Thursday, April 24, 2014

2 Weeks Home... Got Oxygen?

You know the instruction the flight attendant gives when you board a plane, "In the event of an emergency and loss of oxygen, your mask will automatically drop for your use. Please put the mask on yourself before helping your child." I used to think that was so strange. Why on earth would I consume the oxygen before my child? Who could live with themselves? Parenting our first child put this into proper perspective for me. These past couple weeks have shed light on this concept on a whole new level.

We've been home almost 2 weeks now.  I'll be perfectly honest. These have been 2 very hard weeks. As you know, Emily Hope was in the ER twice during the first week with fever reaching over 105. Praise God she's better!

Then me. I have been very sick. This experience would be so different if I could just function normally. My mask... It hasn't been working properly. The oxygen isn't coming out. I feel helpless. I can't "breathe" so I certainly can't provide "oxygen" for my husband and children. We have really been in survival mode these past couple weeks. The challenges of returning from China with a new child are overwhelming in so many ways. But to throw what feels like flu on top of it, is just downright ugly. After a week and a half of this virus rearing it's mean face each day, in comes ear and sinus infection. I've been in denial because I'm already on antibiotic as a precaution but after a night like last night, something's gotta' give. Thank God my parents have our 3 big kids today. In to the ENT I go (dragging poor Emily) for an appointment this afternoon. Praying I get more resolve than just instruction to "rest". Ha! That's always funny.

I am a wife. I am a mother to 4 young children, some more needy than others. I am an employee. I am a friend to many. For some reason, God trusted me in this life to be "needed" by many people. I am grateful for this responsibility. But when my oxygen mask isn't working, isn't even dropping from above, I feel sorry for not being more. Sigh. I am forever grateful for grace. The grace that so many offer to me when I feel worthless. Being this sick and needed at the same time will certainly bring a girl to her knees. First in frustration. Then in petition. Right where we need to stay. On our knees. Humble. Thankful. In need. God's got me right where He wants me... needing Him. Mercy!

All that said, we are rejoicing over so many blessings! I am reminded that His power is made perfect in our weakness. "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9) God is good, even through my mess. Not EVEN through my mess, but ESPECIALLY through my mess. He provided when we were all well and happy and life was easy. And he's providing now. That promise never dissolves.

Emily Hope is making great strides. She has definitely forged a bond with me and Seamus. She trusts us. It's going to take a lot longer, however, for her to learn she can't trust just anyone. She wants to go to whoever is near when she needs something, so we try to meet her needs immediately. She is very affectionate and wants to be held a lot. After being so weak from this illness, it has been difficult for me to tend to her every whim. Praying to gain strength soon so I can be who she needs me to be . She does throw an occasional temper tantrum and will scratch and bite if she senses mama tending to others' needs. All in time.

Our first post-placement home study was Monday. I had no voice, the house was a wreck, and I didn't have any strength. More grace. Our social worker was very gracious and completely understood and will write a great report, I'm sure. You may be wondering why these visits are necessary. Yes, the adoption is official and Emily is legally our daughter. Nothing can take her away from us. However, for the adoption process to continue, China (and other countries) want to watch the progress and see successful adoptions. It's very important that we provide these reports in order for future adoptive families to have a successful journey and for international adoption relationships to stay sturdy. It's really our pleasure to report back and to know they are interested in the children's well-being.

You can imagine all the time and energy I've had to write thank you notes. Bahahaha! Please excuse this "southern belle" from sending a personal note to each and every person who has been there to catch us over the past couple weeks. Meals, errands, babysitting, cards, FB and text messages, grocery shopping, gifts, flowers, prayers and hugs. You know who you are. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Please know that you are a part of the adoption ministry. We couldn't have pursued Emily and brought her home without you. God knew this and provided His grace for us, through you. "My grace is sufficient for you"!!! Yes, it is. Thank you, friends. Truly overwhelming.

When all this is behind us, Emily Hope will still be home. The jet lag, the illness, the mess, the grieving... it'll all be gone. But our sweet Mei Mei will always be with us. And we will always know the love of Christ. JOY! Nothing we are going through can put a wrench in that kinda joy.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:4-7)

Emily's first bike ride!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

One Week Home

I'm diggin' deep, y'all. Past the mental and physical exhaustion. Diggin' deep for some words to flow after being home for one week.

Tell me the jet lag ends soon. Just lie to me. I think Seamus and Emily have proved to be the most resilient. Brady is a little overtired still. And me? Well, I'm just a pansy, apparently. I'm okay with that, as long as you just let me sleep. I'm sure it doesn't help that I'm sick. I've lost my voice which makes it really hard to yell at my kids. Ack! ;) I started on an antibiotic just to be safe but I'm pretty sure it's viral.

Emily is making incredible progress. She has such a long road ahead but we are incredibly thankful for the daily milestones after only being home a week. First, her health is better. Praise God! After 2 ER visits and a fever that spiked to over 105 degrees, we were ready for her little body to heal. She loves to dance when music comes on. She went for her very first bike ride today. She loves to be outside. She never got to go outside in China because the pollution was so bad. It's a whole new world to her and it's so fun watching her explore everything from a leaf to a car. She is beginning to bond with Anna and Bryce. Brady had that privilege because they were in China together for 2 weeks. Emily was not happy to learn that she shares mama with 3 other kids. She actually hugged Anna today and has been very playful with all of her siblings. There has been some biting and scratching over the past week but we are patiently seeing her through it. At least we know she had a defense when she may have needed it. Girlfriend can put down some food. My goodness. And she loves the bath. Her first bath was pretty traumatic, as I'm sure it was very new to her but now she begs to get in and splashes and laughs the entire time.

On Monday, we have our first post placement visit. China requires a social worker to come in to our home and produce a report at specific intervals (1 month after gotcha day, 3 months, 6 months, one year, 2 years, and 5 years). The social worker who is conducting these visits is the same lady who conducted our home study. We really love her and are looking forward to our time with her.

Emily and I will be driving to Birmingham the week after next and staying overnight. This is where the international adoption pediatrician is located. They will do a complete exam, including appointments with physical and occupational therapists, and a full blood panel, etc. We will also be seeing a pediatric cardiologist soon after to make sure Emily's heart is okay.

One week home and we are definitely not in any sort of routine yet. I keep hearing about this "new normal" but I've yet to discover anything that resembles "normal". As long as Emily is making progress and our other kiddos are adjusting, I can deal with feeling out of sorts for awhile. Bleh.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. How cool that we are able to talk about all the redemption and "new life" in Emily on Easter weekend! Easter is a time to reflect on the great sacrifice Christ made for His children. On Friday, He paid the ultimate price to adopt us in to His forever family. The price was high. It was gruesome and sacrificial. It was excruciating for Christ and His Father to be separated. Friday proved that God would do anything in order to be united with us! But the story didn't end there. Nope. He went ahead and sealed the deal by coming alive (FOREVER) 3 days later. What an honor to be able to compare our adoption journey to Christ's journey for us! Sweat, tears, and even blood in order to get to our girl. Of course, our sacrifice is nothing compared to that of Christ. But we are so privileged to live out even a small example of what Christ has done for us. And now we are seeing redemption, new life, a glimpse of the joy that family brings!

Adoption is hard. I've said it before and I stand by that, still. The Easter story itself is proof. It starts with sin at its core. Then there is a great deal of suffering in order to save the lost, to pay for the sin. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) But the sin and suffering isn't the end of the story. There is resurrection and new life, redemption and joy. If you feel convicted to adopt, please do. But don't adopt because you think it's "cute". Don't adopt thinking the challenges will be the same as those with your bio kids. There's nothing glamorous or easy about adoption. Cute, easy, and glamorous are not what Christ promised us at the beginning of our journey. What He promises is hard. A hard that leads to joy. A hard that leads to life. "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:35) Adopt. Adopt because you are moved by the gospel message. Adopt because you want others to see what Christ has done for you. Adopt because you know this is not your home and the riches you own now will soon flee. But the joy that adoption brings permeates through your soul for eternity. That's something worth chasing after.

One week home. Many hard moments. Many joyful moments. All worth it. Thank you again for the support so many have provided. We are no where near completely adjusted and the extra hands have been very much appreciated! Love y'all to China and back!

Thank you, Holly, for capturing these sweet moments from our airport homecoming...



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Home... Day One

We are truly in a fog. Being home is so wonderful yet so difficult. Our fog consists of exhaustion, joy, frustration, worry, gratitude, and confusion. Yes, one big hodge-podge of emotions. We are extremely jet-lagged and my brain is having a hard time processing anything I'm needing to process.

Emily's fever from the flight continued to rise. When she woke up this morning, it was 104 degrees. If any of my other children had this fever with few other symptoms, I'd simply delve out the routine Tylenol and Motrin until it passed. We don't know much about Emily's little body so we decided to be safe. I took her to the ER where she tested negative for flu, strep, and RSV. She also had a chest x-ray and it came back clear. Its seems her little body is fighting a virus. It's no surprise with all she's been through over the past couple weeks. She's laying in our bed next to me right now, sound asleep. I'm pretty sure Seamus fell asleep praying with the boys in their room. Ha!

Bryce had a little mishap while we were gone and had stitches on his head. And apparently, Anna Grace picked up a very hearty case of head lice from school. All things that would have happened if we were home but boy do things seem to happen at inopportune times. Mercy! We are so incredibly thankful for our best friends who took very good care of them while we were away. Oh, and the chocolate cake (she knows it's my fave) and big bottle of wine were pretty spectacular too! ;)

We sent Brady to spend the day at a friend's house. He needed to get out and just run with some friends and that gave us a little break to focus on the others. I believe Emily is attaching well so far. She gets very jealous if I hold Bryce or Anna so we are patiently dealing with that. She also screams when someone leaves a room or our house... anyone. I think that's just a natural response to the many people who have come in and out of her life. It's going to be a long road but it's so encouraging to see progress each day.

We laid down to take naps today and had to make ourselves get up after a few hours so we can reprogram our bodies. Jet lag is no laughing matter. I thought Europe was bad. Try 13 hour difference with 4 kids who all need very individualized attention.

Okay, I got it all out. Phew! I should probably share now how incredibly grateful we are to be home. We know that God can handle anything that comes our way. We have Him and each other and are safe at home. Nothing beats that. Even extreme exhaustion, head lice, temper tantrums, and high fevers can't repress my joy! God remains faithful and good. No. Matter. What.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for all the support so many of you have provided! The prayers, the comments, the airport welcome, the meals, the flowers and cards, the list goes on and on. Thank you. We are honored and humbled to be loved so deeply by so many. Furthermore, God has answered our prayers to be a light for Him and to change hearts through us. We are overwhelmed by the numerous people who claim to have been changed by our story. Please know that conviction you feel comes perfectly from the Holy Spirit, not from us. If you feel led to be a light for Jesus, I encourage you to step out in faith. He provides, y'all. Always, and in everything He calls us to.

One Less

One less.

I am forever grateful that of the overwhelming number of orphans in this world, literally hundreds of millions, Emily makes one less. Sometimes the large number is overwhelming and we feel like we can’t make a difference but God himself leaves his entire flock in order to save just one lost sheep. (Luke 15:3-7)  As I write this, I am on the airplane from Hong Kong to Newark, NJ, pondering our little sheep who is coming home. If you have been following our story, you are familiar with the hardship that has come with our adoption. But the joy is infinitely more powerful. Abandonment, trauma, pain… all things Emily has experienced in ways we can never imagine. But we have experienced true redemption through our journey. She is coming home to our family, and coming home to know Jesus Christ, to be a part of His unfolding Kingdom. Just as our t-shirts read, “Bringing Home Emily Hope… into our family, into His Kingdom”. Oh happy day!

We are so ready to be home. Being away from Anna and Bryce for this long has been painful at times. We are eager to get back into a routine and try to figure out what our new “normal” will look like. We have experienced jet lag in an ugly way and we’re afraid it will be even worse coming home, knowing that we actually lose 13 hours this time. I’m expecting lots of rest for everyone over the next several days. We have actually decided to keep Brady home for the rest of the school year. It’s only about 6 weeks, and I’ll be home already with Emily. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. We feel like it will be an amazing opportunity to just pour in to him, disciple him, and let him continue to forge a special bond with Emily.

Emily is doing very well on this long flight. The only tears that have been shed were in the tiny lavatory to change a diaper. She’s been sleeping for hours and now she’s just playing with her sippy cup. Scratch that. She’s sound asleep again. J She does seem to be running a fever but no fussiness from her.

In 8 hours, our airplane will touch down on US soil and Emily Hope will be an American Citizen. The Lomans will be hootin’ and hollerin’ up in the New Jersey airport, in true Louisiana fashion. Whooooot!  ;)

Redemption. This is the happy ending. Redemption is God’s story. God's redemptive story has changed my life and He has now graciously covered Emily’s tragic circumstances with His redemption. There are no words to describe how thankful we are for God’s grace in this beautiful child’s life and in ALL the lives of His elect.

We’re coming home friends!!

One less. (Sigh)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chinese Folk Art

I'm so happy to have gotten a picture of all the Lifeline families who are here with us! This picture was taken when we met downstairs this morning to go sightseeing together. These precious friends are the hands and feet of Jesus. Love every single one of them.

After we took this picture, we loaded up on our bus for some morning sightseeing and shopping. We visited the Chen Family Temple, aka the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. The Chen family was and is a huge, prominent family in China, whose temple was eventually bought out from the government. It has beautiful gardens and amazing hand-carved architecture. Within the temple, there are some amazing art forms.

All hand-carved architecture
There is an entire room full of ivory that has been hand-carved in to sculptures. The detail was just incredible.

There was a man hand-painting beautiful pictures of Chinese landmarks. He was using black ink and only his hands, fingers, and fingernails. Here's a picture of a quick demonstration he did for us. We bought a more elaborate one of The Great Wall that we plan to hang in our home. Amazing and ancient form of artwork.

We also bought "chops" for each of our 4 children. Chops are wooden, hand-carved stamps. Each of their names are carved in Chinese and in English and we are given stamp ink to go with them. Part of the carving is an animal that represents each of the years they were born. For example, Brady is the year of the rooster so his chop has a rooster carved on the top. Emily was born in the year of the dragon. It's very unique and common in China. Another beautiful piece of Chinese culture.

Another unique Chinese art form that we got to experience is the scrolls of calligraphy. These are beautifully painted scrolls and the artist writes your name or whatever you want on it in Chinese. We purchased one scroll for Emily's room with her Chinese name (Gao Yu) written on it. Her chop actually says Emily Hope in Chinese and English.

We returned to the hotel and walked a short distance to eat Chinese for lunch. Emily is taking a nap right now and the boys are downstairs in the swimming pool. Tomorrow morning we go to the Guangzhou zoo. It should be interesting as Emily has never seen any of these animals. She is enthralled by the coy fish at our hotel. I am particularly excited to see the panda bears. :)

Our consulate appointment, with the US Embassy, is scheduled for Wednesday, the 9th. We will get Emily's visa at this appointment so that she is able to enter the U.S. This is the last step before we are able to come home! We do have to wait a day before we can leave, just in case any paperwork gets messed up and we need to be available. On Thursday evening we are taking a train to Hong Kong where we will stay in the airport hotel there. Friday we wake up to begin our return home!!!

Many people have asked about possibly greeting us at the airport upon our return. We want everyone to know that you are completely welcome to greet us when we arrive. We do not expect anyone to drive to New Orleans to see us for 5 minutes but for those who have asked, you are certainly welcome. I know my parents will be there as well as a couple other friends for sure. If you are interested, please contact my friend who has our return flight home (I don't want to post that information publicly). Her email address is It is fine to greet Emily and speak to her. We simply ask that no one try to hold her or give her anything when you see her. Thanks for your love and support, friends! We can't wait to come home once and for all... or at least until God convicts our hearts again! Ha!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Worship and Shopping

Worship and shopping... I know. We hate to combine the 2 on the Sabbath but we have to adjust a little while we're here. ;)

Today we took advantage of an amazing opportunity. We worshipped with a body of believers right in the heart of Guangzhou. This church meets in a hotel every Sunday, several miles from our hotel. We had no idea what to expect. I didn't feel like going. I wanted to stay in my pajamas, drink coffee and let Seamus lead us in worship in our hotel room but Seamus really wanted us to go. So we did. And I am so thankful that he made that decision for our family, despite my stubborn will.

There were hundreds of people there, from all different countries. Americans, Indians, Africans, Europeans. Because it is the first Sunday of the month, we had the honor of sharing communion with these fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So many of our Lifeline friends made the comment that this is what heaven will be like. Yes! It was amazing to be united with these people... our family. The sermon was on 2Timothy 2:8-13. It was so perfect to be there for that passage. The service was an hour and a half long. I thought about how most Americans would be yawning and checking their watches. These people were hungry. It was beautiful.

Before we went to worship, we were reminded to bring our passports. I didn't understand why at first. Turns out the government does not allow Chinese nationals to worship here. The hundreds of people here were foreigners. The Chinese are not allowed to freely hear the good news like we did today. May I please be bold and urge you to go to church?! Not out of obligation or a false notion that church attendance wins you favor with God. Go because you can. Go because we have the freedom to worship with a body of believers and that is an awesome privilege. We take it for granted, the same way we do our right to vote (but that's a blog post for another day. ;). So sad to think of the Chinese people not having this opportunity to worship with us. Yet so humbling and grace-filled for God to bring these believers together to share the Lord's supper! Thankful for this experience.

Taxi ride to worship
Oragami cross that Brady made in Sunday school.

We met our Lifeline group downstairs at 2:30 and we took the bus down to a really neat market in Guangzhou. Rows and rows of jewelry stands and shops. There's a ton of Jade and as much as I wanted a Jade bracelet, I went straight for the pearls. We bought a strand of pearls and pearl earrings for both of our girls. Our plan is to give these to them for their weddings. We had our guide with us to educate us on the classes of jade and pearl, the vendors who were honest, and negotiating. We spent less than $200 for the strands and earrings. In the states, these would have been several hundred, maybe even thousands. I can't wait to share these with Emily and Anna one day!

Searching for the perfect pearls

We will be doing some sightseeing tomorrow, with our group. We miss our babies back home but are excited to be experiencing all this. 5 days until we fly home! Oh how we long to be a family of 6, all together.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hohhot to Guangzhou... our Latest Adventure

Okay, quick and dirty update on our Friday...

Today we flew from Hohhot to Guangzhou. It was about a 3 hour flight. Mei Mei slept almost the whole way! We made it safely to our hotel, The Garden Inn. This is a 5 star hotel where Lifeline gets huge discounted rates. This hotel is truly amazing! I'll take pics and post some later in the week when I have a little more time and energy. Our guide took us to a grocery store for bottled water and some other essentials (diapers, juice, yogurt, etc.) before checking in to the hotel. Once we got settled, we ventured out and walked a little. We quickly found a McDonald's and chowed down. Girlfriend ate an entire cheeseburger!

We are thinking we are going to really love Guangzhou compared to Beijing or Hohhot. The pollution and dust in those places were awful and the air was so dry. We've all had bloody noses, terrible congestion, and painfully dry skin. Guangzhou is in southern China and the climate is similar to south Louisiana. It's humid and warmer. Today is the first day my hair has been frizzy. A bit of normalcy at least. ;) The foliage here is beautiful! I'll have to take pics of some of these trees. This type of beauty would not survive in dry Beijing or Hohhot. We are so happy to be here for so many reasons!

There are 15 Lifeline families here this week at the same hotel and doing all the same stuff with us! We can't wait to hug so many people who we have connected with through Facebook, etc. They are truly our brothers and sisters!

Emily is doing so well, y'all. We can really feel the prayers. She had one moment of grief when she woke up this morning. She got the quivery lip, looked away and wouldn't let me hold her. That lasted 2 minutes and the rest of the day has been filled with giggles and tons of words in Chinese. Oh! She said her first word in English. CAR! You can imagine our excitement when she belted that out. :) She is in exploratory overload. Everything is new to her. We showed her a pond full of fish today and she was so excited, running back and forth, giggling.

Tomorrow we will be going to a clinic where Emily will be medically reviewed and processed through the system. All adopted children must go through a slew of tests before they leave the country. It won't be the most exciting day but it's a necessary one. Grrrrrrrrrr!

Emily's first flight!

This is how baby girl decided to spend her adventure
This little girl is really coming out of her shell. SO much personality!

Baotou Social Welfare Institute

It's been 2 days since I've written anything and so much has happened since then. I'm trying to write every day but I'm just so exhausted at the end of each day. Anyway, I'm excited to be sharing our Thursday with you.

We drove 3 hours south to visit Emily's original orphanage, Baotou Social Welfare Institute. This is where Emily was abandoned and spent the first 6 months of her life before she was transferred to Harmony House. This was the day that I so looked forward to for many months. I knew it would be hard and beautiful. Turned out it was harder than expected. We have been praying about this day for so long. We prayed for God to reveal Himself to us through this experience. Show us truth, Lord, no matter how ugly it is. Break our hearts, Lord. Break them the way yours breaks. He did. In a big way. The scales fell off my eyes yesterday. God broke my heart a couple years ago for the orphan but yesterday He brought my faith to a new level. My world view, my perspective on life has been completely wrecked. I have to admit, I live a life of selfishness. Sure, we love The Lord. We give and serve. But not to the point of true sacrifice. Yesterday shed light on my small world that I think is so big. Life is so much bigger than our little bubble. Love is so much more than caring for our loved ones. It's so much more than giving 10% of our extravagant salaries. Love is bigger than all that I've ever known. Yesterday, I thanked God for His grace. I thanked Him that He loves me and sends me and uses me despite my self-centered flesh. He reveals His love to me in ways that are unimaginable. Yesterday was proof of this.

We drove up to the orphanage where we were greeted by a very kind lady who is the director over international adoptions in China. She would be giving us the tour. We were told ahead of time we had only 30 minutes to visit. There was the gate. The looming, large, black gate. The gate that Emily was abandoned in front of. The gate where a police officer found her at only 5 days old. It was an awful feeling seeing that gate. I thought about her birth mother. As Americans we think the typical mentality in China is one where people don't love children. We believe the Chinese think of orphans as "throw aways" and sometimes this IS the case. But the more likely truth is that Emily's mom loved her and didn't have the resources to care for her. Perhaps she knew how very sick she was. Her cerebral palsy was so evident at birth and perhaps she knew how sick her heart was as well. I grieved at this gate. I grieved for the loss her birth mother may have felt. The loss she may still be feeling. I can't imagine the pain.

We walk through the gate and up to the orphanage. It is many stories high and houses hundreds of children. We were only allowed to view a few rooms. We probably visited a total of 30 children. We met the nanny who cared for Emily when she was a baby. We saw the crib she slept in for the first 6 months of her life. We thanked the nanny for her care.

There was a newborn crying when we walked into that room. I asked if I could hold him and I did. He stopped crying immediately. He was less than a month old. I held him and rocked him and kissed him and talked to him. I prayed over him. The director told me she hopes I would come back to adopt this child. I can honestly say that paperwork and formality are the only things that kept me from walking out of there with him and the others I'm about to tell you about.

Some of them I wanted to hold but they wouldn't let me. One child who was 2 had severe hydrocephalus and his brain was continuing to swell. He never leaves his crib. He lays there 24 hours a day. I didn't care that he looked completely deformed. I wanted to hold him and love him. But they wouldn't let me. "He has no brain" they kept saying. He had a brain. He had a soul. I know he heard my tender voice as I rubbed his back.

Then the baby in the crib next to him... "May I hold him?" No. They were just waiting for him to die too. There aren't any resources for these 2 to have surgery. There's nothing they can do. They just wait. Wait to die. Because no one is fighting for them.

We go to the next room. The special needs are too many to name. There is a down syndrome baby who I begin talking to and praying over. He calls me "Mama" and wraps his arms around my neck. There is no smile. But heartfelt warmth in his eyes from the touch I wasn't afraid to offer. I clung to this child and he clung to me. I sobbed. They had to pry him from me. I sobbed harder. There are too many moments like this to write about.

We go to another room where children are eating noodles. One boy is deaf and latches on to Brady. They say he's brilliant but just can't hear. No one has adopted him. There is a little girl with an extremely deformed face and head. I kneel beside her and tell her, "Wo ai ni." That means, "I love you." She smiles. The boy in the wheelchair. I touch his hand and say hello. He smiles and continues eating his noodles.

We have been informed by Lifeline that Baotou is one of the best orphanages in China. It was clear that the nannies cared for the children but the thought of this being one of the better orphanages is heart-wrenching.

As we were leaving, the director asked us to please encourage people to come adopt these children. Through my tears, I responded, "We promise to fight for these children." I cried and cried. There were few words to share when we left. I will never forget these children. Ever.

God brought us here, not for us to feel sorry for anyone, but to convict our hearts on a deeper level. The love we so comfortably give to our children and friends within our circles... it's not enough. God calls each of us to "carry our cross" and "give up our lives in order to gain eternal life". If you don't know where to start, join a group traveling on a mission trip. There are some wonderful organizations who send those who want to travel to serve and love on "the least of these". Bring your children. I believe Brady was changed by this. It was scary for him and uncomfortable. And we believe that's a great thing. We plan to return to China in the future and spend more time with orphans and proclaiming the gospel here.

I can truly say that after the experiences we have had here, we love the Chinese people. They can be rude and prideful, selfish and obnoxious. But the truth is that a lot of this is cultural and they are mostly gracious to us one on one. They are Christ's image-bearers who just need the love of Christ to realize their need for grace. And I have a longing, especially after Thursday's visit, to love on this population by being an advocate for their orphans, for these children of God. I have a longing to make Christ's truth revealed to the people of this run down yet beautiful country.

Dear Jesus, please send hands and feet. Send your believers to rescue these precious image-bearers. Convict hearts to trust that you will provide in all things. Reveal the truth that fear is not of you. Let these precious children know your hope and someday soar on wings like eagles!

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

The crib where Emily spent the first 6 months of her life

Emily's finding spot - abandoned outside this gate

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Emily's Passport Secured and Lots of Fun in Hohhot

Emily did better today with her grieving. It's clear that she is getting to know and trust us, little by little. We are so thankful for your prayers through this battle. We had some very special moments with her today.

Quick update about our Wednesday... Today we went to the Civil Affairs Office in Hohhot and received Emily's passport!

We also visited the Inner Mongolia museum, which was filled with dinosaur fossils and other incredible history from Emily's province. This was important to us because we learned a lot about the region, which we will be able to share with her as she gets older.

After the museum, our guide took us to eat dinner. This might have been the neatest experience so far. The area and restaurant was one where only common locals go. She explained to us that rich people would not come here. It was amazing. The street was like a market, with everything from meat to clothing. People everywhere (which generally describes most areas of China). We ate at a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant where the owner was exceptionally gracious. Seamus was the only American man in our group and the owner was insistent on offering him alcohol through a toast. If you've ever had Japanese sake, this is about 3 times as strong. Seamus had a taste and secretly poured the rest in the tea that he wasn't drinking. ;) The food was delicious. We had hot tea, beef dumplings, fried rice, and some other unidentifiable (but delicious) food. Seamus had a beer that was pretty good, except that it wasn't cold (typical for any drink in China).

We were total rock stars today. It's really bizarre. People stare at us like you wouldn't believe. They take pictures of us everywhere we go and speak loudly about us. They often ask our guide about why we have a Chinese baby and who we are. It's quite entertaining to see the looks we get. People here are seriously blown away by American families (especially ones with a Chinese baby).

Emily is an awesome sleeper. She gets a bottle and crashes at 7:30 each night and sleeps until morning. She has been napping for 2 - 2 1/2 hours every day. She never cries. Even when she's grieving, she just shuts down and avoids eye contact. But there was even little of that today.

Tomorrow we are driving 3 hours to Baotou City where Emily's original orphanage is. This is where she was abandoned and lived for 6 months of her life. We have been told that we only have 30 minutes to see the orphanage and ask questions. There will likely be parts of the orphanage we won't be allowed to see and we may not be able to take any pictures. I am very excited to visit Baotou, since we know this is where she came from. The industry in Baotou is iron and steel manufacturing. Her biological parents likely work in this large factory as most of the Baotou residents do.

We are having an amazing time in China, as we bond with our sweet girl and experience an incredible culture unlike any we are familiar with. Please continue to pray for us as well as the millions of precious people in this country who do not know God. I look forward to sharing our day in Baotou with you (hopefully tomorrow night if I have the time and energy)!

Traded for a Passport!
Inner Mongolia Museum



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gotcha Day and Adoption Day

I probably don't need to remind you that we are very tired. My brain is not functioning properly. Please expect my writing to remain jumbled and excuse any rambling in advance. We have our hands full on top of being jet lagged and I'm writing at the end of our day. Now that we have that out of the way, here's more about our past couple days in China. ;)

Monday was a very special day for us. We were instructed to come to the lobby of our hotel at 9:15am for "gotcha". Emily traveled all night on a train with a nanny from Harmony House. We came downstairs at 9:00, flooded with emotion. I kept thinking about all the gotcha days I'd watched on YouTube and Facebook and I couldn't believe today was OUR day. Our guide, Aggie, was there along with 2 government officials. We sat in the lobby in anticipation. I stared at the doors, waiting for my Mei to come through. We waited. And paced. And waited. We were told the train arrived at 9:00 and the walk to the hotel was only about 10 minutes. Were they really on that train? Why aren't they here yet? An hour passed, each minute feeling like an eternity. Finally. They entered through the back of the hotel. Turned out they were waiting for us on the other side, as we were waiting for them!

Our gotcha experience was about what I expected. We were flooded with tears. It was one of the hardest and best days of my life. Emily did not want to come to me. She cried. She didn't want to look at me. It was very sad and hard for her. Her nanny cried. It was clear that she really loves Emily. We are thankful for that. But sometimes the grieving and attachment process can be more difficult in this kind of circumstance. I fed Emily a bottle which eased things a bit. We signed some papers and had our pictures taken. We exchanged gifts. The nanny gave us a traditional red Chinese outfit for Emily. It meant so much to us. Our guide translated and relayed from the sobbing nanny, "Thank you. Jesus be with you. God will bless you greatly." Praise God that her nanny knows The Lord. They all do at Harmony House. Amazing.

We were finished signing papers and doing all we needed to do. We parted ways and as the nanny cried, Emily cried harder. It was very hard for us to experience. Hard and beautiful all at the same time. Emily didn't cry for long. We came up to our room and spent the rest of the day just bonding with her. She did cry a little more and in fact cried herself to sleep on my chest for nap. As the day went on, she was beginning to trust us. She laughed at Brady several times and let me and Seamus hold her.

Tuesday morning was "Adoption Day". We met with the governor and 2 other officials to finalize our adoption. We were interviewed, asked why we wanted to adopt her, and we promised to never abandon or abuse her. Good Lord... Never! We signed a bunch of documents and gave our fingerprints on all of them. We exchanged gifts and Emily received another very special costume that is representative of her province, Inner Mongolia. We received a nice piece to go on our wall that is written in Chinese. I'm going to have a friend translate it officially but the officer told us it said, "Thank you for your charity in China. Love makes the world go round." Yes, it does. God is love. And we love because He first loved us. This adoption day made it all final. She is officially Emily Hope Loman, daughter of Seamus and Laura Loman!

These 2 days have been amazing yet difficult. There are glimpses of hope as she allows us in to her heart in small ways. Each moment is different because of her extreme grief. It's obvious certain things trigger her memory and she clams up and avoids eye contact during these moments. She can also go several minutes playing and being entertained by her gege (big brother) or being held by me and Seamus. We take 2 steps forward and one step back. We are hopeful that each day will bring progress in the healing process. Redemption is God's promise and we are excited to witness that in her.

We found out that Inner Mongolia is known for its hospitality. We have definitely experienced that so far. Believe it or not, the drivers are actually crazier here than they are in Beijing but on a personal level, everyone has been extremely gracious. People stare at us everywhere we go and we've even experienced a little paparazzi. I believe they are most fascinated with Brady, who has fair skin, blue eyes, and dirty brown hair. I'm sure the fact that I'm holding a Chinese baby doesn't exactly look natural. As Seamus said today, I guess we need to get used to that. We expect wild comments and questions when we return and I believe we are prepared for that. The food is so interesting yet delicious for the most part. We ventured out from our hotel today and walked to a nearby mall. We had a wonderful time strolling through a supermarket in the basement of the mall. We bought a ton of Chinese candy and snacks and bought Emily some juice and other things. It was so neat seeing the foods that the Chinese have in their store.

Girlfriend can eat some food! Good gracious, y'all. I'm pretty sure she mostly just had congee (sort of like porridge), soup with kelp and other greens, and 2 bottles of Chinese formula at the orphanage each day. As a result, her body is much smaller than I expected. Her hips and thighs are really the size of an infant's. She has very little muscle. She walks well but it takes a lot of energy for her to hold her body up on those little legs. We have already started to implement a lot of protein in to her diet. Since Monday morning, we've had her eating eggs, chicken, pork fried rice, dumplings, you name it. We are also going to let her practice walking to build some muscle mass. It'll be interesting to see how much weight she gains over the next few weeks.

All things considered, her health seems good. There are no signs present of her cerebral palsy. She will see a cardiologist when we return to make sure everything has healed properly as we suspect it has. She does have a little wheezing in her lungs and her nose is full of green gunk. I started her on antibiotics Monday to try to push all that out. Sweet girl can barely breathe through her nose right now.

Will you please continue to pray for Emily? Her grieving is deep and the effects of her trauma are very present. Again, we expected this but it's hard to see her little heart hurting, especially knowing that she feels alone at times. Please pray for peace in her life, for trust and bonding to occur with us, and also for her health. We miss you all and are grateful for the overwhelming support you have showered upon us.



Supermarket Fun!

Chinese Candy!
Fingerprints confirm it... She's Emily Hope Loman!