave just $10 and passed on the message to our friends? 

Little by little, it would add up. If you have more, give more. But know that just $10 and a personal request to your friends brings Myles many steps closer to hope. This small act of kindness is like sending a smile his way, letting him know he is not alone in this world.

Let’s do this.  Let’s send #SmilesToMyles

Let’s rewrite this boy’s story...the one that claims a death sentence over him. Let’s give him life, hope, and love. We might not be the ones to bring him home...we might not be enough by ourselves, but together, we can change this boy’s life.

You can love this orphan along with me. You can send him a smile. I’m challenging you now to ask your friends to join you in this campaign to give Myles hope.


Here is how:

1. To donate towards Myles’ adoption, please go to

Your donations are tax deductible!


2. Then, Tweet “Let’s send #SmilesToMyles” and include links to this blog post and his RR account.


3. Share his story on Facebook. Include the hashtag #SmilesToMyles along with the challenge to donate at least $10 towards his adoption. Be sure to include the link to his Reece's Rainbow account!


4. Send messages to your friends (one at a time is most effective) and ask them to send a smile to Myles. When they donate, tell them to post a picture of themselves holding a sign that says, "I'm Sending #Smiles To Myles" and tag you in it so you know they did it! Then encourage them to personally invite ten of their friends (or more!) to do the same!


Post your picture and share this opportunity with your friends!


5. Share a picture of your pretty smile on Instagram and Facebook and include a link to his account.

As you can see, there are so many ways to raise awareness and help this boy!

Let’s watch his account grow to fully fund his adoption and pray that God brings his family to him soon!



Thank you for helping change Myles’ story to a story of redemption and hope!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The One Thing You Can't Get Back When Adopting An Older Child

It's after 1:00 in the morning and I can't sleep.  My son just called and read off a script.  "I'm here in Fort ------------.  I'm safe.  I'll call you when I can."  Scott got to hear his voice.  I grabbed his phone from him as quick as I could, hoping to say hi, but it was too late.  He had to hang up.

It's funny.  Insomnia has crept in as I think about my 18 year old son trying to sleep in a hard bed away from his family tonight and he's not even sleeping.  I imagine the hardship he is about to endure as he begins basic training.  I don't think my imagination can do it justice.

Words cannot express how much I miss him right now.  Just a few nights ago I was holding him in my arms, crying into his shoulder.  He has grown so fast.  In fact, he has grown so fast, his departure has left me feeling like I just got punched in the gut.  I feel breathless, waiting for the moment to pass when I can finally gasp for air.

He is gone.  I'm so thankful this is not me enduring the death of a child - I will get to see my son again...but I still feel that I am somewhat mourning.

This is the part of adopting an older child that didn't hit me until now.  Nathanuel was 7 years old when he was first placed with us.  Just over 11 years later and he is gone.  That's it.  I've had 11 years to raise my boy.

There was not enough time.  I wasn't prepared for this.

I want 7 more years!

If money could buy more time, I'd spend it in a heartbeat.  I'd invest in my son a little longer and love him a whole lot more.

You see, adopting an older child comes with a whole new set of challenges.  When they are older, they have more than likely gone through more hardship and they more than likely come to you more damaged.

An adopted child of any age goes through more loss and suffering that most of us don't even comprehend on a surface level.  When we see baby orphans, we think they are so stinking cute and can't wait to hold them and hand them a cute plastic toy for them to chew on.  What we don't realize is that these babies more than likely have spent much of their lives never being held, never being responded to, never learning the basics of nurture and love that a child born to two healthy and loving parents can give.

See, when a baby cries, usually the mom or dad will check on them.  If their diaper is dirty, they change it.  If they are hungry, they receive warm milk.  If they are lonely, they are rocked back to sleep, complete with lullaby of choice!  Their every need is met and they learn that all they have to do is cry out, and their mom or dad will come.  They learn the smell of their mommy's neck, the gentle caress of a finger on their cheek, and the comfort of a swaddling blanket encompassing their body right before a peaceful snuggle.  Bonding forms, they become attached, and they grow up secure, learning how to nurture and love other people as they mature.

But an orphan's story is different.  They often spend many lonely hours with no response to their desperate cries.  They learn that their voice don't matter.  Nobody cares.  They are rejected.  They barely exist.  There is no bonding.  There is no love.  There is only the lonely echo of their cry.  Soon, they learn to give up.  Many will just stop crying.  They lie there, waiting for fate to end the misery.

If the child continues to survive somehow, they might be exposed to other hardships.  In an orphanage or foster home, they might suffer years of neglect, or be bullied, or worse.  In places like the U.S., there is a system in place where a child in a harmful situation will many times be removed from the home and placed in a foster home.  If they are lucky, the foster parents will provide them with a warm bed and a sense of security during their stay in their home.  Sometimes, even the foster parents are screwed up enough to cause even further damage to the child.

My son was placed in foster care and suffered more damage.  He watched his brother die to abuse in his foster home.  When we got him, we had very little training on raising an adopted child despite the ten hours of required classes we had to take.  We knew very little about what we were dealing with on a day to day basis.

Through the years, we didn't understand why Nathanuel responded to us differently than our biological children.  Nathanuel was always fearful.  I remember when Scott playfully picked Nathanuel up and held him up to the ceiling in a playful gesture.  Our youngest son would have hollered in glee at having his daddy pick him up and hold him so high, but Nathanuel responded in terror.  I'll never forget the panicked look on his face and the way he gripped Scott's hands so tightly as he insisted that Scott put him down.  He was clearly in fear, and we were shocked because it wasn't our intention to make him feel fear.

But fear was something that Nathanuel has carried with him ever since we've ever known him - even longer.  We've had so many discussions about it, and no doubt, he's had many valid reasons to justify why he's struggled with fear.

But here I am now, wide awake, thinking about how this same boy is so determined to do something with his life, that he has signed up to join the Army to pursue his dreams of being a police man.  This means that he is going to have to face so many fears.  He will have to give up his sense of control (after all, who really is fully in control?).  He will have to give up the comforts of his life with us.  (So long, Security!)  He will have to give up his own safety.  (This makes my heart want to freeze in my chest).  It also makes my heart swell with pride.

As I contemplate how quickly the years went by, there are three things I want to say to the other adoptive parents out there who have adopted an older child:

1.  Don't give up.  The years of damage these children have gone through cannot be undone instantly.  Be a strong foundation and source of security for them.  Without this, they will never have a chance to heal.

2.  Pick and choose your battles.  There will be many to choose from!  Which ones will matter ten years from now?  Take it from a mama who picked the wrong ones sometimes, you can't win every one, and if you did, it still wouldn't be worth what you lose out of being "the winner."

3. Love, Love, LOVE on your kid! Your time is short.  My biggest regrets:  I didn't say I love you enough.  I didn't hold him enough.  I didn't hug him enough.  I simply feel that I didn't establish a sense of peace and unconditional love and acceptance with him.  I got caught up in Mom mode - busy "teaching" him what I thought was essential to being a successful human being, that he left for basic and I'm here wondering if he really realizes how valued and treasured he is.  I hope he does.

Adopting an older child is different.  You have less time.  Don't take it for granted.  Make good use out of every single minute.  

As Scott and I move towards the adoption of two older boys, I am more determined than ever to be a better mom.  Mom mode may kick in from time to time, but I will remind myself daily that it's okay to stop and just walk along side them through life.  They don't need a kick in the pants 24/7.  They've had enough of that before I became their mom.  They need someone to respond to the silent cries in their hearts...whether it's a cry for someone to walk them through the loneliness they've endured before I came along, or if they just need someone to show them that someone is willing to meet their basic human needs, do it.

Love them, because the time is short.  It's the one thing you can't get back or make up for. Don't let it slip away.  You need every minute to show your child they matter.

Be vigilant.  Be strong.  Don't give up.  Fight for your kid.  They are worth it.

Nathanuel, I'm so proud of you.  Despite my failures as a parent, you have grown into an outstanding young man.  Please don't ever give up and know that you are valued and loved.  I'm covering you in prayer and especially asking that where I've failed you as a parent, God has covered with His grace.  I love you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Dragonfly Princess

I'm not a big fan of roller coasters, but from time to time I'll seek the thrill and ride one.  There's something about waiting in line, just thinking about all the things that could go wrong...  That is the part I dread the most - the waiting, the thinking, the risk.  But I force my feet to shuffle forward, following the excited crowd towards the point of no return.   Once I'm seated, the belt latches together, then the safety bar comes down...

and

locks

in

place.

There's no going back now!  This is the part where I always want to panic.  If it weren't for that bar, I'd probably give into temptation and exit the ride.  Instead, I'm left with no choice but to grip that bar fiercely, double check to make sure it is truly going to keep me in my seat, and brace myself for all the loops and curves that await.

That is how I felt the day of Cathy's arrival.  It's not that I feared her coming as much as I knew that her arrival solidified that we are actually, truly, intentionally moving forward with this adoption of ours.  The reality terrifies me.

I watched her flight throughout the day, knowing with each and every passing hour, we were going all in.  Now that she was on the plane, there was no turning back.  The safety bar was officially locked in place.


The closer she got to us, the more nervous I felt.  This was a defining moment in our decision to adopt two boys with special needs from a country half way around the world.   The ride is truly about to begin!

With the reality of this life change going on through our heads, Scott and I simply willed ourselves to function like we normally do.  The actions on the outside did not mirror what was going on with us on the inside (because if we threw our hands in the air and screamed, people would probably think we were crazy)!

So on May 27th, we loaded the kids up in the hot car, ran back inside to grab the signs we almost forgot, and headed to the airport to pick up a stranger from a land so-very-different from our own, with the intention of bringing her into our home, our family, and our lives.  This woman will serve as a bridge to connect the gap between our Chinese sons and us.  She will also be a witness to all of our mistakes, flaws, and moments of frustration as we continue to raise our children.  It is my hope and prayer that she also sees the victory, the determination, and a love that covers all of our sins and failures as human beings and parents.


We watched as loads of people passed again, and again, and again.  Some stopped to admire the signs and our adorable children anxiously searching for their new Chinese big sister.  One woman took a bow and thanked us for her generous welcome.  I'm glad the signs reached out to more than just one Cathy!
  
Finally, Cathy appeared, searching anxiously for the American family with so many children.  She spotted us, then waved with the biggest, warmest smile on her face.  

On this very day, our roller coaster ride (also currently known as our adoption journey) suddenly jolted ahead, moving us into action.


We are no longer looking back.  We are slowly but surely moving forward, climbing the tracks upward, unsure of what lies ahead.  As we wait to reach the top, we stop to take in the view from right where we are.  

Here we are, showing Cathy the view of the
city from the roof of the parking garage at the airport.

This is a conscious decision.  We will live each day intentionally.  We will take in all that life brings us and soak each memory in as we wait for the next steps to accelerate us into our future.  So for the rest of this post, I will share the memories of our first days of getting to know Cathy.

Each day has been full of activity.  We brought Cathy home from the airport, fed her, gave her the grand tour of our home, and then she went straight to the girls' bedroom and played a game with them.  I was impressed that she immersed herself into building relationships with the girls right away.

Carey, did you ever imagine the game you bought the girls would be crowning a beautiful Chinese head?
The next night, Cathy presented us with gifts.  She put so much thought into all that she presented.

Cathy presents the girls with shadow puppets.

In a previous email, we jokingly
decided that we could be called The Qi Pao girls.
(It sounds cool in English!)
Each of us ladies were given a Qi Pao.
Mine was hand-painted.  Beautiful!
Cathy was such a trooper her first few days in America, willing herself to stay up as much as possible during our day time.  Where she lives in China, they are 12 hours ahead of us.  I joked that she got to travel back in time.  I know adjusting to the time difference had to have been hard, but she is strong.

Friday, she made sure she was up and joined us for a walk to the park.  


It was while we were there that I got the phone call sharing the news that we'd received approval from USCIS for our I800a application.  This approval was the last document we needed to send our dossier to China!  I loaded Cathy up in the car and drove her to our adoption agency's office to get the form notarized.  How she kept going after only two days in America is beyond me!

Nathanuel graduated the following Sunday, just four days after Cathy's arrival.  Cathy wanted to come along and got a small view of one of the local college campuses.  She was so sweet to sit by the girls and entertain and hold them during the two hour ceremony.




The very next day, I convinced her to join me for a four hour drive to Tallahassee to get the last of our dossier certified.  She was a trooper.  The sweet woman endured a very long day in the car.  We got it done!  The forms were certified and then we shipped it out to get authenticated.


Each and every day was busy.  We took a trip to the beach where she actually stood up on a paddle board!  Do you see the old man with his hands in the air?  He challenged her from the beginning and celebrated her success when she finally stood up.  Cathy has a way of drawing people in like that.  She is surely special.

One night while we were out in the back yard, Cathy shared with me that the Chinese pronunciation of her name sounds a lot like the pronunciation for dragonfly.  She said that her friends call her dragonfly because of this.  The moment she shared this with me, dragonflies suddenly appeared and began to dance around her.  It was a magical moment.  Seeing this, I decided our Cathy truly is a dragonfly princess!  Since then, I have noticed so many dragonflies swooping through the air, especially when I am walking with her.  I've seen dragonflies in Florida, but never have I noticed so many until the day she told me about her name!  

I witness all of this and see:

It's like God is trying to say, "I see her!  I see this beautiful princess and I love her dearly."

She truly has an adventurous spirit and a beautiful heart.  The first Sunday I took her to church with us???  I ended up putting her to work!  She handed out food to the crowd for our Splash Sunday event and did so with a smile.  She didn't think twice about it!

On top of that, I threw Cathy into an experience that could have very well been overwhelming for other people.   My friend Amy and I asked her to join us and the other group of ladies from my church and attend our first annual ladies retreat!  We attended the Beth Moore conference here and I did not warn her about what I was getting her into!

To prepare her for all the studying ahead, sweet Amy presented Cathy with the most thoughtful gift.  Cathy was so surprised!  


She got a Bible written in English and Mandarin!

The retreat kept us busy and the conference was jam packed with women.  Poor Cathy had a hard time keeping up with all that Beth was saying, but she does such an amazing job translating all we say, so I'm sure she picked up some things.



The same night we got back from our conference, we whisked Cathy away to a Publix Cooking school experience.  The ladies sitting behind us also attended the Beth Moore conference, by the way!


This last picture was just another indication of just how special Cathy truly is.  I've taken this trail many times and this very bird is always in the same spot below the bridge.  When I try to take his picture, he often moves behind the trees trying to hide from me.  But when I walked with Cathy, he flew up to the ledge as if to say hello.


Once she got closer, the bird flew away, but in his defense, the presence of a princess can be intimidating to anyone.

So the arrival of this dragonfly princess has been full of adventure already.  I know the ride is only beginning and I'm still in the stages of thinking through all the what ifs as we continue to roll forward.  I'm thankful though.  I'm thankful we were bold enough to take this step and bring Cathy into our home.  I'm thankful she was adventurous enough to join us on this journey.  Beth Moore talked about how important it is to have someone to walk alongside us in life, and that is exactly what Cathy has agreed to do in this important stage of our life.  I'm so thrilled to have another princess in my house, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of this ride takes us!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

You Were Right

She was so sweet.  I felt bad for her because she struggled to speak in English.  Embarrassed, she hid her face in her hands every time she struggled.  She did this multiple times and kept apologizing.

"It's okay!"  Scott and I encouraged her.  "You are doing good!"

She could speak English, but she struggled.  I'm sure that trying to talk on skype made things even more awkward.  But I kind of liked the fact that she was shy.  Scott and I have learned a lot about the different personality traits people have.  She seemed like the kind of person I could take right in and mentor and guide as she took brave steps to explore America.  She also seemed to have a gentle spirit, the kind that would show compassion and be kind to children.

We asked her several questions, such as,

Why do you want to be an au pair?

What experience do you have?

Why do you want to come to America?

Are you comfortable with being away from your family and friends for a year?

No doubt she was a sweet girl.  I thought about my oldest son.  Hmmmmm.  She's just about the right age too.  I grinned.  I was interviewing au pairs, not future daughters-in-law!

Scott and I skyped with her for much longer than we anticipated.  Throw in some initial technical difficulties to really make things awkward, but overall, the interview went really well.

"I like her." I said.

"Why do you like her?"  Scott asked.

Even though we had one more interview lined up, my heart was set on the shy girl.  Scott reminded me that if she wasn't very independent, she might not want to venture out much.  She might be very dependent on me.

"That's okay." I said.  I could relate to feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by new surroundings.  "I'll help her.  I'll get her connected to the right people.  She will be fine."

I wanted her to be our au pair.  "Should we even put the other au pair through an interview?"  I asked.  I felt bad.  I didn't want to lead her on if we were going to make a decision to bring in the shy girl.

I'm one of those, let's get the job done now, kind of people.  I didn't want to waste any time.  Scott insisted we keep the interview but agreed that we could email the shy girl to see what her thoughts were.

We went ahead and sent an email letting her know that we really enjoyed talking to her, that we really liked her, and asked her if she had any other questions or concerns of her own that we could answer to make her feel comfortable being our au pair.  We let her know that we were definitely interested in her becoming our au pair and would be willing to skype again if she wanted to so that we could talk about it in further detail.

We were approaching Easter weekend.  We've spent several Easter weekends with our friends, Phil and Amy, over the last several years.  For some reason, we missed last year, but this year, we decided to go ahead and make the one hour drive and stay with them for the weekend.  Sometimes you just need to get away and thankfully, our friends are always willing to take in our very large family as if we are a part of theirs.

We knew we still had another interview lined up later that evening, but it would be no problem.  Our friends were easy going about the schedule and had been very supportive of our adoptions.

The evening finally rolled around.  We sat at the table with our friends in the lanai to avoid all the noise the kids were making inside.  Phil and Amy sat out of view, but within listening distance.  I felt so bad.  Here we were, about to interview this other girl when I'd already set my heart on the shy girl.  But Scott was right.  We needed to do the interview.  There were no guarantees.

Cathy's image popped up on the screen.  She wore a beautiful smile that complimented her spirited eyes.  She had long, straight hair and beautiful skin.  She was gorgeous, but too old for my son.  (Melissa, stop!  You are not interviewing a bride for your son!)  For some reason, I had to keep reminding myself of this.

"Hi!" we all greeted each other.

This interview was completely unlike the interview with the shy girl.  Cathy was confident.  She was so easy to talk to and kept the conversation going.  I watched as she listened to our questions through her earbuds, delayed slightly by the long distance between us.  I could see her focus.  At the time, it never occurred to me that on top of listening carefully to our questions with the uncomfortable delay, she also had to translate what we were saying.  English was not her first language, but she spoke with ease.

She asked us questions and when we asked her ours, she had great answers.

"Are you comfortable being away from your family?" 

She told us she'd traveled to another country before.  It would be no problem.

"How do your parents feel about you becoming an au pair?"

They were very supportive.  They wanted her to learn and explore.  They felt it was a great opportunity.

As we worked towards ending our skype session, Scott asked Cathy, "Do you have any other questions that we can answer?"

"Yes."  She said.

Then she asked, "Do you have dogs?"

We felt bad.  We figured if she was asking, she might not like dogs.  Why else would she ask?

Scott answered first, "Yes, we have two small dogs."

"Oh good!"  She exclaimed.  "I love dogs!" She was so excited.

Her response was not only a relief, but it made me laugh.  She was so enthusiastic - a free spirit.  She was lovely.  I felt guilty.

We said our goodbyes and as soon as we disconnected, Scott gave me that look.

"NO." I said.  "I want the shy girl."

"Why?"  He challenged.  "Cathy is perfect.  She is confident, independent, and easy to talk to."

"I like Cathy," I answered..."I just...I'm afraid that she will be so independent we won't connect.  I want someone who I know will need me like I need her."

Our awesome friends who quietly sat out of view talked with us about the experience.  Amy coached me through the pros and cons of each one, noting Cathy's confidence and outgoing personality.  Amy can get along with anyone.  She has a mentor's heart herself, so she understood where I was coming from.  She took the information I shared about the shy girl, and the information she gathered about Cathy, and continued to help me figure out the right fit for us.  Then of course, like a good friend does, she supported me with my decision.  But still, Cathy's interview lingered in my head.

We enjoyed the rest of our weekend with our friends.  I checked our email from time to time, heart torn about these two young ladies.   Cathy sent an email, sharing her enthusiasm and experience even further.

We were hearing from Cathy, but where was the shy girl's response?  After more time, I confirmed the email I sent to the shy girl actually was sent.  I thought of all the reasons why she might not have written back.  Sunday afternoon we headed back home and Scott told me what he had already shared with me the night before.

"She hasn't responded yet.  I have concerns."

I'd resisted talking about it in depth for the last day.  "Maybe she doesn't have internet access as easily as we do," I was making excuses for her, but I also felt uneasy.  "Maybe the time difference is interfering or maybe she has to work long hours and can't get to a computer.  Maybe she has to go to a local library to use the computer there..."  I could have listed a million reasons why she hadn't written back.  It's the hopeless romantic in me that does this.

"Maybe she thought about what she would be involved in, helping us take care of six kids, two of them with Cerebral palsy, and felt afraid."  He answered.

The reality sunk in.  He emphasized that this is very much like a job interview.  "If I was interviewing someone to come work at my company and they took this long to respond, I would not want to hire them."  He pressed.  "If they are not enthusiastic, then you don't want them to work for you.  We need to go ahead and write her and let her know that we are moving on."

"Ooooooh..." I moaned.  "I feel so bad!"

"Melissa, I can just see this turning out to be a disaster.  What if we fly her here and after a couple of months, she decides she is homesick and goes back home.  That is the last thing we need in the middle of our adoption."

He was right.  I was so sad and felt so guilty that we were closing the door on her.  I just knew that once we sent out the email telling her that we decided to move on, she would write back telling us a good reason why she wasn't able to respond.  We'd already set up another skype session with Cathy and we received some emails from a couple of other au pairs who were interested in learning more about our family and requested to skype with us.  Finally, we were getting some au pairs interested in our offer to host them.

"Okay." I said.  "But I think now we need to take our time.  There is no need to rush into anything.  Let's make sure we really get the right person."

That evening, we skyped with Cathy again.  We brought the children into the room at first to say hello.  We let them ask her questions, but mostly, we wanted them to interact with her and see how they felt about her.  I figured that would be the right step for each interview with the other au pairs as well.

Then Cathy asked us if she could bring her parents into the skype conversation to meet us.

"Of course!" We agreed.  And before we knew it, she had them on the screen with her.  "They don't speak English," She said.  So we said hello to each other and waved.

Then, she went on to explain a little bit about her family's history.  With her parents standing behind her, she shared that her father expressed some regrets from his past and because of those regrets, he became inspired to do more.  We nodded along as she shared his story.  Then she said, "Now, we take care of the elderly in our apartment.  Is it okay if I show you?  Can I bring the grannies in to meet you?"

"Yes!"  We said, not quite sure what to expect.

Cathy excitedly got up and we could hear some conversation in the background.  Next, some beautiful elderly grannies came walking in, looking curiously at us just as we were looking curiously at them!

It was so funny, we were all looking at each other curiously and waving hello.  The grannies grinned.  There was one who really stood out to me.  She looked rather mischievous in a fun sort of way.  I bet she keeps things interesting for them all!

Cathy later sent me this picture.  Can you guess which Granny I'm talking about?  :)

She just grinned as she looked on and I suddenly realized that I wanted to be right there in that moment, in China with these beautiful people.  Next, Cathy picked up her laptop and carried it around the house.  The moment felt surreal as we watched the screen before us float around the apartment, showing us more elderly being cared for.  It was such a beautiful scene.  These people live in an apartment, and they've opened up their home to others.  Cathy was opening up her home to us, American strangers, sharing a part of her family's life that I will forever treasure in my heart. She went on to explain that they even help care for the elderly throughout the apartment complex.  Her father became a hero in my eyes at that very moment.  If only we could all learn to make lessons of life's failures and turn it into something great!

Once she brought the laptop back to her table, we sent the kids to bed.  Suddenly we were alone with her, just Scott, Cathy, and me.  We were still just sitting there, in awe of what we'd just witnessed.  In that moment, I felt connected to this beautiful, independent, free-spirited young woman.

She sat down and spoke, "When I first heard about the boys, I was scared.  I wasn't sure if I could do this.  But then my mom talked to me and told me, 'Life is not about money and riches.  It is about helping each other.  This family needs your help, you can do this.'"  I let the words sink in.  Cathy's mother, full of wisdom, spoke truth to her daughter, and now those very words were traveling half way around the world, watering the seeds in my own heart.

I watched as Cathy closed her eyes and clenched her fists in determination as she continued, "I know I can do this.  I want to help you with these boys.  I want to be a part of your family."

Scott and I looked at each other.  This woman felt the same fear I felt when we first got our match.  Now she was expressing her determination to be a part of this journey.  She was brave.

In that moment, we both knew that there was no need to interview anyone else.  She got it.  Her desire to make a difference in others' lives matched our same desire.  This wasn't just a job for any of us.  This was life itself.  Scott whispered to me, confirming we were both aligned.  She was the one.

So he turned to Cathy and told her that she seems like the perfect fit.  He asked her if she was interested in being our au pair.

She asked something along the lines of, "Are you serious?!?"

"Yes!"  We answered.

The excitement she showed only confirmed that our decision was the right one.  She squealed in delight and then thanked us, but we felt like we should have been the ones giving thanks.  The life she shared with us was just so beautiful, we knew to have her be a part of our lives, even if only for one year, would be more of a treasure than gold or jewels could ever be.

"Oh!  Do you mind if I go tell my parents real quick?"  She asked.

"Of course!"  We answered.

We watched as she excitedly hopped from her chair.  We stared at the wall in front of us...waiting.  We could here her speaking in Mandarin, then suddenly, we heard all sorts of cheering and excited talk!  Scott and I laughed.  It was a joyous occasion for all of us and a day we would surely never forget.

After we disconnected from skype, I looked over at Scott.  He had that look on his face.

"You were right..." I reluctantly, (and thankfully) admitted.  I am so glad he was right.

The next day, I wrote the other au pairs requesting interviews and explained that we found our au pair.  Then I wrote our agency:  We found our match!

Several days later, we got an email from the shy girl.  She expressed her regret for not responding to us.  She admitted she became fearful of the situation and wasn't sure if she could handle it.  Scott was right.

I was so thankful that things worked out the way they did.  I could have really missed out on something great if I'd continued to insist on the shy girl.  She is a lovely young lady, but the truth is, I need the independent, free-spirited Cathy in my life right now. God knew this, and protected me from my own stubborness.

Soon, we will have three beautiful Chinese people living in our home.  Never in my life did I imagine we would do something like this.

Our red thread...this beautiful red thread.  I stand in awe as it continues to weave it's way through many different lives.  Cathy will now be a part of our journey and I am so thankful for her.  She will fly in next week and we will work at getting her accustomed to American life before we bring our boys home this fall.  Stay tuned.  I will post pictures of her arrival!

What an adventure!












Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Red Thread Continues: Finding Help

I watched him punching away at the numbers on his laptop.  He was focused.  Determined is a better word.  I've always loved him, but ever since we started this adoption journey, I’ve fallen in love with my husband all over again.  Little by little I’ve tested him to see just what limits he might set throughout this process.  Each time he has surprised me with his responses.  

Seeing the way he took on the many challenges presented to him, ("Let's adopt two boys with Cerebral Palsy!"), my admiration has only grown.  This hard working man who has already raised two grown men is willing to rearrange his life for two little boys he’s never met.  He’s willing to sacrifice time, money, and even advancing in his career for the sake of these two orphans.  I’m blown away with what he’s willing to let go of for the sake of others.  I’m thankful he is my partner in life.  

As he continued to work at the numbers, I walked away, willing myself to give him space while he tried to figure it out.  After our walk, we knew we had to figure out a practical solution to our dilemma.  We were about to adopt two boys who know only a few words in English.  They are older, meaning they will have even more challenges adjusting to the American life as they say goodbye to the only life they've ever known in their own country.  They will not come into our country and carry on as if they’ve always lived here.  Everything they’ve ever known will be different: The people, the food, the customs, the holidays, the language, and even the time zone.  When we sleep, they are awake.  When we are awake, they sleep.  Everything will be foreign to them. 

To really add to the challenge, both boys have Cerebral Palsy.  This means that once we get them in America, they will be visiting English speaking doctors, specialists, dentists, and therapists.  I imagine we will feel swamped with just the appointments, but to explain to them what is going on?  On top of it, we've been homeschooling our other children.  How can we possibly keep up?

Scott and I had so many things to figure out.  The first thing we knew:  We need help.

"We could do it..." Looking up from his computer, he gave me the results.  "It'll be tight, but we can." 

Were we really considering this?  I looked at my husband as he reworked one more number on the spreadsheet.  I was shocked.  I really didn't think it was a possibility!   We were going to have to make some changes, but this solution we were considering was really a possibility!  

Never in my life did I see myself doing this.  I am a private person and I love my space.  There are times I just need to be alone to recharge.  We are about to disrupt everyone's little worlds by bringing in two Chinese boys.  Are we crazy to consider bringing in one more stranger?  

Nobody would have been able to convince me that I’d ever agree to something like this.  I’ve always been so self-sufficient.  I’ve even struggled to hire someone to come clean my house for me.  Scott has encouraged me to do it, but when it comes down to making the phone call, I. Just. Can’t.  It’s my house, my mess, I’ll clean it up!

But this “mess” was different.  This chaos involved the lives of several little children.  I knew deep down inside that this was the right decision.  It humbled me, in a sense, because I always pictured rich, spoiled housewives who had no real interest in raising their children doing something like this.  God continues to reveal to me where I am judgmental.  To all the families who have done this before, I am sorry.  You are brilliant.  

This was the solution.  We would gain cultural training, have a live in translator, comfort for the boys, extra hands with all the kids, and someone to help me teach when I was feeling overwhelmed over the next year.

So we submitted our application.  It took several days due to some glitches on the site, but once everything was resolved, we started yet another process that would change our world.  Before we knew it, we had access to the personal lives of many young people who were looking for adventure.  

We narrowed down our search:

Female
Chinese
Speaks Mandarin
Speaks English

Soon enough, we were ready to interview a few.  We wrote a letter and included our adoption announcement video.  We shared our story and asked them to consider being a part of our journey.  

Many wrote back very polite responses.  

“I am so happy for you.” 
“Thank you for what you are doing for these Chinese boys.”
“Good luck!”

They were all polite ways of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  

I was a little overwhelmed by how many immediately declined our invitation.  It made me nervous.  What were we getting ourselves into?  Here, I thought that we were going to have to decline many, but instead, they were very quickly narrowing down our search themselves!

“Here’s one,” Scott suggested.  “Hmmmmmm.  She’s catholic!”  

“That could work,” I thought.  She could go to mass with my friend! We could help her get connected. But even the sweet catholic Chinese girl declined our invitation to skype and get to know each other.  

This was going to be harder than I thought.  But one thing I knew, we needed help.  We couldn’t do this alone.  

We would find our au pair!