Safe In The Arms of the Shepherd

Safe In The Arms of the Shepherd
This is Who we want our children to know!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How many times, YiLi?

YiLi is and always has been doing marvelously well since the moment we met one month and a day ago. But . . . she doesn't like to hug and most definitely does not want to be kissed. We all know that is not unusual at this stage of just being home, right?

So we are working into it with a few stiff little hugs and such.

YiLi and I have built up this little tradition already. When I tuck her into her bed at night, I tuck the softest blanket of them all right up around her little chin, very carefully so that she knows it's important to me that she be warm and toasty, and then I ask the question: "How many times shall I kiss your head goodnight, YiLi?" We have made it a game. She never answers, so every night I decide on a number and then I kiss her head that many times. I started low. Last night was twelve, and she gave me the tiniest giggle. Tonight I asked, as usual, "How many times shall I kiss your head goodnight, YiLi?" Only tonight, she said "Hmmmm . . . (with that little smirk of hers), and THEN SHE SAID: "Five!"

Blesses this mama's heart, that's for sure!

Goodnight everyone . . .

Monday, December 26, 2011

To China and back plus a month

So much time has passed, so many life events, I am just asking God to help me as I write this post to bring you all up to date. I could not seem to come here before now, so here goes . . . joy and sorrow, endings and beginnings, thankfulness all the same because God knows what is best and works all things for good for us because we do love Him and we have been called according to His purpose.

We met YiLi in Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong, China on Sunday, November 27. On to Qingdao the next day by bullet train and then we flew to Guangzhou on Tuesday night . We met Gan the next morning at the Civil Affairs office.

Gan asked to go back to her orphanage after a day and a night. She suffered greatly, and I do not think, even after being prepared, that she truly understood what adoption meant until she was face to face with it. We were told that it was not personally about us. I truly have come to believe that there are a few children who would rather stay in China no matter what their future life will be like, and Gan was one of them. I did not want to believe that until another mother went over to meet her daughter from the same orphanage and checked in on Gan for us. She told us that Gan was resolved to stay in China, that she would have refused any family, that the director had cried many a tear over her decision. So for a reason that only God knows, Gan did not come home with us.

My sister Leslie had sent porcelain Christmas ornaments shaped like Chinese dolls, lanterns, and pandas for each of my three girls. As I wrapped a box for each girl in the upstairs bedroom, I had my private grieving session for Gan, and laid a dream to rest. I do know that God brought Gan into our lives for a purpose though, so we wait to know that purpose. We are hoping that if Gan knows we are not trying to convince her to come with us, that she and her orphanage will allow us to sponsor her as she gets older. Maybe we can make her life a bit easier.

YiLi is a joy. She has the most endearing personality. She has been with us for one month now, and we can hardly remember life without her. Rick and I are feeling younger by the minute, laughing, skipping, playing, learning, seeing life anew from a child's viewpoint. I think I will let the pictures say the rest:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My artist daughter

According to Brittany, this is what I used to look like! Now she is an art major at Edinboro University, which is about 45 minutes from our home. I haven't changed a bit . . .

Overcome with nostalgia today!

As much as we are all looking forward to our new life with three daughters, this morning I cannot help but reminisce back over the wonderful years with my beloved first daughter Brittany Kathleen, for a long time thought to be my only child! As I was cleaning ('fess up, you know you know you all "nest" right before you leave for China!), I came upon these photos from past years. They speak volumes about that unspeakably wonderful mother/daughter relationship . No more words needed, except to say that I will cherish these, even as I look forward to future pictures of my new daughters and I. I can only hope that in time we will have a relationship akin to that Brittany and I share!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Here we come, girls!

How exciting to share our itinerary with you! It is a very busy one, with not a lot of idle time, lots of travel within China, so please keep us in your prayers. At the end of this post, I will give you a list of prayer concerns. Maybe one or two will tug at your heart throughout your days and you will lift us up!

11/24 Thanksgiving afternoon - leave by car for D.C. with our niece
11/25 12:30 P.M. Direct flight to Beijing!
11/25 10:30 P.M. Fly to Jinan (capital of Yi Li's province)
11/27 Meet and take custody of YiLi at the Civil Affairs Office (afternoon)
11/28 Return to that same office to finalize YiLi's adoption paperwork
11/28 Travel to Qingdao (YiLi's orphanage city, she lives out in the
country in a foster home
11/29 Apply for YiLi's Chinese passport
11/29 4:30 P.M. Fly to Guangzhou
11/30 Meet and take custody of Gan at the Civil Affairs Office
12/1 Return to that same office to finalize Gan's adotion paperwork
12/2 Apply for Gan's Chinese passport
12/3 Visa medical examination for both children, including TB
12/4 Sightseeing (Safari Park)
12/5 Return to medical clinic for TB results and prepare with guide for
our adoption interview
12/6 10:00 A.M. Visa interview and oath ceremony at US Consulate
12/7 Pick up children's visas in the adternoon
12/8 Very very early take a can to Hong Kong airport
12/8 10:30 A.M. Fly home via Tokyo
12/8 - 12/? Stay with Lisa in VA until we recover from jetlag! Meet her
Chinese student Sara who came home 2 years ago. The girls can talk
to her and she will be able to explain a lot and comfort them!

Just some musings and some prayer requests:

We wish we could have toured. It just didn't work out. We feel it might not have been in the girls' best interest. I am particularly disappointed that we won't get to spend more time in Qingdao, for many reasons. I wish we could meet YiLi's foster family (almost never permitted). I wish we could visit her orphanage (2 1/2 hour ride into country, might be possible, depends on how YiLi is doing), and the city itself is said to be one of the most beautiful in all of China. Rick and I had decided that we would be very satisfied spending some time there rather than Beijing. But since the government requires all adoptions to happen in the provincial capital, along with the trip planning being done by the agency rapidly, it just could not be worked out.

I feel that we will get to tour Gan's orphanage because we will be spending the rest of our time in her province. Generally, kids benefit from getting to go back and say goodbye, as well as seeing that the people they care about are in total support of the adoption. It is difficult, but many times at this point they are able to go forward emotionally. Again, we will see how Gan feels about going back. If she is struggling, one of us will stay with her and the other will visit the orphanage.

Prayer requests:
1. Physical endurance for the journey - it looks busy!
2. Courage and comfort for our girls - such a big step for them!
3. Specifically pray that YiLi is not brought to us early. Many times when
parents arrive at the hotel, the child is there in the lobby already. We
will have been up straight for 23 hours at that point. It will be 11:40
P.M. China time but it will feel like 11:40 A.M. of the next day after
we travelled for us. They say adrenaline will carry us through!
4. Those first few moments, the "Gotcha" moments, to be sweet ones
5. Pray for all of our reading and training to come to the forefront when we
need it. Pray for God's wisdom in the little responses and the big ones.
Pray for the knitting together of our family to begin!
6. Pray for neither of us to take rejection personally if it happens
(usually a child is so overwhelmed they can only "bond" with one
parent at first and the other is "refected" temporarily. we understand
logically, but it's hard on the heart!
7. Pray for us to find ways to communicate the necessities.
8. Pray for my wrist to hold up under all the luggage lugging!

I am sure I am leaving lots out - ask God to show you what you should pray for in our regard! We are counting on these prayers being lifted! Thank you, God, for entrusting these treasures to us on this earth. We pray in the name of Jesus that you will keep us close to you, that we will look to You for counsel, that we will keep our minds and heart stayed on You only, that the enemy will be powerless, that the hearts of our precious children will be soft and open to the love of earthly parents and a heavenly Father! We pray for safe travels and good connections, guides that we have a rapport with, and that we would get to visit both orphanages. I even pray, Lord, that we would be able to meet the "mama and baba" that mean so much to YiLi, even though it is said to be impossible. Nothing is impossible in Your Name! Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lambie hats and the love of the Shepherd

After my first post I promised to tell you about a very special hat. It's a long story though!

When we saw YiLi's video, way back almost one year ago, reps from our agency were there videotaping her being interviewed so that the video could be shown to families like us who showed interest in possibly adopting her. We saw her teensy picture on an adoption advocacy site called Rainbow Kids (check it out). We immediately contacted WACAP and requested her file. Well, Seattle received so much snow that they had to dig themselves out, and it was two weeks before we received the video!

In her video she sings a song. She starts on too high of a pitch, but this girl never gives up! She finished her song gloriously!

YiLi explained, through a translator, that she lives with her "mama" , "baba", and grandmothers on both sides - no other foster children. She obviously loves them dearly, and is too young to understand that she could not live with them past the age of 14 within the foster care system, atleast. And very few families would be able to afford or would be willing to keep a foster child without being recompensed by the government. Please pray for YiLi as she works through her grief when she comes home to us.

She wants to own a grocery store when she grows up so that she can have all the food she wants and so that she can share it with all her friends. Even this is unusual. Many orphans cannot give an answer when asked what they want to be "when they grow up" because they cannot imagine the future at all.

When asked her favorite toy, she almost could not think of an answer. When she finally did, she gave this little sideways grim toward her nanny as if they shared this funny little secret, and then said "toy gun".

Her favorite animal? Little sheep . . . why . . . because they eat grass. Now it very well may be that a lamb is not her favorite animal at all. Maybe it's all she could think of in the stress of the moment. But it got me to thinking about how we are all just little lambs . . . and how we are all adopted . . . and how we can tell YiLi about a loving Shepherd who doesn't rest until all His sheep are safe in the fold. When He calls her name, I hope with my whole heart that she knows the Shepherd's voice and follows him!

OK, almost done! Here's the connection. A young mom at my church makes these hats on demand in the shape of different animals. So I asked her to come up with a lambie hat, to use her own creativity, which she has a LOT of, to create a hat for YiLi to wear. It went from there to her making a dozen or so hats for us to leave at YiLi's orphanage! God must have known that we would be headed there right at the onset of a very cold winter, to the north of China! Thank you, Nicole, for your ministry of hats! So much love went into these hats, and we can't wait to take them with us. Here's Lambie Hat!

Peace in the midst of "Yikes!"

We are leaving for China most likely two weeks from today! That also happens to be Thanksgiving Day! I can't think of anything better to be doing than crossing the ocean to bring home our daughters YiLi Rebecca and Hannah Gan!
Let me show you the first pictures we ever saw of the girls:

I am not sure, but I think Gan was about nine years old here. I'll never understand why no one chose to adopt her before now, other than God meant for her to be a part of our family, but isn't it sad that she waited so long? That's why she is named Hannah. Hannah in the Bible waited a very long time for a son. Our Hannah has waited a very long time for a family. Hannah dedicated her son to God and we will do the same for our Hannah until she hopefully makes that decision for herself!

This is YiLi. We have some pictures of her when she was four years old, but they are not on the computer. She is really chubby faced, with very short hair, and she is standing at the top of a sliding board waving to the world! And this is the closest I've come to a picture with some of the girls together. We'll fix that as soon as we arrive home!

Well, we have a lot to do! So many little details to wrap up! Pray that we pack everything necessary, and, like my older brother Bob says, anything we forgot we can pick up at Walmart!

We'll let you know travelling details as they are received. Our agency is working at obtaining a definite consulate appointment date, on which the whole trip is based. We hope to know today, but may not until Monday due to tomorrow's holiday!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our first birthday celebration after we come home!

I told you Rick was really getting into this "baba" role. He can't wait to start building some traditions that followed his childhood. So we were talking this morning at the kitchen table. I was saying the Gan's birthday is January 3, soon after our return home.

Rick says "Well, first we are going to celebrate someone's birthday Who isn't even physically with us. That will help the girls understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us! We'll sing Happy Birthday and have a cake for Jesus."

That is how his parents taught him about Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas . . . and thus we will pass on our first tradition to our girls!

Come on, travel approval, we need to get to China!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chip in button up and running I think!

This is just in case anybody feels so led to help us get to China and back!

Poor Rick, or is he?

Let me see, there's Grandma Grace (Rick's mom), Gramma Margie (my mom), Brittany, Mia Rose (a.k.a. Meemurs, aka Licky-face Monsterhead Dog, a.k.a. Mimi), Holly Noel, (aka Licky-face Monsterhead Dog II, a.k.a. Ha-ey Ha Ha), then there's Hannah Gan a.k.a. Gan Gan, and YiLi Rebecca, and me, (wife and mother), and then there's:

Rick, husband, step-father, son, soon to be a.k.a. Baba, Daddy . . . "poor Rick" hmmmm - outnumbered, maybe, but "poor", definitely not!

The Bible says in I John 3:1: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God."  Psalm 127 calls children "a heritage from the Lord", going on to speak about fruit of the womb.  Yet, as we are grafted in to the fold, so are our adopted children also being grafted into our family! I see Rick being transformed into a "baba" right before my eyes and heart!  Look at those kind eyes!

Nope, Daddy and his girls, richest guy on Spruce Street! Now if we would just get our Travel Notice!

We have three daughters . . .

Sometimes in the hubub of the adoption, we don't forget our birth children, but they are in the background. One of the very first things I want to do as soon as we get home to Pennsylvania is have a photo taken with our three girls! One - single - picture - together!  And of course we will have a family shot taken! Brittany is a freshman in college nearby, and thus she will be unable to go to China with us. She called me last night, all excited, because she has decided to get her sisters charm bracelets for Christmas. She will start with hearts and their names engraved, but we have to wait until we find out which name each sister wants to be called. Her phonecall warms my heart, because this idea came from Brittany without any prompting on my part. I on the other hand have barely thought about Christmas yet!!! So let me introduce my beautiful daughter Brittany:

Brittany has the most engaging personality! She has a very big heart. I remember (OK here we go! I could do this forever!) when she was in pre-school she used to run up to children and hug them so fiercely that she would almost knock them down. We did have to temper that a bit, but the love for people was definitely there! To me, with Brittany being my only child (from my previous marriage), the fact that she without any hesitation opened her heart to these girls is from God above. This will definitely change her future in many ways, as well as the amount of time (at first) that I will have to travel and see her on campus, but she has supported Rick and I in every way! I love you, Brittany!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Closer to travelling!

This is only post#2 for us, but I am going to plunge right in ! Better to get some things recorded for posterity than none at all!

We received updates on both of our girls in the last week! We sent them cakes, cameras and letters through Angela at Ladybugs and Love. In hindsight, I wished that we would have sent everything through her, but since we had a brother of a church friend leaving for China, we sent letters and photo albums with him. The albums were suede and had english words on the front (family, smile, happy, love, home, belong, etc.) We got word that Gan has received her photo album and that she was happy about it.

When we got no word from the package we sent through Angela, we decided to ask for official updates through our agency in case that was the only way that her orphanage would respond.

Very quickly we got these pictures and answers to some of our questions! OK, I'm not having a lot of success placing these pics correctly, but you can get the idea! We notice the biggest change in YiLi. In her video she is VERY outgoing, a real performer for the audience at the orphanage. Here, she looks almost solemn. I can only surmise that she is in overwhelm mode - look at the changes in her life recently:
  1. She used to go to Kindergarten at the orphanage, now she attends the Qingdao City School for the Blind.
  2. That means she used to go to the orphanage daily (from her foster home) and now she does not.
  3. Her hair has been cut off up to her ears. She got new glasses.
  4. Being 7, she must know something is up, but still not be able to see the big picture. Even receiving the cake, she might know she is to be adopted, but I can only imagine she feels very out of control.

With Gan, and knowing more about the openness of her orphanage, I feel that she understands what is about to happen to her.  She also probably knows what her life will be like if she remains in China after she turns 14. Being almost age 12, though, she will have to sign indicating her wish to be adopted.

My good husband reminded me (from scripture) of what our job is: In 2nd Timothy 3: 14-17, in contrast to the increasingly evil world,we are told :  "But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, an dis profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thorougly equipped for every good work!"

To me, this says so much! Our godly parents gave us a heritage, we go forward with assurance, and we ARE equipped through Jesus for this work of bringing our beloved girls home and giving to them hope for an abundant life here and for eternity! We just have to plug along in faith, and God will be with us every step of the way!

P.S. You can see the tiniest little smirk on YiLi's face which is her personality coming through in spite of her "overwhelmedness" (Is that even a word LOL?). And I love love love Gan's smile!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When it all started is a bit blurry . . .

I marvel that it seemed we alone were given a dream in our hearts by God to adopt. We felt like Noah building the ark in our little town. Well, that's not quite true. Our friends Bill and Faith have adopted domestically and from China, and are in the middle of the process to adopt two daughters. What I'm trying to say, though, is, until we entered the process and discovered the internet as it relates to adoption, we never knew that God was sweeping this dream into the hearts of many, many families, most of them devoted Christians! That was such a pleasant surprise to me because these unmet people have quickly become a strong support system for us. They understand, they get it, they don't think we're crazy!

The dream seemed to come out of nowhere until I traced little threads back through the years to see God's handiwork. My daughter Brittany and I went to Romania in 2005 on a short term mission trip to ring handbells and work in an orphanage (not necessarily in that order). That trip changed both of us forever, and yet I felt so useless! All those sweet children and none could be adopted! In the same year God had prompted my yet unknown husband to pick up and move back from Florida to Pennsylvania to rent a house sight unseen, right around the corner from Brittany and I. We never met until the following January when his mother slyly (yes "slyly" not "shyly") seated us side by side at a church tureen dinner she begged him to attend. I was the worship leader there and he attended another church, and boy were we mad! But I guess she knew what she was doing because we have been married now for just shy of five years, a feat which she takes credit for but ultimately it was God! We live in that house around the corner, and my mom lives in the house Britt and I used to live in.

The early marriage was very hard on Brittany - I did not know at the time that she was so unhappy about our life then. Let's just say that even though Rick does not have any children of his own that these next few years gave him some really good experience that might be useful when our daughters, ages 7 and 11, come home from China! We rejoice to say that Brittany, although she now lives a few blocks away with her dad, has come through this difficult time in her life with a strong faith in Christ.

We believe in God's timing. So even though I feel sad that Brittany will be off to college (close by) and I wish that she would be here at least one more year so that we could all bond as a family, I can look back and see that this is when all of this was supposed to happen! It couldn't have happened sooner, and frankly we would be too old if it happened too much later!!!

I know that I never expected to marry again, I never expected the joy of motherhood again, and here I am with a husband whose heart belongs first to God and then to me and then to the daughters that he already loves. His heart is very special. He has this uncanny depth of loyal love for his family. He never gave up on Brittany even when she was really unkind to him and difficult to be around. I give God praise for orchestrating all of this and I cannot thank him enough!

OK - so this is my very first blog. Considering that we did not get email until November 2010, and that I had never heard of the word "blog", I hope this is sufficient. Maybe when I don't have to catch up on five years of history in a few paragraphs it will get easier!

Next time I"ll tell you about lambie hats and the name of our blog . . .