Saturday, May 28, 2016

An Answer to Hard Questions

Hard questions are being asked. Good questions. Meaningful questions. Well-intentioned questions. We've actually asked them, as well. These questions were on our hearts before beginning the process to host an orphan. I believe one in particular deserves some extra attention. You've asked the question too, just maybe not out loud. Perhaps this question prompts you to doubt what we are doing. I'm thankful that our closest friends and church family have asked it directly. It absolutely needs to be asked and if we aren't considering it, we have done a disservice to many. This question needs to be answered with truth. I will attempt to do that now.

Is hosting Fu Yi for one month really in her best interest? We are pulling her out of her comfort zone. As horrendous as her circumstances may be, they are familiar to her and these children cling to anything that feels familiar. She will experience atrocious jet lag and severe confusion. Certainly a 5 year old child who has Down Syndrome and lives in an orphanage can not comprehend the explanation that she's "going to camp in America." She will be met at the airport by a couple who looks nothing like her, a couple who doesn't even speak her language. It is our understanding that her nannies may tell her to call us "Momma and Papa." Exhausted, confused, and scared, she will be told to come with us. And if this trauma isn't enough for her already battered soul...

We will whisk her away to what seems like paradise. Our expensive car, a house she never dreamed could be so big, all her needs immediately met. She will feel love like never before. She'll have so many people doting over her and making sure she is always comfortable. She will have her own bed, be celebrated, entertained, read to, played with, hugged, held, fed, and loved like a daughter.

4 weeks passes and this couple who has shown her the world is driving her back to the airport. Once again, she stands confused, perhaps feeling abandoned once more. How can her little mind possibly understand why we haven't kept her? Why would this family, who seemed to love her so much, now send her back? Back to the muck, back to the hell of living as an orphan.

This is going to wreck her, on so many levels. And I haven't mentioned how it will wreck us. It's going to be painful from all perspectives. So, that question nags again... Is this really what's best for a child who has already experienced unthinkable tragedy and trauma? Clearly, we have considered the ramifications of hosting this child. We asked the important question, the same one you've asked. We've prayed over it and ache just thinking about her fragile little heart.

Yes. Yes, this is what's best for Fu Yi. It's what's best for our family. It's what's best for every person in this community who has the privilege of meeting her. And it's best for the Kingdom of God.

Without this opportunity, Fu Yi may never know what it feels like to be loved. Can one month of unconditional love have a lifetime effect? We believe so. There are countless studies that show the positive and lasting effects of being loved, even for 2 weeks. "Being loved" includes tender touch, eye contact, meeting of needs, etc. We have personally witnessed firsthand, 2 of our own children make exponential progress within 2 weeks, after leaving an orphanage for our loving arms. It's tremendous to witness.

Fu Yi sits in an institution, eligible for adoption but with no one pursuing her. This program allows us to advocate on her behalf. We will work hard to find a family willing to adopt her. Her chances of being adopted increase dramatically as a result of being in the hosting program. If she is adopted, the residual trauma doesn't immediately disappear but it does begin to dissipate more and more over time. Being adopted into a loving family has miraculous implications on the progress of these children. This is true for physical, psychological, and cognitive developmental issues. The love of a family truly changes lives. Having Fu Yi placed in a family (God willing) will not erase what's been done but will allow for major healing.

Think about the possible implications for our friends and this village as a whole. Fu Yi represents every orphan around the globe. She is a real face, a real child to hold and hug. She is only one orphan but will give face to so many who have no voice, no connection to the outside world. Our prayer is that this community may be changed forever by her visit. We believe hearts may never be the same after meeting and caring for this child. She will bring awareness and education for those who may never otherwise be aware of the harsh reality around the globe. We know God will use this experience to change the hearts of everyone who comes in contact with her.

What about our family? Is it fair to set our kids' hearts up for breaking? I think back on so many journeys where we have exposed them to difficult reality, in order that they too may grow closer to Jesus. I look back at both of our adoptions, for example. I remember being genuinely concerned about how the adoption may effect our kids. The concern is valid but hindsight is so much richer. Yes, our children have been changed. They now argue over who will adopt first, or who will get to care for their younger sister and brother. They pray about missions and have an understanding of orphan care that most adults do not. I also think back on the time we hosted 3 little girls from Uganda, for 3 days. When they left, we all grieved. I remember Anna Grace sobbing because she couldn't understand why they couldn't be her sisters. We had many talks that we would never otherwise have had. Talks about how they are already our sisters, and what it means to be connected to other Christians around the world. Talks about what these children experience in their every day lives. Talks about how they want to be missionaries for God's Kingdom because of what they've seen and experienced. Yes, they've been hurt, there has been pain, and sometimes confusion. But God has always answered with His faithful healing and refining. Yes, they've been changed and we expect they'll be changed by this as well. Praise God! May we never shelter our children in order that we may "protect" them from truth. When we think we're doing something wise, we may actually be preventing them from truly understanding who our God is.

Is this situation ideal for Fu Yi? No. But while asking this hard question, we must consider another. Is it ideal that this child was abandoned right before her first birthday? Is it ideal that she sits in an orphanage with no one fighting on her behalf? Absolutely not. Adoption and orphan care is never plan A. In a perfect world, devoid the fall, these children would be loved by their biological fathers. But sin has prevailed in many of their lives and as believers in a loving God, we must be His hands and feet in working out His plan of redemption for these victims.

There's one answer to your question that outweighs every other answer I've given above.

As followers of Christ, it is our life's mission to know Christ fully and to make Him known to every  soul in every nation. " Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."(Matthew 28:18-20) We believe that God uses every means in order that we would fulfill His great commission. We know that God will use this hosting opportunity to work in Fu Yi's life. She will hear the gospel while she is here. We will remind her of it often. This will be, by far, the most important thing she receives while she is here. While we absolutely want to find a family to adopt her, our ultimate goal for Fu Yi is that she comes to love Christ. He is her saving grace. He is her key to salvation. If our goal as Christians is to make Him known, then this is exactly what we must do for Fu Yi. By hosting Fu Yi, we feel we are being obedient in Jesus' final call to make disciples of all nations. It's messy and it's painful. Hearts will be broken. But we want... God wants redemption for Fu Yi. We must remember what Jesus experienced in order to redeem souls.

I was an orphan. I was lost, separated from my father, scrounging on the floor of an orphanage, awaiting hell. I was comfortable in my misery. I didn't know I needed to be rescued. But God knew. And He knew it would cost everything in order to rescue me from that orphanage. And He loved me enough to do just that. He gave everything. He gave His dignity, His security and comfort, His spot on a heavenly throne, His life. He went to hell where He was completely separated from His own Father. He literally experienced what it means to be an orphan so that we could be adopted as sons into our Father's forever family, His eternal Kingdom! Did it hurt? You bet it did. Infinitely more than you could ever imagine. Was salvation of souls worth it? He promises it was. I pray that you see the gospel in our story. I pray that you see glory through the darkness.

We have to tread through the muck, and drag Fu Yi with us, in order to enter the other side. But her soul is at stake and it's worth the fight. We can't risk the possibility that she may never hear truthful, good news. Following Christ and being a part of fulfilling His will is difficult work. If we want to be like Jesus, if we want to be a picture of the gospel, we must be willing to carry our cross, even go to hell in order for souls to be redeemed. It's all His work but we are His vessels and we gladly go where He calls us in order to find even one lost soul. "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" (Luke 15:4) Fu Yi's soul is too important to her Shepherd. We must be willing to face the pain, go wherever He leads, and do whatever is necessary, in order that she be found.



This subject has been discussed among friends who have hosted in the past. Here are some of their thoughts on the matter.

"I do worry that I will be inflicting more trauma, but at the same time, they only have 2 years until they age out. It's more traumatic to spend the rest of your life without a family. And I pray it not only helps these boys, but also other older boys who wait."

"This is the first time we've heard of this program and we never considered an older child. Now we will be bringing home 2 amazing children!"

"This child would have died had he not had the hosting opportunity with us. His file was way off, medically speaking and in general. Words typed on a paper cannot ever fully tell a family about a child but we were able to tell everyone about his adorable laughter, the way he was so polite and knew boundaries, the pictures we took to share with potential families were photos that were not staged. They were live action and spoke volumes about his development. No piece of paper could have ever told an interested family how absolutely precious and smart our little guy was! Hosting allows for all this and so much more! Our guy needed medical treatment ASAP (which was discovered by doctors here) and he received that. He now has a mommy and daddy who hold him and tell him his story, how he came to us so we could help him find them, and how we all love him to pieces!"

"This is probably the last shot for some of these kids. It's now or never."

"It's not perfect. It's not our first choice. It's our last choice. But more hard-to-place kids are coming out of the orphanages because of hosting. It's a heartbreaking journey, yes. But it's the last chance in a road of waiting and waiting."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Waves of Mercy

"The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea- the Lord on high is mighty." (Psalm 93:3-4)

I sat on the edge of our bed last night, as Seamus assembled the toddler bed for Fu Yi. "I'm sad, Seamus. I have hope but my heart hurts," my voice trembled. I felt like bursting in to tears but I knew that would be ridiculous. "This is only one wave, Laura. There will be many more." Sigh.

He was right, this was only one wave. That's a scary thought because the waves in life sometimes feel like more than I can bear. The breaking and crashing of a powerful wave is sometimes enough to tear us down. We know there will be more, so my perspective must be in order. I can let these waves drown me, or I can find a way to float atop.

Exactly one week ago, a lady contacted me. She saw my post on FB and was moved by what she'd read. She and her husband wanted to learn more about Fu Yi and said they were interested in adopting her! Our conversation continued for many days. They asked questions. They requested her medical file from the agency. They prayed. And after a lot of back and forth, I received a message that brought tears to my eyes. "We really believe she may be our daughter, Laura." You can imagine the joy that filled my heart.

Fu Yi has been dealt a crappy hand of cards. She was born with Down Syndrome, abandoned before she turned one year old and was left to fend for herself in an orphanage. The trauma she has experienced in the first few years of her life is overwhelming to consider. I'm not blind to how children are treated in these orphanages, and I've certainly seen how children with Down Syndrome are at an even higher risk for abuse and neglect. It physically hurts to imagine Fu Yi's past and present circumstances. But now! Now I could actually imagine redemption in her life! Could God have seriously revealed His plan for Fu Yi so soon? Of course He could! He is the God who gave up everything to redeem!

Soon after receiving this elating message, I received another. "We've prayerfully discerned that Fu Yi is not our daughter, after all. God has called us to adopt an older child..." My heart sank. I sobbed. I took a deep breath and responded, "I am thankful for your listening to God's will in everything! I give Him praise for that. I am also thankful that you will be pursuing an older child. How wonderful! Please be in prayer for Fu Yi and ask the Lord to direct our steps in advocating. Thank you for being so open and honest. Big hugs!" With a broken heart, I hit send.

The biggest waves in my life manifest themselves through the unknown. I don't know what God's plan is for Fu Yi. That scares me. A lot. It shouldn't. That fear is nothing more than a lack of faith. Has He or has He not promised to work all things out for His glory and for my good (Romans 8:28)? With our eyes fixed on the One who calms the waves, we overcome, even welcome them. We become stronger, we grow closer to our God who has a plan to redeem.

Who am I to question, for one second, how God is working in Fu Yi's life? Do I really believe He doesn't have huge blessings in store for her? I confess. My grieving the loss of this family was essentially saying that God doesn't know best. While God certainly calls us to fight on her behalf, I have zero say in what her destiny will be. He used this recent experience in order that I would repent, turn back to Him and His sovereignty. He so graciously and gently reminded me that His ways are not mine (Isaiah 55:8).

No, I can't control whether or not Fu Yi gets adopted. I can't remove her current circumstances. Yes, God has a plan and I'm not privy to it yet. Here's what we'll do as instruments of God's will and purpose. We will pray boldly, asking God for huge miracles. We will love her with whole hearts, completely vulnerable. We will fight fiercely on her behalf. We will speak truth and we will never be silent. She has no voice but that ends now. The waves will not overcome us. They have no power against a God who owns them. "You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them." (Psalm 89:9) We will embrace HIS waves of love and unending mercy. We will rest knowing that the God who loves orphans infinitely more than we do, will fulfill all things good. "The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly." (Isaiah 60:22) He is the song for the suffering and at HIS perfect moment, redemption's tune will overwhelm Fu Yi. Of this, I am confident.


You call me out beyond the shore onto the waves! (Great song;)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Life-Changing T-Shirts!

We can hardly wait to love on Fu Yi while she visits us this summer. Showing her the light of Jesus and the love of a family for one month will be monumental in her life. In addition to how we relate directly to her, we pray to also have an impact through advocating on her behalf. One aspect of advocating for Fu Yi includes providing assistance for the future adoptive family. We know that this assistance and support might be the difference between finding her forever family or not. We want to provide families the opportunity to get to know her. We will provide medical care and further information about her health. We will pray for and with this family, and we are happy to answer questions as they arise.

Another support we can offer is financial assistance. We do not want the cost of adoption to be an obstacle for anyone willing to welcome this child into their family. We have an account set aside specifically for an adoption grant. Any donations made through our Paypal account (lauraloman@yahoo.com) from now until the end of Fu Yi's visit, will go directly toward this grant. Please feel free to click "donate" on our blog homepage at any time, in order to help fund Fu Yi's adoption expenses. We will also be hosting a few fundraisers over the coming months, in order to fund the grant. We will keep you posted on the grant balance as we move forward.

Our first fundraiser is beginning now and we'd love your help! We've had t-shirts designed and want you to wear them with us! These shirts are the super soft material and come in adult and youth sizes. The shirts are pictured below. The adult shirt color is not exactly the same as the youth shirt color (see below). The cost is $20 per shirt (please add $2 for 2XL and 3XL), plus $4 per order if you would like them shipped. If you don't want your order shipped, you can pick them up in Madisonville (we will email you with our address). Wear them for our summer events with Fu Yi, or give them as gifts! Everyone loves super soft tees and the cause is so worthwhile!

To order t-shirts, please send payment ($20 per shirt plus $4 shipping if applicable; *Please add $2 for 2XL and 3XL shirts) through Paypal with the quantity and sizes (YS-YL, AXS-A3XL) written in the notes section. To access our Paypal account, you can click on "donate" on this blog homepage or simply use our email address (lauraloman@yahoo.com). We will take preorders until June 1st, and shirts should arrive in mid to late June. This will allow everyone to get their shirts in time for Fu Yi's arrival!

Thank you very much for all the love and support we have already received through this hosting process. Fu Yi is already one loved little girl, that's for sure. She really hasn't been given a chance in the first 5 years of her life but together we will be her voice! Your prayers have been heard on her behalf. God DOES place the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6) and will work mightily in Fu Yi's life. Let's continue fighting for her by beefin' up this adoption grant. Get busy ordering some shirts!

Youth
Adult
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Host to Advocate

Well friends, we are embarking on a new adventure. Our hearts remain in China, being burdened for the lost and particularly the orphan. We are so humbled to do God's work when He calls. Once again, He's done just that. He has led us to a ministry that gives us the opportunity to love the least of these and fight for the most vulnerable among us. We have been so eager to share this exciting news with you and pray that you will walk alongside us on this hard and beautiful road.

This summer, our family will host an orphaned child from China. This child is eligible for adoption but no one pursues her, so she waits in a state run institution. She will have the opportunity to live with us for one month, know the love of a family and be introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While she is here, we will fiercely advocate on her behalf. We will do all that God wills in order that her forever family be found. We will also work to raise money for a grant that can be given to a family willing to adopt her. We know how expensive international adoption is and we don't want that to be an obstacle for a family ready to love this child. Stay tuned for information on a FUNdraiser we are planning!

I know you're ready to meet this sweetie! Her name is "Fu Yi" and she is an adorable 5 year old who has Down's Syndrome. Her medical information indicates that she's very healthy. She is described as shy and timid. She looks scared and skeptical in all of her pictures but we know the amazing impact of loving a child, even if only for a few weeks. We are beyond excited to watch her joy emerge! We have plenty more to share with interested families. And we'll have SO much more to share once she's here.

Wondering how you can help? The options are almost endless and we will definitely keep you informed about her needs. For now, we are asking for prayer. Please pray that Fu Yi's heart will be well-prepared for her visit here. Pray that God would work mightily on her behalf, both in China and during her visit here. Pray that the Holy Spirit would soften and awaken hearts of the family who He has willed to adopt her. If you have the gift of prayer, perhaps you can commit to praying for her daily. We know firsthand how powerful prayer is and it's certainly where God wants us to begin.

We will begin advocating for her in various ways, before she even arrives. You'll see many FB posts and blog entries, as we search for her forever family. We will be planning our fundraising event for her adoption grant. We will be busy with paperwork and training, as required by the agency in charge. Before she arrives, we'll have fun shopping for girly clothes, toiletries, traveling games and anything else we can think of to spoil her (she comes with nothing, only the clothes she is wearing). When she arrives, we will have plenty of opportunities for you to meet her. We love that you can be a part of loving on her, even if you aren't the family that God calls to adopt her! If, at any point, you think God may be calling you to inquire about her, please do. Our home will be open and we welcome anyone to spend time at our house while she's here. Let us pray with you, spend more time with her, ask us a hundred questions, whatever you think is in order. Just let us know how we can help.

We are thrilled about this opportunity that God has so graciously laid upon us. We know He provides when He calls. I can barely wait to see how He shows up and works in all of this. All glory be to God and His good will to Fu Yi and each of you! (Romans 8:28)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Today is Sweet

Samuel has been home for almost 5 months. I have so much to share yet the words don't easily flow. My review of Samuel's progress and God's goodness will never be sufficient in giving God the praise He is due. I think that's part of the reason I haven't written a post lately. It's hard to put in to words how mightily God has worked in our lives, in the lives of our littles. Still, God calls me to sing His praises from the rooftops and I gladly give it my best shot.

Samuel has made incredible strides. When we were in China, he was barely walking. He would take a fumbling step or two at a time. He now runs through the house yelling for his big sister, "Nei Nei!" (That would be Mei Mei... Oh and yes, she sings, "watch me whip, whip, watch me Mei Mei." That girl is something else). Samuel's weight and height are completely on track for a child his age. He's saying about 15 words and clearly understands everything we tell him. He has the most beautiful belly laugh of anyone I've ever known. I'm convinced those baby belly laughs will be the sound that echoes through heaven. He has formed a genuine attachment to all 6 of us and has a very healthy balance of affection and fear towards others. When he first came home, he was terrified of anyone and everyone, except for our immediate family. He shuttered if someone said "no" and was clearly traumatized by previous events in his life. This sweet boy is now healthy, confident and secure. Truly miraculous. Only God can transform a life like this. From ashes to beauty, that's God's specialty.

And his "special need"... y'all. This kid is amazing. He is incredibly resourceful with his little hand, as we call it. He has learned to pick everything up with it so that he is able to manipulate with his fingers on his right hand. He does whatever the other kids are doing, with no problem. We encourage him to try everything before we help him. "I can't" is not allowed in our house and we will expect the same from Samuel. The biggest tragedy resulting from his special need is the fact that he was abandoned because of it. While this need seems insignificant to us, his birthparents probably felt that he needed serious medical intervention. And of course, the people of China have very little access to any sort of medical resources. I have a painful desire, literally a physical ache, to share with his birthparents how very well he's doing. Apart from the tragedy of abandonment, we consider his special need a gift. We know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). I am sure that God has huge plans for Samuel. Plans for pain, no doubt. But in the end, pain that leads to faith. Plans to prosper. (Jeremiah 29:11) Despite what our culture tells us, we know it's a privilege to have a thorn in our side (2 Cor. 12:7-10) because Jesus uses that to bring us closer to Him. My prayer for Samuel is not that God would take away the pain, the questions, the physical limitations, or the teasing from other kids (which we already endure). My prayer is that He would use this thorn to draw Samuel into a greater need for Christ. "Head winds are right for royal sails." ~ RW Emerson

Neat side story while I'm talking about Samuel's little hand... We are at a fall community event, maybe 500 people there. Kids are running around, we're all enjoying the day. A man sees Samuel and we hear him say, "Timmy, come see! His hand is just like yours!" Long story short, we began talking. Their teenage son has amniotic band syndrome and they just happen to spot Samuel. Y'all... this is a RARE special need. Turns out this boy is the baseball pitcher at our local high school. He pitches the ball with his left hand and quickly puts his catching glove on. Amazing, right? So we ran into them again and his mom brought us a goody bag with some very special things. One of the items is a glove that Mizuno fit and made specifically for their son. They wanted Samuel to have this! I am so overwhelmed at how God works through every day situations. Truly another miracle. We couldn't even find another family in the area with this if we tried. But God. God orchestrated our meeting so perfectly. Do you reckon we'll be attending some of his baseball games? We can't wait!

Yes, the Lomans are doing well. We are forever grateful for the support you have offered, for the checking in, and the prayers that you faithfully pour over us. This season of life is extremely hairy but it's what God has blessed us with and we roll with it every day. I am so often asked, "Is your family finished growing?" Oh goodness, that reminds me... a sweet angel contacted me the other day and asked if we'd be growing. She wanted to know because she felt called to help financially, the way she had for our journey to Samuel. Do ya' think I was humbled? Man! Could that be God reminding me that He will always faithfully provide when we are doing His will? I've learned never to guess what our future holds. God's plans are not ours and thankfully, his prevail. I do know one thing. I feel a tad restless. I sense that in my husband too. Restless in the sense that there is too much work to be done for Christ. Too many orphans, too many who don't know Christ, for me to be sitting in cozy suburbia. That being said, I also feel a deep peace in what God has given me for now. He has called me to be a supportive wife, to shepherd our children, to educate them at home. It's clear they are where my focus should be right now. It's not always easy and it's often thankless. But God sees. And He wants me right here. So I wait. Restless but content. I press on, hopefully honoring God all my days. I don't know if our family is complete. He hasn't revealed that to us yet. I don't even know what tomorrow holds. I do know that we are His and I find immeasurable comfort in that. If He leads us to a dirt hut in a volatile land occupied by Christian haters, then we'll go. But today, God has us right here. And today is sweet.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Embracing Power in Weakness

"As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength." (Psalm 18:30-32)

I'll be honest. I've struggled with what to write about next. We are in the midst of a season where God is working mightily. He called us to some hard and exciting stuff. Samuel has been home for 6 weeks and the range of emotions and recent happenings are plentiful. I'll give a quick update on how everyone's doing but I really want to focus on how God is changing me, what He is doing through our lives and in my heart.

We are finding our new "normal" and beginning to adjust to what life with Samuel looks like. Throwing a 15 month old in to the mix has not been easy but our little guy and our entire family are making incredible strides. Sleep has been hit and miss, down time is rare, and the energy level in our home is through the roof. I spend most of my time just laughing at the chaos. I'm afraid I may cry if I stop laughing. Samuel has bonded with us beautifully. We are completely comfortable with having him around other people but it will be a little longer before we let anyone else hold, change, feed, or bathe him. For now, you'll have to take my word for it that those cheeks are the. most. kissable. We are waiting for some blood work to come back but are pretty sure he's completely healthy. We believe he's extremely bright and we know he's incredibly sensitive.

I still can't believe he's home. It's all a whirlwind, but sometimes I just stop and look in to those dark, soulful eyes. I wonder what I did to deserve him. Nothing, I remind myself.  I am mystified over a God who would give us such a lofty gift, a God who would make this precious spirit a son... a son to us... a son to Him. Abundant grace. Sometimes there just aren't any words to describe this great privilege we have.

I am overwhelmed by God's goodness. I am amazed at what He has entrusted us with, and even more amazed that because of His strength (Phil. 4:13), we are completely capable. God is reminding me to be keenly aware of the fact that everything we do is because of Him, for Him, and impossible without Him. Yes, we have a lot going on. And it's oftentimes hard. But what a privilege to be shown, and reminded daily, that His power is made perfect in my weakness (2Cor.12:9). This life He's given us... it's rich because with every challenge that presents itself, I am drawn closer to the only One who can handle it.

As I grow in my salvation, it's becoming clear to me how some of my friends have 9 and 10 children. I know... GASP! I'm not saying that's God's plan for our life. These friends are people who rely solely on the power of Christ in their homes. They don't have much money, they don't have all the answers, but God has always come through for them. I learn so much from these sisters.

People tell me, "I don't know how you do it." They say it to you too. They definitely say it to my friends with 9 and 10 kids. It can be about anything, really. For us, they're talking about the adoptions, losing children, having 5 children, homeschooling, working from home while rearing, all of it. Here's the thing. I don't do it. I really, really don't, y'all. My best friends can tell you that I've mastered the art of complaining. That's my flesh. If it were up to me, it would all fall apart. Every piece of it. BUT GOD. He is able, and His grace is sufficient. If we just believe that, if we could just wake up to the reality of His unrelenting love for us, if only we could remember His unwavering faithfulness. It's our own pride that stands between us and real joy. It's our own fear that prevents us from stepping out into the waves. God promises only good things when we step out for Him (not easy things but good things... very different).  

I don't know what your "not me" looks like. I don't know if you're contemplating adoption, considering a new job, moving to Asia to become a missionary, or trying to decide what you'll cook for dinner tonight. I do know one thing. God is able. God is able and He never disappoints. He always provides and He will never forsake you. That doesn't mean He grants your every wish. What it does mean is that if your desire is OF HIM, in conformity to His will, He will grant. He will provide. (Psalm 37:4) This life is but a vapor. Step out, friends. Step out without fear. Whatever that looks like in your life. Start with prayer. Listen for His will, spelled out clearly in scripture. The plan He's calling you to may seem impossible, but the One who is calling you to that impossible task is the One who can and will faithfully provide in it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Home. Hard. Humbled.

It's been quite a ride and I wasn't sure when I'd have a moment to sit and write again. We obviously made it home. It wasn't an easy 27 hour journey but God delivered us home safely. All praise to Him who called us, carried us, and brought Samuel into His fold!

Jet lag is a beast. I've traveled to Europe and ended up a little sleepy for a week. But this is more like an illness. Samuel and I are trying to adjust with lots of water, sunshine, and big kids who keep us awake during the day. I'm exhausted but just so grateful to be home with plenty of time to heal, rest, and love on my people. We're not getting back to school work until next week at the earliest so we have a little time to just "be".

Samuel and I are both being tested this week for parasites. I didn't realize this until yesterday but about 80% of children who come home from China have Giardia. Ugh! We've both exhibited symptoms but they come and go so it's hard to know if we're infected or just suffering the effects of a virus or jet lag.

Suzi is adjusting well to being home. She's glad to be back with her "girls" (dogs) and seems to be resting well. We are so grateful that she could come with me to China. Suzi has so much energy, which was helpful in running for food and anything else we needed. She is a prayer warrior and was faithful in that during our trip. I'm sure those prayers, and yours, carried us through!

As far as attachment and bonding, Samuel is adjusting amazingly well. Until about a week ago, he was terrified of strangers. I consider it a complete miracle that he attached to me within minutes. This was absolutely an answer to prayer. He was afraid of Suzi, however, and anyone else who came within a few feet of him. This was very difficult because he spent hours just screaming in the hotel room where the 3 of us lived together. As a result of his fear, I chose to forego many of the sightseeing opportunities and build a safe environment for him in our hotel room. He made great progress with Suzi when we got to Guangzhou and I was thankful for that peace. He doesn't seem to be as afraid of strangers anymore. Praise God for progress!

He adores his daddy. It took him about a day to really warm up but after some bottles and hugs, he claimed Seamus as his favorite. Melts my heart. He's very playful and has learned quickly how to keep up with his 4 older siblings. We will continue to shelter him at home until our bond is solidified and he seems certain that we will meet all his needs. He has come a long way in a short time. I am so thankful that he's beginning to feel safe. He's definitely learning that we are his family and will not leave him with anyone else. This is a process, of course, and he'll grow stronger in his security every day.

We are overwhelmed by the amount of support we have received throughout our adoption journey and now, as we've returned home. I could seriously write a thousand thank you notes if I had the time or energy. For now, THANK YOU. You know who you are. The airport welcome, photography, cards, texts and FB comments, errands, donations, prayers, babysitting. The meals, oh my goodness, the meals. Is there a greater blessing on earth for a daddy with 4 kids on his own and a mama who comes home with no energy and 7 mouths to feed?

When God called us to another adoption, I had no idea how it would happen. We didn't have the money, the energy, the resources to go through this long and hard process again. We did hear His promise whispered over and over again, "I. Will. Provide." He is so faithful, y'all. He never leaves a single detail unaccounted for when He calls us to something. He provided everything we needed through YOU, His hands and feet. I can't stress enough that each and every one of you are the reason that Samuel is home with his forever family.

Orphan care is a ministry we embraced by going to China, according to His plan. Orphan care is a ministry YOU embraced by serving us with your gifts. I honestly know that many more people would adopt internationally if they were sure they might receive the same support we have. I know this for a fact. I know it because I've talked to so many people who say, "We can't because...We would but...". I ask that whatever gift you used to bless us, please continue to use that to encourage other families who want to adopt. Please hear this again. Every card we received, every meal, every hug... it's orphan care. You cared for the least of these, just as God calls us all to do. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

We would be grateful if you would continue to keep us in your prayers as we navigate these hard days ahead. I believe the worst is behind us and I have no doubt God will continue to provide. He has taken us on an incredible journey of kingdom work and we are humbled to be lived in and through. It's exciting to think about where He may lead us next. For now... I need a nap.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Consulate Appointment and Shamian Island

Today was a very busy day. We are finally back in the room and the VPN is on! Quick... type before it erases!

Some families had their consulate appointments yesterday so we chilled during that. Last night was the dinner cruise and Samuel and I skipped it. So glad I made that call because we were both tuckered out very early. We did go to the Noodle House with 2 other families for dinner (the other 2 families whose spouses aren't with them either). It was delicious and dirt cheap. Double score!

This morning we took our tour bus to the American Embassy where I swore an oath and Samuel was officially approved for his U.S. Visa! We returned to the hotel for about 15 minutes, enough time to potty and repack the diaper bag. Then it was off to Shamian Island, one of my favorite places in Guangzhou. It's a quaint little island with shops and restaurants.

We ate lunch at "Lucy's" right when we arrived. They cater to westerners and serve things like hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. I stuck with the chicken fried rice and noodles. Samuel and I shared and Suzi ate a chef salad. Then it was off for some shopping.

I bought all 5 of our kids beautiful silks (the traditional Chinese clothing). I can't wait to see them wearing them at church, Chinese New Year, etc. We had time to stop at 3 shops. Two of them are Christian-owned (we deliberately patronized them because we knew ahead of time who they were). We bought small gifts at each store and also took a rest at Starbucks. Y'all. I don't do Starbucks. Huge Planned Parenthood supporter, among other things, so I don't give them business. But when you're just desperate for a cup of joe... Chinese Starbucks can't be the same company, right? Er... Anyway, my hazelnut latte was delightful and I was so grateful for their western-style bathroom!

We had a little adventure on the way back to the hotel. Our bus driver hit a car! They don't call the police unless it's totaled so the drivers had a little discussion, we saw our driver give the guy some cash and we were on our way again. Samuel crashed on the bus (not like the first crash) and he's been out ever since. Getting your U.S. citizenship and painting the town red can be quite exhausting for a little fella.

Samuel is making great strides. He is a handful, which means he's adjusting well. I do still see moments of grief but not nearly as many. He is very comfortable with me and has begun asserting himself. Aren't they supposed to do that at 3? Mercy. He's not as affectionate as he was when he was really grieving. I'm missing those extra snuggles, but so thankful he's feeling safe. He's been really happy and playful, as long as he eats and sleeps. He'll fit right in with the rest of our crew!

Suzi is well. She is one active lady. She's always bringing us food, helping with bags, and makes me coffee in bed every morning! I told her today she's the best sidekick ever. Last week was so hard for so many reasons but one was because Samuel was terrified of Suzi (and everyone else). So if she was in the room, he just screamed. Can you imagine? We share a hotel room! He has really warmed up to her (Praise The Lord!) and I can tell she's falling in love with him. :) Last week was also a lot more emotional which adds an extra dynamic to an already hard scenario. This week has been a lot better for all 3 of us.

Now we wait for the consulate to issue Samuel's physical visa, which should be delivered to our hotel tomorrow afternoon. Families are advised to leave China no sooner than 48 hours after their consulate appointment, in case something goes wrong with processing the visa. This is why we don't fly out until Thursday night, even though all adoption related tasks are behind us. Did I really just type that? I'm leaving here Thursday night! That's only 2 days away!

Outside the American Embassy

Shamian Island

Sweet Sadie (also adopted)


This little American held out as long as he could. Exhausting Day! 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Friday, Saturday, Sunday

The days have become such a blur. Travel, paperwork, bonding, sight-seeing... I'm thankful for my calendar and clock.

On Friday afternoon, Suzi, Samuel and I flew from Nanjing to Guangzhou, where we are spending the rest of our time in China. All adoptive families have to spend week 2 in Guangzhou because this is where the American Embassy is located. The flight was pretty uneventful, especially for Samuel. We chose the window so he could be amazed at our flying. He was amazed by the back of his eye lids. Seriously, before we took off and until we landed. Hooray for sleeping babies! We made it to the airport where our guide was waiting with our itinerary for the week. We checked in to the Garden Inn and began the 2nd leg of our trip.

There are 9 families here who are with Lifeline, the same agency as us. We all stay at The Garden Inn (5 star hotel) because Lifeline gets an amazing group rate. On Saturday morning, we met our group in the lobby at 8:20AM. From there, we took our tour bus to the Guangzhou medical clinic. Samuel had to go through an evaluation before leaving the country. This is one of the requirements for adoptive families. The examination included a general well-check, measurements, and ENT. If your child is over 2 years old, he must have blood drawn for a TB test. Phew! Samuel did well but it was exhausting for everyone. That took about 3 hours.

We drove back to the hotel and then had to meet in a conference room at the hotel for more paperwork. This took about 2 hours and was helpful in getting prepared for our consulate appointment Tuesday. At that point, he and I were both at our limit. Suzi was busy getting food for us, as she has been doing often. Thank you, Suzi! Samuel and I ate in the room and took a good nap later in the afternoon. I think I remember ordering room service for dinner when we woke up. What a fog!

This morning we met our group downstairs at 9AM for scheduled sight-seeing and shopping. I was pretty bummed to see that no time had been carved out for worship. When we were here last year, we went to an amazing worship service but that wasn't in the cards this time. We made 2 stops before returning to the hotel. First, we went to the Chen Family house which is now a Chinese folk art museum. It's definitely one of my favorite places to visit in China. I had 2 chops made (a chop is a carved stamp that has your name in Chinese characters on it), one with our family name and one for Samuel because the other 4 kids received them on our last trip.

I also purchased a scroll for Samuel, just like one that we had made for Emily last year. The artist paints it right in front of you. Get this... I walk in to the shop that I was familiar with from last time. I immediately saw the cart full of hanging scrolls to display ordering options. I walk up to thumb through and Emily Hope's scroll was hanging right in front. I don't mean the same print or pattern. It said, "Emily Hope" and her birthday and Chinese name (Gao Yu) was written in Chinese! I guess they duplicated the one I ordered last time I was there and had been using it as a display ever since! There I was, in China, seeing the exact scroll that is hanging in Emily's room. For a minute, I really thought my mind was playing tricks on me.

After the folk art museum, we were driven to the market where they sell jade, pearls and other items, all at amazing prices. I purchased wedding pearls for my girls last time but did not spend any money here this time (except for a few small gifts). After spending an hour at the market, we were driven back to the hotel. Suzi went to the store for coffee creamer and water. Samuel and I went to McDonald's with 2 other families. That's about all we could handle. We are resting now and plan to just take it easy tonight and most of tomorrow.

Tomorrow (Monday), some families have their consulate appointments. We will rest until they are finished. Then we are going on a Pearl River dinner cruise at 5:30. It's not really as nice as it sounds but it's good to get together with the other families and just relax a little.

Our time here is dwindling. We will be on that long flight home before we know it. God has been so gracious and has provided for all our needs. We are comfortable, well-fed, and in good company. Samuel is making great progress. He was terrified of everyone but is warming up to Suzi quite nicely. Quite inconvenient for your baby to be terrified of someone living with you! Poor Suzi (and Samuel). I'm so thankful for her patience and for his growing to know her. 

Totally stressed on the flight ;)
At Samuel's medical

My view the second I walked in. Unreal.
Artist painting Samuel's scroll

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Orphanage Visit

Wednesday was supposed to be for sightseeing in Nanjing but I felt like that wasn't best for Samuel so we stayed behind and rested most of the day. Thursday was a huge day for us and I'm glad we chilled before that because we needed every ounce of energy we had stored.

We woke up Thursday morning (stomach in knots), ate breakfast and met our guide in the lobby at 7:00AM. We drove 4 hours to Samuel's orphanage, which is northeast of Nanjing. The city was beautiful, compared to many cities I have seen in China. It's on the east coast of China so most people there are fishermen or cater to tourists. The drive was uneventful and Samuel was an angel, as usual.

Lianyungang Social Welfare Institute has a new, beautiful building that was built about one year ago. We didn't get to see the old facility but suspect Samuel was never there anyway, since he's so young. The orphanage visit was short and not very thorough. Our experience here was very different from our visit to Baotou SWI, Emily's orphanage. We were greeted by several ladies who would walk us down the sterile hallways. They first showed us the room where Samuel had "play time" but there were no children in it at that moment. Then they asked us if we wanted to go visit his foster home, down the hallway. Foster home?

We knew that he was under the care of a "foster mom" but heard that he was still in the orphanage setting. We assumed it meant there was a particular Aiyi (nanny) who cared for him and a few others. We learned something amazing about the past 8 months of Samuel's life. In December, he was moved from the orphanage general population to a foster home that's attached to the orphanage. The house was probably about 800 square feet and he had a bedroom with his crib and another bed. It turns out he had a foster mother and father who loved him very much. He also lived in this house with 3 foster brothers and a baby sister.

When we entered the foster home, the brothers were there, along with the mother who was graciously cooking dumplings and other food for us to try. When she saw Samuel, she began to sob. He leapt for joy, kicking his legs and smiling at her. It was clear these 2 had a very special bond. I cried uncontrollably. The pain and the joy all in one was too much to hold in. The reunion was emotional and exhausting. There was the language barrier (we did have our translator with us, it was just very chaotic) and everyone was just overwhelmed. The foster mama was very concerned about Samuel's arm and wanted to make sure we would seek medical treatment. It was precious to see that she cared so deeply.

A few minutes in to the visit, the foster dad ("Baba") came home. His face lit up at the sight of his "Pei Pei". He cried and cried, embraced Samuel, and kissed him numerous times. Again, Samuel leapt for joy and was so excited to be with him. I was afraid Samuel wouldn't want to come back to me but for the most part, came back and forth pretty easily. I can only imagine how conflicted his little heart must have felt. Leaving this family was very tough. Samuel clung to the only Baba he'd known and screamed to stay with them. We all shed tears. I thanked them and gave them a gift. We entered the elevator and Samuel immediately stopped crying, head rested on my shoulder.

We were never shown any rooms at the orphanage. There are about 200 kids here but they were all out of sight. This was a little disappointing because Suzi and I would have enjoyed the opportunity to love on these kids and take some pictures for other waiting parents. It's not uncommon for orphanages to have most rooms closed to families. I can only imagine why. We did see a few children in strollers who were also being fostered. Sweet faces. Be still my heart.

We were then taken to a room with a grand lunch waiting for us. There was an assortment of food and we were certainly treated well. I believe the children eat the same food (since it was prepared by the orphanage staff) and I was happy to know the kids are likely consuming protein and vegetables. The lunch was nice and it was quickly time for departure. We were only there for a total of about an hour and a half, including lunch.

I am so grateful that Samuel formed meaningful relationships in this foster arrangement. He has been shown how to connect and trust. He is terrified of everyone around him, except for the people he loves (including me). Believe it or not, this is a good thing. He's learned he can trust specific people. Our first adoption looked very different. Emily was indiscriminant and trusted anyone. She has learned that she shouldn't trust everyone and that she can rely on her family. It's been interesting experiencing 2 very different adoptions, different in so many ways.

Samuel and I were both wiped out when we left the orphanage but there was one more stop I had to make. One very hard stop. His finding spot, the place where Samuel's birth mother decided to leave him on June 16th, in the middle of the night. I stood there and cried. I grieved so much. I felt the pain his birth mother must have felt. I bet she was scared, leaving him there wrapped in that flowery blanket. Maybe she was crying in that very same spot, wondering if anyone would ever give him the medical attention he needed. We'll never know. Here's what I do know. She chose life for Samuel. She probably saw his medical need during the ultrasound and could have easily aborted the pregnancy. But she didn't. And I'm grateful. He is one special little guy and I am so blessed to be his momma.

Y'all. This boy is the most snuggly thing ever. He loves to sleep right beside me and often just lays his head on my shoulder. The Boba carrier that was loaned to me is working great! Lots of exciting things happening, I wish I could share them all! I believe our guide in Nanjing is coming to know Christ. We were able to witness to her and answer several questions about Christianity. I plan to stay in touch with her and walk alongside as she has questions and prayer requests. Samuel says, "Momma!" He also learned the sign for "more" and the kid can eat like nobody's business. Suzi is doing well, feeling great and I believe having quite an experience, soaking all this in. Internet and VPN access has been sketchy, at best. Trying to post things has been quite frustrating. Praying this goes through! Here are a few pictures from Thursday.