Saturday, May 28, 2011

it's time...

We can't believe we're at the point where we're realistically looking at having to pay our balance of our adoption expenses in the next month or two! That feels very official! This is really happening. It's all so exciting!

However, with this great milestone comes the reality of having to make our need known for others to sow into our adoption of James. We have wondered over the months if it would be necessary to fundraise for part of our adoption expenses, and alas it is. We've done all we can do personally and can assure you that we've stretched ourselves as far as we can. We have been beyond humbled at how God is using James to prick the hearts of so many -- including us! James' young life -- abandoned on a city street in China when he was only four days old -- is being used to demonstrate God's abundant grace! Truly amazing.

If you're interested in contributing in the slightest, every little bit helps. And God will multiply even the smallest of donations. I assure you. We have seen it ourselves in other's adoption fundraisers and have been truly amazed at how God has used many small donations to provide for all the adoption expenses of these families. It's very powerful. I hope you'll be awestruck at how God will move in this situation.

If you'd like to give, all you have to do is click the orange 'Chip-In' button to the right. It's that simple.

Thank you for considering partnering with us to bring sweet baby James home! :) We are eternally grateful.

Friday, May 27, 2011

preparing hearts

You may remember that I've mentioned on this blog many times my prayers that God would prepare our hearts for the child that would be part of our family.

Well, get this.

Two stories from this past week that show how God is answering those prayers.

On Monday, I was making Oreo balls with Jackson and Brooks because that is the treat they wanted to make for their teachers as part of their end-of-the-year gift of thanks. So there we were at the kitchen counter and the boys were rolling Oreo 'dough' between the palms of their hands.

Jackson says, 'Momma, we'll have to teach James how to roll Oreo balls.'

'Yep, we sure will.'

'We'll show him how he has to roll it in his hands.'

I pause wondering if he'll catch his use of the word 'hands.' He goes on to explain the technique James will have to use.

'Buddy, you remember that James only has one hand,' wondering what his response will be.

He stops rolling and looks up at me. 'Well, how will he roll Oreo balls then?'

'We'll figure it out, won't we?'

Then he raises his hand in the air and says knowingly, 'I can use one of my hands and he can use his hand!'

It was like my heart set sail.

'That's right, buddy! You guys can be a team! Good job being your brother's keeper.'

'Yeh, I can be his keeper too.'

Inside, I'm fist-pumping knowing good and well that he's getting it. That little heart of his preparing for his little brother, James.

A couple days later, Payton comes down stairs in the morning and flops down on the couch.

'Momma, I had a bad dream.' For the record, I can't stand it when our kids have bad dreams. I remember feeling very heavy when I was a kid and I would wake in the morning and remember my bad dreams. Not a peaceful feeling at all.

'Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. Do you want to talk about it?'

'Yeh. I dreamt that we were adopting James and then you and Daddy changed your minds and decided to adopt a little girl. I woke up crying in my bed.'

Omigosh. I pulled her close and tears streamed down my face. Clearly, I was sad for her because she experienced grief in her sleep, but my heart was breaking with the realization that she loves our boy! She loves him.

I said, 'P, do you realize that means you love James? God has given you love in your heart for a little boy that you haven't even met yet.'

She slowly grinned in acknowledgement.

These moments are divine. These moments are the ones that only our Heavenly Father who loves orphans as much as he loves us can orchestrate. How thankful I am.

Update: we received our on-line approval from CCCWA yesterday! The first of three approvals! Woot! Woot! Getting word from our social worker and seeing our names in English in a paragraph of Chinese characters was surreal. This is really happening. The process of this little boy, who is so very, very far away, becoming part of our family is truly happening.

And, we're waiting on one document to come back for our dossier to be complete. We then take all 10 or 15 documents, have them all notarized, send copies to our dossier specialist in Massachusetts to review them and then we'll get the go ahead to take it all to the Secretary of State here in Virginia to have the documents certified. That supposedly only takes a few hours one day and then we can submit it to the Chinese Embassy in DC.

We could so use your prayers that God will move mountains during this final process. After learning of James' crocodile tears of sadness, we can't get to him fast enough. Not to mention that ever since I heard that story, I can't look at his photos the same. Not sure if I'm imagining it, but his eyes seem sparkly and alive in his younger photos and kind of empty and hallow in his older photos. I just know that every month in that orphanage without adequate attention and nurture causes these poor babies to shut down. We don't want our boy to shut down! Some say it's not possible to get him sooner than this fall, but I say nothing is impossible with God!

Monday, May 23, 2011

i have to laugh

The instant I finished posting the previous post, I clicked over to my email and had this waiting for me. I'm sorry, but you just have to laugh. There are no coincidences with God! Just moments of affirmation.

FamilyLife - Moments With You

May 23

Learning What Love Is
by Barbara Rainey

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.
1 John 4:10

I have learned more about God's love through our adopted daughter, Deborah, than from any other person on the planet. Although our five biological children certainly tested and tried us, Deborah tested our love more than all five of the others combined. Dennis and I faced countless opportunities just to walk away and say, "Look, this is too hard. We're not going to do this anymore." But we chose--over and over again--to love her, because we knew we did. And we knew God wanted us to.

I wrote in my journal:

If Deborah were not mine, if she were not my child, would I love her? If I just passed her on the street, like I do countless other people each day, what would draw me to her? What would make me love her out of all the other people I see? She could be just another human being in my path, but she's not. God has made her ours somehow. And I have discovered a kind of love for Deborah that is unlike my love for any of our other five children. I have discovered a taste of God's unfathomable, undeserved, unexplainable, extravagant love--a supernatural love defined by His grace.

Because of Deborah, I know God in a way I could never have known Him otherwise. He has called me to lengths and depths of love I didn't know I was capable of but which I learned He can supply, because He is love. I don't love Deborah more than our other five children, but I do love her in a different way, and I know more love for my other kids than I would have ever known without her.

Anyone can love a child who is theirs by birth. But to love one who is adopted--this is to know the love of God.

And if you want another little chuckle, I had my Bible open next to me from earlier and decided to look up that verse above and read it for myself. You guessed Bible was open to the exact page. How many pages are in the Bible? Mine has 2198. Ridiculous that it would be open to that very page. Just sitting there waiting for me.

Love You, Lord. You're awesome. And hilarious.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

oh, my heart...

As you may've gathered through this blog, we miraculously love James and haven't even met him. It's an amazing thing that God does in people's hearts -- stretching us to love beyond what we think we're capable of (creating in us His 'perfect love', 1 John 4:1). When we started this process, I definitely wondered if I can possibly love an adoptive child like I love our biological children. This wonder is gone.

This is how I know...

God did an amazing thing last week. Sometimes He has to break our hearts and then we learn that that brokenness actually has a purpose. Let's just say that, through a series of events, He exposed the immense love that we already have in our hearts for James.

I tried for so long the other night to upload this precious video of James. I just could not get it off the email that it was sent to me in. So the other day, I emailed James' original social worker (the one who gave him the name James) and asked if she could possibly send me the video in another format. She said she doesn't have it, but I could contact the person who sent it to her. In fact, she encouraged me to contact that adoption advocacy group because they would love to know that James has found his forever family. I happily sent an email to the contact person she gave me. This is her reply:

Hi Heather!

Oh my goodness – what a joy your email was today! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love little James. He has been on my heart since we first started helping him with good formula, and I have his photo as one of my screensavers. This is just WONDERFUL news!

Unfortunately, about two weeks ago my work laptop crashed, and some of my files haven’t been retrieved yet. I’ll see if his video was one already transferred over, but if not – I can get it again from our staff in China. We run several programs in that city, and we have a manager who visits there all the time. She is the one who took the video for me and I am sure she can send it again.

What a joy. There is another charity that we work with closely and they spent a week there last summer and absolutely fell in love with your son as well. I know they are going to SCREAM with joy when they hear he has a home. We have all been praying that a family would see him for the beautiful and wonderful little boy he is and want to bring him home. Please know he has been absolutely covered in prayer since we first learned about him. Do you mind if I share your email with them? They run [a ministry that serves orphans in China] and we have had many conversations about how much we love little [James]. :)

When do you think you will travel?

I can't tell you what it's like to get these kinds of emails. To know that people have been covering our James in prayer. Our mighty God has been working for years in this beautiful web that He's spinning that's bringing us across the globe to a boy in a faraway land that we never even knew existed. Unbelievable.

But there's more.

I reply to her sweet email and tell her to share, share, share with whomever she'd like that James' family has found him. Not long after, I get this email from the ministry she mentioned that visited James' orphanage:

Hello Heather and family,
[So-and-so] so blessed our day today by sharing the awesome news of an answered prayer almost exactly a year in the making. She directed us to your blog..and there before our eyes was [James]...and the news of his matching into your family. We rejoice with you and are full of gratitude that the Lord would see fit to place this sweet little boy in your family.
If you would like to connect more with us, we'd be happy to share our experience with him last May [2010] when we spent a week at the orphanage. As it happens, the first two pictures of him on your blog [Tuesday] are from our camera.

I reply saying we would love any and all information that they can give us about our boy. I feel like I've been parched and thirsty to know James and I've just come upon a well and want to ravenously drink from it. 'Tell me, tell me, tell me!' I think. What I didn't anticipate was a reply like this one:

So good to hear from you! We have enjoyed reading your blog. A few months ago we were asked to write a short story about James to use as a means of adoption advocacy. It never was publicized. Apparently God had His own way of connecting this little baby with his parents.

The article [below] summarizes our experience with him at his orphanage and the beauty of his little personality. He is such a sweet little guy and we can only imagine how he has grown in the last year. We are so, so thrilled for this opportunity for him to come home.

We will send some photos in a separate email.

We will be tied up in meetings/commitments this morning and afternoon. Feel free to call this weekend.
In May 2010, I was preparing to lead a team to spend a week in a Chinese orphanage working alongside the nannies to care for the children. I knew it was a 'special needs’ orphanage, a broad term that can encompass many different conditions. In talking with another American who had previously visited the orphanage, she told us the special needs at this orphanage included Cerebral Palsy, cleft lip and palate, and children with missing limbs. I remember thinking, "Missing don't know if I would be able to handle seeing that." But I didn't know James at that time.

Fast forward a few weeks to the end of May. We were going from room to room, assisting the nannies, holding the babies, giving them stuffed animals and sensory-rich toys to hold, talking to them. And then it happened, I walked into one of the baby rooms and saw the most precious little face, the most beautiful and alert eyes. He was sitting up in a Bumbo seat that was in his crib. I later found out that he was 9 months old. I felt immediately drawn to his bright face and as I walked toward him and started talking to him, his face lit up even more and he gave me the biggest smile. Such a sweet, joyful smile! And then I saw that he was one of the children with missing limbs...a missing right arm and a very short left arm with just two or three fingers. It was the most natural thing to pick him up and hold him, because now he was [James]....not an abstract child with missing limbs. He was a delightful, happy baby. He paid such intent attention as I talked with him in a language he didn't understand. He smiled and savored the attention. After a few minutes I knew I had to set him back in his seat as there were many other children to see and to hold. I set him down and started walking off to another child. Big crocodile tears formed in his eyes and he began to cry....he wanted to be held and talked to. He loved the interaction and thrived on the individualized attention - something far too rare in the orphanage setting. This same scene repeated itself multiple times throughout the week. His joy when myself or one of the other team members would walk in, his longing to be held and cuddled, his smiling face, his enormous tears when the interaction ended far too soon.

It has been nearly a year since our visit to James' orphanage. I think of him often. I wonder if he is getting even a portion of the attention that he so desperately desires. James is waiting for a forever family. He needs the care and attention that they can provide to him and to his special needs. On paper he is a child with missing limbs, but in person James' vibrant little personality outshines his limitations. I feel privileged that James so easily taught me the lesson of looking beyond the special need and to the beauty of a child's heart.

The wonder is gone. The reason I don't wonder anymore about whether I can love another child is because I wept and wept and wept when I read this story. When I hear of tragic situations that involve children, I often weep because I imagine Payton, Avery, Jackson or Brooks in those dire situations. To be as sensitive as possible, I try not to imagine another person's child, but my own. But I didn't do that in this case, I wept because I imagined James in that situation. My own. His little heart breaking in those moments of neglect. Let's just say it as it is. Neglect. I could picture him in my mind yearning for arms around him, yearning for a love that knows no boundaries, yearning for a family that loves him just the way he is.

Y'all, my heart ached last week. I kinda wandered around in a daze for an hour or so and then I became a mom on a mission! All of the sudden, it's like every single day matters in this process!

I came home from taking our boys to a play date and found our I-797 (Notice of Action), the response from our filing the I-800A, waiting in our mailbox. This was great to get it and be able to turn around and send in our replacement copy of the home study (remember those revisions that were made?). So, I swiftly typed up a cover letter, printed it off, told our boys we were headed to the post office and off we went. So on Friday, I sent off what is necessary for our I-800 to be reviewed. Hopefully we'll get our approval very soon to bring James home.

Many people, understandably, ask about a timeline. That is the bottom line, isn't it? When will this child be here? After speaking with our 'dossier specialist' with our agency, Wide Horizons, last week and updating her on where we are in our document collection for our dossier, she said she thinks we'll be traveling in the next six months! Of course, I believe in a mighty God (who didn't just cause mountains to tremble, but he actually created them), so I believe it could be even sooner than that! Still hoping and praying that it'll be sooner rather than later. Just need to get this durn dossier submitted.

We covet your prayers for no hiccups in getting our final documents together, a smooth process of getting everything certified and authenticated, and then that China would swiftly review the dossier and respond with a travel date.

Friday, May 20, 2011

rice and beans

This week, 300 people from our church have been participating in the Five Day Challenge: eat beans and rice only for five days. Why? To be more sensitive to those who are hungry; to remember that when they do have food, it's meager, limited, and often the same exact, boring thing every meal; to appreciate the blessings we take for granted everyday (even simply having variety in our diet); and then to give the gap (what you saved in grocery expenses for the week) to Feed My Starving Children. We've gotten an email each day of encouragement. I thought this one was especially poignant -- even around adoption.

Hey, and if anyone's out and about tomorrow and wants to grab a meal at the Tuckernuck Chick-Fil-A (on Broad), a portion of the proceeds will go to Feed My Starving Children.

Meals With Hope - Day Four

Some important details: community meal Friday begins at 6pm. It’s BYORABAC. That’s Bring-Your-Own-Rice-And-Beans-And-Chair. (so obvious, I know).

On Saturday, the Tuckernuck Chick-fil-a will donate 20% of the sales between 8AM-8PM to Meals With Hope. So go eat! and leave your receipt! (in the designated box). Bring friends! Now, onto inspiration:

3304197751 6c9eb05fd1 Meals With Hope Day Four
(look at this little honey!)

They Say It Can’t Be Done

by Ryan Evans

Most of us can live well off half of what we claim to need.

Some say that affecting poverty

is impossible…
or it’s their fault…
or it’s pointless…
or it’s not our war…
or it’s too big…
they say–with their words and their lives–we can’t.

Today we are hungry, but before you give up on this challenge or on the desperate needs all around the world –

Tell the beautiful 13 year old who cares for her orphaned siblings and dreams of becoming a nurse, TELL HER: “It’s impossible.”

Tell the teenage girl, a victim of AIDS because of ruthless rape, TELL HER: “It’s your fault.”

Tell the infant, orphaned at birth and HIV positive, with no living relatives, malnourished, and barely clinging to life, TELL HIM: “It’s pointless.”

Tell the compassionate, loving, selfless pastor; fighting against the powers of darkness to reveal the true light; fighting for the salvation of many; fighting to overcome, TELL HIM, “It’s not our war.”

Tell the smart, funny, friendly young man, who has an opportunity for a better life because someone else paid his way to college, TELL HIM: “It’s just too big for me.”

Tell the little toddler, pain and deep confusion in his eyes, needing love and just needing safe arms of love around him, TELL HIM: “I can’t.”

With God, it is possible.
What “just is” should never have been.
Striving for a better life is never pointless.
Neither is helping someone get there.
Life, as one may know it, can be changed.
Loving a deeply lost child isn’t too big for anyone.
There is always hope.
And fighting for the Kingdom of God?
What other war would be ours to fight?

So we fight. And for this week we are all fighting together.

To share the light that breaks the chains of sin and death that oppress these sons and daughters of the King — to love, and love well, regardless of time, place, or reason — to break our own trend of apathy and selfishness and make a change for someone, somewhere, because they matter — to step out of what keeps us accepted, comfortable, or safe — to claim in our hearts that we truly belong to Christ and spend our lives as a response to how His heart moves ours — to hope, and know beyond a doubt that what we hope for is coming and will not delay — to stand for the innocent, the lost, and the broken and to believe fully, that God’s love changes everything.

Let’s fight beyond the five days of this challenge. By sacrificing these five days HOPE is literally changing the lives of hundreds of children. Lets pray together and stand up and watch as God changes the world–He’s doing it constantly, we’re just not always aware. He wants to use us, so be use-able. Don’t look at a situation and say, “It’s too big” because, yeah for us alone it might be, but we have God, and nothing can overwhelm His power!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

'adieu' versus 'ado'

Hilarious that my 9-year-old linguist noticed the error of my using 'adieu' versus 'ado.' Ahhh. Perhaps we have a future editor on our hands. :)

Curious? Click here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

without further ado

I feel like I did when our children were born and we sent that first email out to everyone saying, 'She's here!' or 'They're here!'.

Well, our sweet boy's file was locked with us today, so I can finally introduce him to you!

Oh the joy!

Please meet our little James.

Approximately 3 months old?

Approximately 6 months old?
Approximately a year old?

We also have a video of him that is exceedingly and beyond precious. But I can't figure out how to get it on here. Hopefully one day.

A little back story on our sweet James. He was abandoned on a city street in China in August, 2009. It is estimated that he was about four days old. The authorities searched for his parents, but to no avail. He was examined at a hospital and then placed in an orphanage. The orphanage then gave him a Chinese name. However, American adoption agencies often assign English names to the children to simplify things. James was the name assigned to him by his original social worker. When we felt certain that he was the child for us (we'd just gotten word that his social worker was willing to release him to our agency -- huge obstacle overcome), we were then struck by his name. We hadn't quite considered it until then.


Well, guess what?

JD's grandfather is named James.

But it gets better.

My brother's name is James.

Say it ain't so...

It gets better.

My father's name was James.

Could it get any better?


Many of you may not know that my dear husband's real name (the 'J' of JD) is James.

We took it as a sure sign that this little guy's 'name', chosen by a social worker who loved this boy enough to set him free, was no accident. And the family he's going to be a part of, that has a long history of using the name James, is no accident either.

Come on home, sweet little James. Come on home!

risk-averse christianity

I am so, so risk-averse. Few aren't. But I'm meeting more and more people everyday who are taking huge risks for God. Selling their houses, moving to other countries, downsizing, long-term missions (here and around the world), adopting a child with severe special needs, starting ministries, planting churches, serving in the inner-city, moving from the 'burbs to the inner-city.

My gosh, I think I even mentioned a while back that for years, JD described himself as risk-averse. The good news is that I think God's doing a tiny work in us and has much more to do. I will not lie. Sometimes I think we've lost our minds. I think about what we might have in store with our little guy and I have thoughts like, 'Be prepared, Heather. This may not be a cake walk.'

Then, almost instantly, I feel reassurance from the Lord. He speaks very clearly to me (of course not audibly) that He's got this. We're just to continue moving forward. 'Do not stop,' He says. 'Continue on this course I have you on.' And then my momentary fear is replaced with joy. Anticipation. Excitement.

Here's a little something about risk-averse Christians. Wow. I don't want to be afraid to respond to what God calls me to. But it's so hard, isn't it? Sometimes I just want to run and hide. But, seriously, who can hide from God? I certainly try -- in my comfortable, American, plush life. And I succeed most of the time.

Alan Hirsch - Are You Stuck In A Rut? from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Monday, May 16, 2011

thursday, may 12th

After last Tuesday, it felt like we were starting to actually move in a real and tangible way toward our boy. Sending off our I800 and the documents for our file lock felt like a fresh breeze had blown in. Then on Thursday, my phone rings while I'm on a field trip with Payton's class to Monticello. It's our social worker here in Richmond who asks if I've already sent off the I800. I tell her yes, a couple of days ago. She says that one of our social workers in Massachusetts noticed something in the home study that she thinks needs to be changed.


Suddenly dead stillness. The fresh breeze? Gone. Poof.

She says she'll call her and find out the details.

A 'here we go again' moment.

I get home from the field trip to several emails that have been exchanged between the social workers. One of them tells me to email USCIS and ask them how to go about swapping out the old version of the home study with the new one. I think it must be a big error in the home study to go through all this (and possibly delay the I800 approval), so I ask what the error is. It's in the 'Child Desired' section. It originally said:

'They have a preference for two children of either gender, preferably one being female, between the ages of zero and six years.'

She thought that statement about a preference for a female (which kinda makes me giggle now) might cause them to question our desire and therefore true comfort around adopting a little boy.

At first, I didn't think that was 'red flag enough' to potentially delay the approval of our I800, but what do I know? I'm so green at this that I'm neon. Fortunately, I did email someone at USCIS and she was very nice and said swapping out our home study won't delay the process at all. She said once we receive notice from USCIS that they've received our I800, we can just send the new home study and it shouldn't be a problem. Ahhh...notice the words 'shouldn't be.' Please, Lord, let that 'shouldn't be a problem' turn out to be an 'isn't a problem'! The bummer is that she told me that it takes a whole 10-14 days just to hear back from USCIS that they've even gotten the durn thing! Good grief, they probably received it last Thursday. Why's it gotta take another week or two after that to say, 'Got it!'? I'm a junkie. A junkie for the fast reply. I'm just being honest. Especially in this case (adoption, that is). And there ain't nothing insta- about anything having to do with adoption. That's for sure!

Yes, yes! I remember the post a few weeks ago when I talked about how patient I was I felt like God's doing a work in this is good for me. Yeh, well, now? I feel like saying, 'blah, blah, blah.' I just want to keep the ball rolling. :)

Because in addition to having to send a new home study to USCIS, we were also told that, before we could have James' file locked, we also needed to write a LOI (Letter of Intent) and submit Wide Horizon's China Special Children program application. Get this. The LOI has to encompass very specific points:

  • Share your reasons for adopting this particular child, include child's name, date of birth, and diagnosis/special need.
  • Confirm you have reviewed child's information with a doctor, and feel well prepared to meet this child's needs.
  • Your immediate and long term plan to care for child's medical needs - including hospitals, specialists, and resources in your area.
  • Your immediate and long term child care plan - will you stay at home right after you come back, daycare, etc.
  • Your ability to provide for child's physical, emotional, developmental, and medical needs.
  • Confirm that your health insurance covers major costs of necessary treatments, surgery, services.
  • Briefly talk about your support system - extended family and friends.
  • Include how you plan to keep the child's Chinese culture and background as part of their life
  • Add any other thoughts on how you will care, nurture and love your child.
  • Thank CCAA (China Center of Adoption Affairs) for their support of your adoption of this child.
Hence, the reason I still haven't posted photos or video of our little guy. Hang with me. I'm trying. Maybe, just maybe the lock will be performed tomorrow. I just emailed those two things to our social worker. Hallelujah!

A lot of people are asking me how long it will be before we can travel. Welp, my hope above all hope right now is that we might be able to travel before the end of the year. That would be incredible! And, guys, it's doable. Barring no major chads are left hanging or other unforeseen circumstances arise, this could happen. If you're the praying type, we'd love your prayers around this! We would love, love, love nothing more than to bring this little guy home before Christmas -- or even the holidays, in general. The wish of every adoptive parent who's waiting to bring a child home, I'm sure.

And guess what? I had another sweet encounter with the Chinese doctor I told you about. Had to do something to thank the sweet man. More on that later...

everyday's a good day, but yesterday was a great day!

[This post mysteriously vanished. It was originally posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Strange, Blogger.]

I'm having such a hard time encapsulating the emotion and blessing of what happened yesterday. I feel like a broken record, but all I know to say is, 'God is so very good.' He just shows Himself at every turn of this process, affirming more and more this 'rescue mission' we're on. He is priming my heart every day for this little boy in a faraway land who has no clue that we're coming for him and how we long to kiss his pudgy cheeks and tuck him into bed at night.

What may seem insignificant to some was not a insignificant to me -- especially as I reflected on how yesterday unfolded and how much I needed every hour of yesterday that went into accomplishing it all.

Several weeks ago, our social worker advised us to have Little Guy's medical file and it's English translation reviewed by a doctor who either was Chinese or who could at least read/translate Chinese. We told our social worker that we were not entirely concerned about doing that because little (if anything) was going to change our feeling that Little Guy is meant to be part of our family. She still recommended it primarily because China will ask if it was reviewed as part of their determination as to whether we're really 'fit' to raise Little Guy.

So I started trying to figure out who could review his file for us. I contacted our local social worker and she suggested the VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) International Adoption Medical Clinic. I went on their website and was shocked to find their services quite pricey ($300-$500 to walk alongside a family through their adoption process). Ick. That's not going to work.

Then I remembered a friend of a friend who've I've enjoyed spending time with is Chinese and so is her husband (who is a pharmacist). I thought perhaps she/they might know of someone. Lo and behold, the next thing I know I'm copied on an email from her to her sister's fiance. He replies back and says his uncle is a pediatrician on the Southside of Richmond and is Chinese. Bingo. I give his office a call and the receptionist asks him if he'd be willing to review Little Guy's medical file. She says he's happy to help, but I need to schedule an appointment -- Tuesday, May 10th at 10 AM it is. I ask if there's a fee (just trying to be prepared because there normally are). She puts me on hold to ask him and comes back to the phone saying there will be no fee. I think how kind that is of him. And know that could perhaps change, but I'm very grateful that we may've found someone who can help us.

Our boys are in preschool on Tuesdays, so I knew I had until noon to get to the doctor's office, meet with the doctor at 10:00 and get back to their school (his office is about 40 minutes away). Doable. But I returned from vacation to an email from a friend whose son is our sons' age. Her son wants to have Brooks and Jackson over after school on Tuesday and she's willing to pick all three of them up and take them home with her. This is the not insignificant to me part because I couldn't have accomplished what I did without her (little did she know) gracious offer to have my boys over to her house. God provided for five full hours for me to run all over the greater Richmond area to get done so very much yesterday in the way of moving this adoption along. What a blessing!

Turns out while we were on vacation, UPS tried to deliver (three times) JD's birth certificates from Tennessee and now the package was at the distribution center just ten minutes from the doctor's office. Perfect. I'll kill two birds with one stone and do both things while I'm allll the way down I-95. Again, He made it possible for me to consolidate two trips by having the destinations in the very same area and for me to save a bunch of gas (hello!) and time. When have I ever had to drive to Hopewell for two reasons in one week?!

I arrive at the doctor's office and wait a few minutes to see him. The nurse calls me back. I was sitting in the waiting room struck by how I felt like I was in a time warp and it was the very same decor and feeling of the pediatrician's office from when I was a kid! When I went into the room to meet with him, the wallpaper was the exact same wallpaper that I remember as a kid -- a white background with clowns flipping and tumbling all over. It was strangely sweet and simple.

The doctor is a man of small stature who is dressed in a shirt and tie (no lab coat). He has salt and pepper hair. He speaks softly with a strong accent. He was kind of cool to me at first. All business. He asked for the papers. I handed them to him explaining that there's already an English translation, so all we're really in need of is for him to verify its accuracy. He proceeds to pull up a chair to a counter and start laying out the translations side-by-side. The pages don't match up (and I can't help him because I don't know what the Chinese pages say!). He seems a tad bit frustrated with not being able to make sense of all the papers. I, in my nervousness, try to help and probably talk too much until he finally tells me I can have a seat in the chair.

Oh yeh, the chair. Duh. I sit.

Then I decide to take out my computer to look over the electronic versions of what he's looking at to see if there's anything I might have questions about. I also brought my computer so I could show him the photos and video of Little Guy.

He's scanning the documents. He eventually figured out the right sequence and was moving steadily through the sections. He verifies that things are accurate (lots of numbers for test results). He asks who translated it. I tell him I don't know. He says, 'This is a good translation.' That's good to hear.

Then, he is struck by the description of Little Guy's birth defect. He reads it out loud perhaps to make sure I'm aware. I tell him that we know and we love him anyway. I offer to show him the photos that I have so he can see him. He smiles and says, 'He's a cute boy.' (I couldn't agree more). He sees a photo of Little Guy when he was about six months old and says, 'Ahhh, yes. This was sometimes caused by medication the mother took.' He says doctors a long time ago prescribed a medication that they now think may've caused birth defects. He believes it was a contraceptive that caused inter-uterine dysfunction. I tell him we've wondered out of curiosity how children are born with birth defects such as our little guy's, but we haven't thought about it much. He speculates that could be the cause and moves on.

He then comes to part of the report that's a narration of the events that led to our little guy ending up in an orphanage. I can't get into much detail yet about that, but will hopefully be able to tell you more about him later this week after we get the official word that his file is locked with us. We're hopefully just days away from that. But suffice it to say, it's tragic and heart wrenching.

The doctor's eyes are scanning the paper horizontally as he silently reads the words that describe Little Guy's situation, his daily routine, his care. I can't tell where he is on the page, but all of the sudden I hear a sniffle. And another. And then another. At this point, I'm sitting next to him because a few minutes prior I slid my chair over so I could show him the photos and video when he was done reviewing the file. I turn my head and study his face. He sniffles again and mumbles, 'I'm sorry.' I touch him on the shoulder and tell him it's okay. I have no idea what could possibly have brought forth these emotions for him. As he's choking back tears, he taps his pencil on a paragraph in the report. I look down and read:

Remarks from the Institute:
(his Chinese name) is a lovely child. We hope he could be adopted by a loving foreign family, give him a happy family, and let him get better education, growing healthily and happily.

I immediately wonder if his tears are because he's disappointed that 'his people' would hope that this child would be adopted by a foreign family instead of a Chinese family. Or perhaps he's just overcome with the fact that this child is actually being adopted. I ask him if the statement hurt him in some way. He says, 'No, I am moved.' And he excuses himself from the room.

I sit there dumbfounded in my chair wiping tears from my eyes. I pray.

Lord, help. Give me words. I don't know what to say to this man. I want to be of comfort to him, but hardly know him.

I can hear him sniffling in the next room. He returns a minute later. He apologizes again and gets back to work. He finishes the review, clarifying a few things for me. I ask if he'd like to see a short video of our little guy. He says he would. He watches intently and says, 'His concentration is powerful.' I agree telling him that we've often been struck by the way this sweet boy follows the video camera and appears very aware and observant. But I like his words better: concentration is powerful.

He revisits his emotional reaction saying that he was struck by the caregiver's kindness and love for our boy. He then states that he's so glad we're adopting him despite the challenges he will face in life. I assure him that we are honored and overjoyed to have him in our family. I tell him that we love him already -- including our four children who talk about him everyday and ask when he'll be here. I ask him if would be willing to meet our boy one day. He says, 'Yes. Can I have your name?' I give him our names and contact info and assure him that I will be in touch.

As I packed up my things, I stared at that little face that doesn't even know what's happening in holy moments between his mother and a doctor who were brought together through friends of friends. He doesn't know about the holy moments that God's using to prime our hearts for him. My heart's capacity to love has grown so much through this process. Every adoptive parent says you can love an adopted child, but you wonder until you do. And we do.

So after that tender meeting, I head over to UPS (just down the road!), pick up JD's birth certificates and start trucking up I-95. I then run by our house and pick up our marriage license that I realized I'd forgotten. I head to Staples, make copies of both of our birth certificates and our marriage license. I head to our doctor's office to pick up the much-anticipated medical records that took two weeks instead of one to get back due to my 'involved urinalysis.' I then head to the post office and mail (drum roll, please) copies of our birth certificates, our marriage license, our completed home study and our I800A form to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service). The I800A is how we petition the federal government to bring our little guy into the country. We should know whether or not that's approved in about a month.

I also mailed our home study, a family photo, passport photos of JD and me and the medicals to our social worker at Wide Horizons. All of which she's been waiting for to lock our little guy's file with us. Crossing my fingers that the lock will be complete by the end of the week! And once that happens, I can finally post photos and video.

As I said, everyday is a good day, but yesterday was a great day!

Monday, May 2, 2011

forgive the tmi.

Hello from beautiful Corolla, North Carolina. We headed here last Saturday to surprise my stepdad for his 60th birthday. Boy, was he ever surprised. I love surprises. Love them. We knew the greatest gift for him, hands down, would be a week with his dearest loved ones. His reaction?

"This is better than a Harley. No, I'm serious."

This coming from the man that, I kid you not, has talked, dreamed, and pined for a Harley for years. Years. There have been Harley funds. Coin jars. Birthday gifts given as contributions to the funds. You name it. My mom even told me the other day that when she got a sales bonus a few years ago, she took what would've been a down payment to a Harley and scattered it around his office in twenties with a note saying, 'Go get your Harley.' He didn't do it. I think when push came to shove, he just couldn't pull the trigger. It was just too indulgent for him. This man's happy driving a clunker. Truly. Yet, he's a hardworker and has always yearned for a Harley. I say all this so you'll understand just how much his statement above means. And I love that because I love surprises.

So, an update on our adoption.

Well, the only thing I know to say is...never a dull moment. I declare.

At the risk of this post taking on a TMI (too much information) vibe, I do want to tell you what transpired last week so you can fully understand how much of an emotional roller coaster this adoption journey is. And, most importantly, how good God is. And because, what the heck, you might as well know the knitty gritty details of what's involved in the adoption process.

As you probably remember in this post I mentioned that JD and I both needed to get a Hep B test and a urinalysis done per China's requirements before we could send off the paperwork required to lock our little guy's file with us. The Hep B test results would take the longest to get back -- 5 to 7 business days. I went to the lab on Wednesday of last week (I guess that's April 28th). Late that afternoon, our doctor's nurse called and said my urine showed trace amounts of blood in it. She said they were going to have to send it off to be cultured. That would take a couple of days. I don't know what it was -- the tone in her voice perhaps? a slight hesitation by her as we talked? -- but I instantly felt worried. I've never had this happen or ever had a nurse or doctor have questions at all regarding a urinalysis before.

Okay, that's not entirely true...

(insert tangent).

When I was pregnant with Payton, I, how should I say it, enjoyed being pregnant just a tiny bit. I was very pregnant over the holidays so I, how should I say it, indulged my sweet tooth a tad. To make my sweet tooth worse, I discovered the marshmallow fluff and chocolate chips recipe for making fudge (at Christmastime!) and indulged my sweet tooth to the tune of eating an entire pan (9x13!) of fudge in one weekend. When I went in for my check-up that Monday morning, the nurse asked me what in the world I'd eaten for breakfast. I innocently said, 'Cheerios.' She asked if I had orange juice with my Cheerios. 'No.' She couldn't possibly understand why the sugar was so high in my urine! Well, my lovely, adoring, faithful husband threw me under the bus and blurted out, "Could it be because she ate an entire pan of fudge this weekend?!' Did I mention that I was carrying a human being within my body? The first of his little human beings? All this very pregnant woman wanted was a little fudge.

I do still love that fudge. Right out of the hot saucepan. But I don't eat the whole 9x13" dish anymore. :)

Okay, back to last week...

So, the urine (I warned you about the TMI).

I was a little worried. And did what all people who are 'a little worried' do when they don't know what's wrong. I went to the authority of all authorities: Google. A few times. Just trying to piece together the fact that I had no symptoms of any of the more minor ailments associated with blood in a person's urine. No pain, no discomfort, no fever, nothing. I found concerning things associated with the symptoms I did have (urine in the blood, back pain, etc). Then a voice mail from the nurse didn't help. She called me back late Friday afternoon and didn't reach me, so she left a voice mail asking that I call her. That was it. She said nothing else. Ugh. There must be something wrong, I thought. If everything were fine she would've just told me my urine came back normal, no need for concern. Of course by the time I get her voice mail, it's after business hours on a Friday so I can't call her back. It'll have to wait until Monday. My mind races and wonders all weekend. I even tell my mom the nurse called me back and what her voice mail said and my mom's eyes flung wide. She was shocked.

We leave for Corolla. Enjoy a wonderful surprise. Spend Saturday and Sunday with extended family and enjoy the beach. My prayer became that I not worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough worries of its own. I asked for trust and faith in God no matter the outcome. I asked for nothing to be wrong.

The idea of being gravely ill is not a peaceful one for me, per se. What mother of young children doesn't worry about that? But to top it off, I knew if anything came back seriously wrong this could put an end to our adoption plans. There are many countries that do not allow people to adopt who have been gravely ill let alone currently are gravely ill. My heart ached. I just prayed that all was well.

First thing Monday morning -- 9:01 AM -- I call our doctor's nurse. She says I have a bacterial infection of some sort and she'll need to call in a prescription for me and needs to know what pharmacy we use.

That's it?

That's why you needed to speak with me instead of just leaving me a voice mail?

I was asymptomatic because the infection is so minor?

Because the bacterial levels are so low?

It's that simple?

Thank you, Jesus. What a relief. We can adopt our little guy! We can move forward.

I realize not everyone is wired a 'worrier.' And, generally, I'd say I'm not someone who worries excessively, but this was scary to me. I felt like there was so much on the line. JD and I talked at one point and he said he wasn't worried about it being anything serious because I'm a young, healthy person. I wish it were that simple these days. I hear stories everyday (and know people personally) whose diagnoses were indiscriminate of age or health. It just doesn't seem to be the guarantee anymore.

[Sorry for the big downer of a post!]

But sometimes events like this past week cause us to stop in the ridiculously mundane of our lives and take account. I took account. And I'm very thankful. God is good. Even if I did receive a grave diagnosis this past week, God is still good. I was actually able to praise Him even when I imagined the worst. That's a hugely beautiful thing for me.

And one other thought to share...

I wonder if all mothers feel gripped at times with the fear of being unable to raise their children? Or are gripped with the deep desire to spare their children the grief and loss of their mother? Just imagining for one week my children's grief over losing their mother gave me the very real reminder of what an orphan feels. All orphans have lost their mothers. Oh, God. My heart.

Within an hour of getting the 'you-just-need-a-few-days-of-antibiotics' news, we also found our completed home study from our social worker waiting in my inbox! Our final background check came in and our home study's in it's final revision! When we're back in town next week, I'll send off what our social worker with Wide Horizons has been waiting for and our little guy's file should be locked in no time! Woot! Woot! :)

Can you see how something required in the adoption process that we think will take a week or two often takes a month? It's this strange phenomenon. I'm learning to plan for twice as much time as what I might expect. It's all good.

Pressing on...


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