eleven

Today is our eleventh wedding anniversary.  I try to remember the people that we were eleven years ago, and I can’t.  From here, we look like babies who had no idea what we were getting into.  I know that we thought we had things pretty well figured out.  I know we had a lot of big plans and dreams.  I know that we were crazy about each other.

We had some hard years at the beginning, but I can say, without question, that this bittersweet eleventh year has been the hardest.  It has been a different kind of hard than those early years.  Those we spent battling each other, while this year, we’ve usually been on the same team.  The uncertainty, stress, and grief of this year further put into perspective the things we thought were worth fighting about a decade ago.

I’m so thankful to be married to this imperfect, rough-around-the-edges man, who loves me at my most unlovable, thinks I’m beautiful no matter how much I weigh, can always make me laugh, and quickly forgives me no matter how much I don’t deserve it.

The request I present to God most often is, “please let me grow old with him,” and I am more aware than ever that we aren’t guaranteed eleven more years or eleven more minutes.  He and I have recommitted in the last few months to make the most of the time we’re given to be together – to love each other like crazy, always point our kids to Jesus, be open and eager to hear God’s direction for our lives, and seek out friendships with people who encourage us to do those things.  Marriage is probably my favorite of God’s gifts, after salvation.  I feel such a sense of urgency not to waste it or take it for granted.  Eleven years from now, if it is God’s will, we’ll be turning 45 and will have adult and teenage children.  I’m sure I’ll look back at our eleventh anniversary and think we were babies who thought we had things figured out.

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Lots of Catching Up To Do.

Two months ago, my dad died.  9 days later, we left for China.  A few days after that, we met the little person whose picture we had been obsessing over for the previous 6 months.

It has been a lot.  So much BIG all at once.  Really, I’m just now starting to get a little less numb.  My brain just clicked into survival mode and stayed there a while.  Honestly, it already felt like I was in survival mode even before my dad died.  All of 2015 has been one big, intense, season of total insanity for us.

These have been the hardest two months of my life.  I can’t remember the last time I got a decent night’s sleep.  We saw my dad almost every week.  My boys were so close to him that they’re really grieving.  My older daughter probably won’t remember him, and my younger daughter never got to meet him.  I can’t put into words how heartsick I am about that. Plus I just miss him – how many people do you have in your life who are always on the sidelines cheering for you no matter what?  Not that many. The adjustment to being home has also been more of a challenge than I anticipated.

But, of course, in the midst of the hardest time of my life, God has been faithful, and there has been joy.  Our Both Hands project brought in the exact amount of money that we had prayed that it would, almost to the penny.  The two weeks in China were a sweet connecting time for my husband and I, just like we had prayed.  Meeting and getting to know our daughter has been incredible, and we’re so thankful to have her in our arms.  Even though it’s been 6 weeks, I still look at her sometimes in wonder that she’s actually here in my arms in the United States.  Seeing her start to blossom as a dearly loved daughter and sister can’t be described.  Our community has continued to rally around us for this entire crazy season, and I am so thankful.

I’ll share a few pictures now, and I’ll try to get caught up with travel, attachment, and all of that as soon as I can.

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*Airport pictures were taken by the amazing Beyond the Blue Studios

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!
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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.

one step at a time

We’ve prayed for the last two years that God would use our adoption to show Himself to people.  It’s hard to talk about money, and it’s hard to talk about taking faithful steps without being (or sounding) prideful.  Plus, many of my steps have been with a considerable amount of fear and anxiety, rather than faith!

But, we just found out that my husband’s annual bonus is almost exactly the same amount as the payment that we have due.  And he’ll be receiving the bonus two days before the payment is due.  We had no control over the timing of either event, or over the amount of either payment.  I guess it’s possible for people to see that as a coincidence, but I certainly don’t.  Especially since it isn’t the first time in this adoption process that it has happened that way.

That’s the last round of fees for our agency.  From this point on, it’s time to save for travel!  That’s a pretty overwhelming amount, but we’re just trying to take one step at a time.  Hopefully, this time they can be faithful steps!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

we found her.

Months earlier than expected, in a completely unlikely way, we found our girl.  We can’t share any details about her yet, but we’re all madly in love with her, and can’t wait to see God move mountains to bring her home.

We accepted her referral and submitted our Letter of Intent last week.  The next steps are to wait for our Letter of Approval from China, make a very large payment, and then wade through tons of red tape to prepare to travel.  We don’t have an estimate for travel at this time.

The week that we got the referral to review and the next week while we were waiting for doctor phone calls, orphanage updates, and stressing about money and other details, our whole family was studying Exodus 2-4 at Bible Study Fellowship.  Pretty intense timing, right?  Just like He did with Moses, God patiently led us through the fear, hesitations, and excuses; and gently reminded us that He was with us and would not ask us to do something if He wasn’t going to help us do it.  (**Note: None of the fear, hesitations, or excuses were about this precious little girl, who we wanted to bring home the minute we saw her beautiful face.)

We can’t wait to introduce her to you.  She is truly fearfully and wonderfully made.  We know that you’ll love her, too.

smoke

This has been a year of hard reminders that our lives are as brief and uncertain as smoke.

“You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring–what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”  James 4:14

None of the grief has been in our inner circle, but we’ve been on the fringes of so many deaths and devastating diagnoses this year.  This week, some extended family members of ours lost their 2-month-old unexpectedly.  The grief is so huge that it’s impossible to understand.  My husband attended the funeral and told me it was the most gut-wrenching, but also the most hopeful, experience of his life.  The young couple is heart-broken and devastated, of course, but also so filled with hope and so eager to present the gospel to the 200+ people who came to support them and celebrate their precious little one’s life. 

I often wonder how I will handle this type of grief when I experience it.  I have not yet lost a parent, spouse, child, or very close friend.  Obviously, though, it’s only a matter of time until I do.  I don’t know how strong I’ll be.  I don’t know if presenting the gospel will be the most important thing to me.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand at the front of a church and calmly talk about how God gave his only son for me, which puts my own loss into perspective.  I’m convicted by the thought that what I would want to do is sleep and cry in my bed for a month.  And convicted about my reactions to even minor crises that I face, when others I know are handling real crises with so much grace.

Hold the ones you love tightly, and don’t take your time with them for granted.  Why is it so easy to forget this?

Say a prayer for Jack & Anna and their families, please.

#1 & #2

The two most beautiful things I’ve seen in quite a while:

1.  My beautiful sister-in-law as a bride.  I’ve watched her grow up since she was 11, and I’m so amazed by the woman that she is now.  Congrats, M & S!  We are so excited to watch you enter this new chapter of your lives as a family, and we’re so thankful to have you as our brother and sister.

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2.  These gorgeous Chinese stamps on the back of all of our documents* – nothing rejected!  Hallelujah!

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*We’re still waiting on our I800A.  My project for tonight is to get everything else totally ready, so when we get it, there’s no more delay. Trusting God’s timing feels a little easier today than it did last Wednesday.  Today, someone I am friends with on Facebook said in a prayer, “So when I can’t see Your hand I’m going to ask for the faith to trust Your heart.”  Isn’t that wise?  That’s my prayer right now.

praying @ the mail box

praying at the mail box

Can you pray with me? If we receive our I800A approval in the mail before this coming Wednesday, it could cut at least two weeks off of our time to send our dossier. Due to out-of-town family events and vacations, the timing could either work out just perfectly to send it to our agency on July 7, or just imperfectly for it to be much later than that. Obviously, I’m hoping for July 7th. Will you please pray with us that we get our approval in the mail by Wednesday? Our DTC and/or LID would be a wonderful 10th anniversary gift.