Both Hands!

We were so blessed to be able to participate in a Both Hands fundraising project! We are within a few thousand dollars of being fully funded! One month ago, I sat with my sweet MOPS group, nearly in tears, telling them we were probably traveling in March,  but still had almost $20K to come up with. We all prayed together for miracle, and God has provided! So many of our family and friends have rallied around us, my husband got a raise and a bonus,  and we’re going to be able to use our tax return to help. We’re very close! We are so, so thankful.

Here are most of the members of our amazing Both Hands team. Love them! You can click on the picture to find out how to make a tax deductible donation, to watch our video, or to find out more about the project and the Both Hands organization. Donations will be accepted through Both Hands until we bring our girl home, so it is not too late!
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surprise update! it’s complicated.

A friend emailed me Sunday to tell me a person was trying to get hold of me with an update about our daughter.  I friended this person on Facebook, and she runs the foster home where my daughter is now.  Yay internet!!

I spent Sunday evening in a glorious fog.  She’s smiling!  She’s growing!  She’s healthy!  She has gorgeous hair!  She has so many teeth!  She’s using her hands and fingers more dexterously than we thought!  She’s eating solids!  I have beautiful updated pictures!  I have video!  She’s receiving treatment for her clubfoot that we didn’t think she’d get for months!  I can get pictures and updates regularly until we go to get her!  It was a wonderful, emotional day. 10518573_10152763894838473_9175509928124429256_o10916337_10152763894918473_6109687456446386774_o Then we got in bed.  My brain starting spinning and wouldn’t stop.  I realized she had been an additional two places (with two or more additional sets of parental figures) than I already knew about.  She has been moved around so much.  Every time she’s let herself love someone, then they were gone.  She had two surgeries without a mommy or daddy or even a stable nanny to care for her.  She must have been so scared to wake up in a hospital alone.  In less than two years, she’s had more grief and loss than most of us experience in our entire lives.  I am heartbroken for her.  I am very, very worried for her.  It was a long, emotional night.

The two people I shared my concerns with encouraged me with the Truth:
God can redeem this.
He loves her, too.
She hasn’t had a mommy, but she’s had the perfect Father.
He has a heart for orphans, too.
We have a God of restoration.

They are right.  I know they are right.  I’m so thankful to have people to whisper Truth to my scared mommy heart.  This is so hard!  So complex!  So much joy mixed with so much grief – and this is just the beginning.

don’t ask me how I am

I’m totally overwhelmed!  We’re keeping it real here, right?  I was already pretty emotional and overwhelmed about adoption/travel details, and now we’ve added a big project (which is amazing, but a lot of details very fast), and my dad is very ill and in the hospital.  Every time someone asks me how I am or tells me they’ve been praying for me, I start crying.  I gave my sweet husband a, “I’m hanging on by a thread,” warning the other day.  He’s been such a rock – I fall more in love with him every day.

Today was such a good day, though.  I had lunch with a great friend and we had such good just talking time while the kids played.  I love chatting with this friend because we dig deep and talk about real stuff.   I left feeling refreshed and more ready to face everything that’s going on.  Then, we had a park playdate this afternoon with a wonderful friend who recently adopted.  She’s my only in-person friend who gets the complexities of how I’m feeling right now in relation to the adoption.  There’s a wonderfully supportive online adoption network, but it was so good to get to talk to this particular friend in person today.  Two playdates in one day is more social that I would normally choose to be, but God obviously orchestrated exactly what I needed today with these two specific people.  I’m so thankful for our community right now.  We had several years without community, which forced us to really lean into each other.  We needed that at that time, and it strengthened our marriage considerably, but I’m thankful to have community again after a pretty lonely season.

More details on the project very soon.  Thank you for your continued prayers.  In the meantime, if you see me, just talk about the weather or tell me what’s going on with you.  :)

such a day of encouragement!

Today has been a wonderful day.  I had the sweetest encouragement from my friends at MOPS this morning, we got approval to start planning for an amazing fundraising opportunity, and we received some awesome books about China and beautiful Chinese home decor/antiques from friends.  Such a needed reminder that God is in this, even when I get too self-focused to see Him.

DSC_1793We are coming, sweet girl.  It’s double digits of days until we get to meet you.

2 years

Two years ago today, we officially started this journey by applying to the Ethiopia program with our adoption agency.  What a roller coaster it has been. At times, I’ve been able to tangibly see our faith grow; and other times I have felt like we are wasting the trial, rather than choosing to grow from it.  Some parts of these two years, we have felt so encouraged and held up by our community; and for other parts, we have felt very alone.  Right now, I think we’re just a little numb.  We want our girl in our arms so badly, but these last few hurdles feel mountainous.  It’s so close, but feels almost as far away as it has for the last two years.

Will you pray for our perseverance, please?  And also for a miracle as far as funding?  We got some discouraging news about one of our grant applications today.  We’re weary, but trying to take one faithful step at a time.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday for you, from when we first started this process:

Daddy and Baby Girl just hit "submit!"

Daddy and Baby Girl just hit “submit!”

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care package update!

Little Miss Fu Mei’s care package was finally delivered to her!  It had a slight detour because of the fact that she was moved a while back from her orphanage to foster care – which is great news!  She’s pretty much in the most wonderful place she could possibly be, in our opinion.  She’s with foster parents who seem to care about her, and frequently receiving therapy and structured play at the foster center.  We’ve earnestly prayed for two years that our daughter would be well cared for while we couldn’t be the ones caring for her, and God has been faithful and answered those prayers better than we could have ever asked for.

The only downside to this wonderful news is that her grieving process will most likely be intense.  It seems to us from the little bit of information that we have that she is close with her foster family, and her innocent heart will likely be broken to leave them.  Will you please pray that God will somehow prepare and protect her heart and mind throughout this process?  And that her foster family will prepare her as well as they can, by talking about it, showing her our pictures, and telling her who we are and that we love her?  Thank you!  My heart aches for what she’s about to go through.

Now for the fun stuff – we learned that she is still on a bottle and formula (which is common for a Chinese toddler), and that she loves rice, apples, and oranges.  She also loves dolls and toys that play music.  We didn’t get any additional information about her limb differences, but we aren’t too worried about that right now – we’ll take it a day at a time and see what treatments she needs when we get home and settled.  She has gained 5 pounds since her birthday, and seems to be healthy!  Ann at Red Thread told us that if we don’t receive pictures now, the director of that center always takes lots of pictures of the children for their adoptive families, and we’ll receive them when we go to get her.  Having pictures of her life in China will be such a priceless gift.

I’ve randomly started tearing up a few times in the last couple of days because I’m so blown away by God’s goodness and provision for our sweet Fu Mei.

all I want for Christmas is you…

An Fu Mei 10.10.14 pic 3Our Christmas was beautiful, slow-paced, and sweet.  We read the scriptures, sang the hymns, and thanked Jesus for His precious gift.  We enjoyed time together and the kids were [mostly] well-behaved and thankful for their gifts.  My husband and I spent some special time together on Christmas night and exchanged just stocking stuffers this year – the little things he got for me made me feel so loved and cherished.  It was perfect…

…except for the hole in my heart that belongs to a little girl who is 8,097 miles away.  Her stocking was hung by the chimney with care, she got a few little gifts, and we had Chinese food on Christmas Eve in her honor.  If I could whisper something in her ear right now, I’d tell her that Jesus came for her and her friends, too, and that we’re coming to get her as soon as we can.

care package & update questions

We sent a care package to our girl!  You know, that crazy lady who started crying in the post office?  Yeah, that was me.  (And not just because I spent $90 on shipping and stamps!)

So, what was in our care package?  I searched a lot of sites and talked to a few friends, and here’s what I ended up with:

-toddler backpack, labeled with her picture and Chinese name
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-thumb drive, labeled with her picture and name
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-toddler chewable vitamins, labeled with her name and a “1 pill/day” label  (I had this translation checked with a native speaker, so if you want to copy and paste it, here it is: 1粒/天)
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-a couple of motor skill development toys (the little girl in the car is Fisher Price, I found it at Target)
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-some candy for the nannies (I didn’t verify this translation)
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-A photo book from Shutterfly that my mom’s sweet friend translated for us.  The translations are beautiful, and I’m frustrated with myself for not taking a picture!  Hopefully we will see it again and it will be well-read.  It was simple with few words and lots of pictures.  A page of pictures of my husband and me, a page for my oldest son, a page for my younger son, a page for my daughter, page for grandparents, page for cousins, page for house, page for pets, etc.

-A soft blanket and little lovey that I stuffed in my pillowcase for about a month to make it smell like me.  I know, that’s a little weird and probably won’t work, but I figured it was worth a try.  I have another of that same blanket and lovey to take with us when we go get her.  I read it’s great to send sleep-related things, if possible, to help ease the sleep transition.  (Again, I feel like we’re in, “I don’t know, but it’s worth a try,” territory here.  That’s all I have right now, so I’m going with it.)

-I also freaked out about how it’s cold in her province, but also not in a location where they would likely have heat in the orphanage.  My logical husband gently pointed out that people stayed warm for centuries without heat.  But, I sent two fleecy, warm outfits (in different sizes), mittens, a hat, and several pairs of thick socks to help her stay warm.  None of it is anything I’m madly in love with, so I won’t be heartbroken if we never see it again.

Time-wise, this may be the only time we get to send a care package (plus it’s really expensive), so I wanted to get the most bang for my buck.  I’ve heard it can’t be a very big box, or it won’t get through customs.  I tried hard to balance sending what I wanted to send and cramming it in the smallest box it would fit in (maybe just larger than a regular shoe box).  We are using Red Thread China for care package forwarding.  Ann is translating a letter for us and is going to try to get updated measurements and pictures.  Because I know I searched to find out what people ask, I will post our questions here.  I used a document on a message board that I’m on to help me come up with these.  Our agency told us that if we send too much, they probably won’t answer, so I tried to keep it brief.  I learned in college about how Asian languages tend to communicate in a much more polite and round-about way than we do in America, so I tried to sweeten it up a bit.  I have no idea if that is actually true, I just read it in a book at some point in college.  As my husband said last night, you catch more flies with honey.  (Worth a try?)

Here’s our letter:

Thank you for caring for [name]!  Please tell her that we love her and can’t wait to be her Mommy and Daddy!  We are so thankful for your time in reading this letter and opening the care package.
 
We would like to ask a few questions:
-Does she use a bottle?
-Does she drink formula?  (If so, what kind?)
-What are her favorite foods?
-What is her eating schedule?
-Does she sleep in a crib or a bed?
-What are her favorite toys?
-What songs does she like?
-Is she especially close to any caregiver?  Can we please get a picture of her with that person?
-Is she especially close with any other children?  Can we please get pictures of her with her close friends?
 

If anyone would like to communicate with us, we can be reached at [email address].  Thank you, again, for your dedicated care of [name] and the other children.

We did also send specific questions about her life prior to being in the orphanage and about her special needs.  I almost forgot to include those things in the letter, so I’m making a note here that I did include them, but did not want to share them on the blog.  You can email me if you want more information.

Have any of you sent a care package?  What did you send?  What did I forget to ask?

you might be adopting internationally…

I think, all the time, hearing Jeff Foxworthy’s voice in my head, “you might be adopting internationally,” when I do something crazy that I know other people in the process have probably done.  Here are a few from this week:

-If you hope you’ll be awaked at 2 am by a shipping update text, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you start crying (hard) at Target when you finally find the perfect toddler mittens, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you stand at the UPS store, desperately trying to find the right words to make them understand that these are THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS THEY HAVE EVER SHIPPED, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you hand sew a stocking for someone 8,000 miles away who you’ve never met, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you look at your spouse and say, “This paperwork is literally insane.  No one could possibly do this.  I cannot do this.” but somehow stay up two more hours to finish it, you might be adopting internationally.

-If you stand in the baby toy aisle for thirty minutes, texting your friend about qualifications for the perfect toy to help a toddler start catching up on two years’ worth of deficient sensory experiences and motor skill development (that also happens to be small, lightweight, and easy to pack), you might be adopting internationally.

What have you done this week that could be added to the list?  Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done these things!

getting ready for Christmas – the spiritual stuff

I posted a few weeks ago about preparing for the more secular parts of the season.  Now it’s time to share the important things!  We love Christmas around here.  We love listening to the carols and hymns, we love reading the scriptures, and we love talking about Jesus.  Here are some of the ways we’re making sure we remember the reason we celebrate Christmas in our home this year.

I’ve started collecting nativities, but I don’t have a ton yet.  Right now I have 2 that the kids can play with, which they love to do.  Sometimes a random Lego Minifigure or super hero will come join in the worship to the newborn King, which is just fine with me!  I love having them all around the house, so they’re a focal point, and so the ones the kids play with become just part of their every day play.  There’s also the one on the mantle that I showed in the other post.  I want to get more and leave some out year round.  (There is dust and laundry in some of these pics – keeping it real for ya.) DSC_0149 DSC_0150 DSC_0152 DSC_0174
This year, we’re also doing the Jesse Tree advent devotionals as a family.  I did a swap with my MOPS group where we each made 25 of one type of ornament, and then divided them all up so we had each one.  I think it’s so special to have handmade ornaments from some of my sweetest friends – I know i will cherish them forever.  We’re using this book, The Advent Jesse Tree, by Dean Lambert Smith.  It’s our first year to use it, and some of my friends ended up buying different ones, but I’ve really loved this one.  It has all of the relevant scripture noted, plus two or three suggestions of hymns or songs to sing each day.  Another thing I love about it is that for each day it has a child devotional, which has been perfect for my preschoolers and my older son, plus an adult devotional to dig a little deeper.  We’ve all learned a lot, and have spent some really special family time doing it.
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On Christmas morning, the first thing we’ll do is read the Christmas story in Luke 2, and pray together.  I’ll also wrap up Jesus from one of the nativities (or maybe the Jesus ornament from the Jesse tree) to be the first gift we open, so we make sure to talk about how what matters is our Savior, and not the presents.  This Christmas, we’re also going to try to take a break in the morning to bless someone else.  The tentative plan now is to look at our stocking goodies, and then go take breakfast to another family or individual.  We won’t stay long (unless they want us to), but share a little Christmas love and try to remember that it isn’t all about us.

We also keep our Christmas cards throughout the year to pray for the families who sent them. DSC_0157
So, what does your family do to keep the reason we celebrate Christmas in the forefront of your minds?