Friday, February 28, 2014

Part 4 - Choosing to love

(If you're just joining the story here, go back and read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 first!)

What a blessing it was to see Stella in her Christmas present we sent her.  Our hearts were hurting over losing Emme and it brought smiles to our faces to see her.  When we looked at Stella, we couldn't imagine how such a beautiful child could also be an orphan.  With our hearts still broken, we knew she wasn't yet matched with a family of her own, and we started to wonder if we should ask about her file status.  Knowing full well going in that it was practically impossible to be matched with a child that was considered "pre-identified".  You see, China adoption files can go to any one of many lists.  There's the shared list (where all agencies can pull files from), there's agency specific lists (and there's many agencies) or a file can even go to another country (like Europe).   Sometimes it takes years and years before a child's file is ready.  There were so many things against being matched with Stella.  But we had to ask.  She had already grown to be so loved by us.  We just didn't know when would be the right time to ask.

New Years eve morning arrived and with it the usual morning check of my email.  As I sat in bed thinking about when would be the right time to ask about Stella, I opened my email to her monthly update and this picture of her in her Christmas present. (yep...goosebumps)

I quickly sent Jeff a text telling him what had transpired and asking what he thought - did this mean we should ask now??? His reply back - yes, I think we should ask now.  Okay...deep breath.  Let's just ask.  So I sent off an email to our social worker, knowing full well it was New Years Eve and she probably wasn't working.  But it was sent.  We had asked.  

Our agency reply was so sweet, they knew we had prayed over this and they knew it was still very much in our hearts to adopt.  They also were hurting from the loss of our Emme - I know they were.  They agreed to check with their in country rep about Stella's file, but cautioned us with all the above notes on how unlikely it is to be matched with a New Day child.  Needle in a haystack - we understood and were fine with waiting to see what would happen.  We had given everything up to God and knew He would find us the child meant to be in our family in the right time.  

Our lives had started to return to normal after all the rushing around and the waiting to hear if we were going to China.  It was nice.  A routine after the holidays felt good.  

Two weeks passed and a call from our agency came.  They said that they were confident that they could get Stella's file! Confident! We were shocked! It sounded like her file would be ready in about a couple of weeks.  And heres the important part - her orphanage had just formed a brand new (like in December new!) partnership with our adoption agency.  That's why they were confident about obtaining her file. 

Four days...yes, four days later we had her file in our hands! AMAZING!  Only God.  This little one we had been sponsoring since she was just six months old, had prayed for her to find her forever family, and had been able to send gifts to.... she is going to be our little girl.  We feel so blessed.  
Soli Deo Gloria. 

And that is how we came to be matched with our DAUGHTER.  Stella Claire. A precious blessing from above.  "Every good and perfect gift is from above" James 1:17

We are obviously thrilled and can not wait to meet this little girl.  Chosen by us - but truly chosen by God. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Part 3 - Choosing to love

(Here's Part 1 and Part 2!)

We were well on our way to being parents again as our paperwork made it's way through the various stages.  Being matched with our Emme Rose in May kept us busy as we prepared for her.  Her story is part of this story - it's impossible to keep her out of it.  We loved on her from across an ocean for months until she was taken home.  She held us while God did his work on our family, changing us from the inside out, keeping us in his perfect timing.  What a beautiful gift she was.

December 2013 - it's not that long ago, so we can look back quickly to see all that happened.  We were in limbo, waiting...waiting...more waiting. Distractions were our best plan to keep busy.  There were movies and playdates.  And some shopping (ahem)... Christmas was almost here and we couldn't wait until the foster home posted pictures of their Christmas party.  New Day is such a special place.  Our sponsor child would again be receiving a present from us and everyone had fun picking out something to send to her.  This time, as she was a little older, we decided on some dress up fun! It wasn't long before we had pictures to look at showing her opening the present and trying it on.  So precious. So very precious.  I love how her foster grandma cares for her and obviously loves her very much.

Time to unwrap! That's our shoe box on top! eek! So exciting!

I think she likes the candy canes we sent too! So cute!
(Part 4 - the final part - tomorrow)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Part 2 - Choosing to love

(If you're just joining the story, be sure to read Part 1 first!)

The morning after I asked my husband, Jeff, if we could sponsor a child at New Day Foster Home while we prayed through the decision to adopt, a baby girl with captivating brown eyes arrived at the foster home.  She needed sponsors, and I had just gotten the go ahead to sponsor a little one. I signed us right up! At just six months old, there was a good chance we could be her sponsors for a while since most children are not adopted that young from China.  Everyone in the family was excited to be sponsoring such a sweet girl and we hung her picture - the very first one I ever saw of her - on our refrigerator where it has hung since.  The kids wanted to send her presents immediately, as the foster home allows gifts sent to the children.

Christmas 2012 was approaching and it was such fun letting the children pick out presents to send to the foster home.  We sent our sponsor child a gift as well as another child (they let each child have three sponsors at Christmas). Packed into a box we wrapped a pink ball, a "so adorable" outfit, a cup, and a few donated medical items for the foster home.  We waited to hear if the package arrived safely - our first time ever shipping anything to China.  Pictures soon were posted of the foster homes Christmas party and we saw her with the gifts we sent! Sitting in her foster mamas lap, she looked sweaty all bundled up in many layers (China mamas dress their babies in many layers during the winter as many buildings are not heated there and it can be very cold), and slightly overwhelmed by the festivities (like most babies her age).

We had also made an important decision that December to go ahead and start our paperwork for adoption.  How exciting! We were nervous too! Adoption is so much a leap of faith - jumping in not knowing where it will take you or where the funding will come from to complete it. We decided to jump.

Being sponsors of a child at New Day gives you many opportunities to watch that child grow.  Monthly updates are sent with a short description of what the child is doing that month - like what new thing they have learned to do (crawling or walking), what they like to do and how they are doing.  Each monthly update also comes with a recent picture of the child.  We also get a calendar each year made with pictures of the children.  It's so fun watching them grow knowing we are helping in a small way and we pray they will find their forever family soon.

Our homestudy was nearing completion in the Spring of 2013 and our sponsor child at New Day had grown very special to us.  Those who knew were adopting would come into our home, see her picture on our refrigerator and ask us if she was the one we were adopting.  No, we just sponsor her - was always our response. And then I'd tell them about New Day and the wonderful care they give the children!

Her first birthday was in March and again we watched from afar as the present we sent made it's way to her. This time we sent a warm fleece outfit and a blankie (a small square with pink stars and pink silk trim).  The blankie was a set of two and by this time I had started to wonder who we would be matched with so in my wondering, I kept the second blankie of the set.  Wouldn't it be special if we were matched with her and I had the matching blankie to show her one day???  Totally silly of me to keep it.  The odds of being matched with her were one in a million.  Yet I stuck it away and mailed off the second package we had ever sent to China.  (Part 3 tomorrow)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Part 1 - Choosing to love

This post shouldn't be hard to write, yet I'm finding myself stuck on how to begin. I opened the page ready to write and share the amazing story God is writing for our family. But here I sit stuck on how to begin it.  I know why - see I want to honor the memory of our sweet China girl now home in Heaven and writing over top of it somehow seems like she is fading away.  We are still missing her.

I think she'd want us to move forward though - not forgetting, but loving her in remberance.

So I'll begin, with her on my mind, I'll share this story and pray that she is smiling down on us as we think of her today.

If you're familiar with how we decided to adopt from China, then you may know that we took time to pray and research A LOT before diving into what many refer to as a paper chase (which ends up being a stack of papers weighing close to 10 lbs when you're done - really).  I don't think it's a coincidence that our journey began in April of 2012, when I first felt God asking us to be open to adoption.  Both little girls we've come to love during this journey were born just the month before.  He knew they needed a family with a Mom and Dad.  Two little girls...forever they will be part of each other's story. I love that.  They were born in the same month, days apart, yet miles apart in China.  Both suffered the same pain of leaving their birth families and were left to be cared for by someone else who wasn't their mom.  That is painful to write.  Not as painful as it was for them though. What is beautiful, what they both were given, what she gave them, was life.  Their birth mothers chose life for each little girl. That is so beautiful! So thankful that each women loved these girls so much to choose this for them. They chose love.

While lives were unfolding in China, we were praying - about adoption, about finding the child that was meant for our family, about faith and trust, and following Gods will for us.  As I researched China adoption, I found out about New Day Foster Home.  They had children who needed sponsoring and while it felt like we were waiting for the right time to move forward with adopting, I asked Jeff one night if we could sponsor a child at New Day.  I wanted to be doing something while we waited. He said yes (maybe a little bit of him hoping my desire to adopt would end there, ahem).  In all seriousness, he just needed a little more time to really hear what God was saying to us. I had decided to be still and let God from that point on regarding when we would adopt.

The next morning, in September of 2012,  a beautiful 6 month old baby with captivating brown eyes arrived at New Day and I jumped at the chance to be her sponsor. (Part 2 - tomorrow)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hope and Stay

It's been awhile - this space has been quiet - it needed time to rest.  After Emme's passing, there wasn't much to add.  But today, I want to try and add hope to this little blog and tell how much hope we have in our adoption journey.  This blog was started to chronicle the adoption journey of our family and to remember all the trials, joys and heartache that went along with that.  I needed to take a little time before moving forward here because I needed to just feel all that we were feeling.  Losing Emme was so very sad.  Tragic even.  The circumstances that surrounded her passing, leaving us ready to bring a child home, then leaving us empty, was very hard.  There were lots of questions.  Many we still don't have answers to and may never have answers to.  Some things we will never understand.  But we know that we fought for her - yes, we fought for Emme.  She will forever be a part of our hearts and family.  Her little picture rests next to her sister's and brother's pictures on my shelf and I see the very first image we had of her as I walk by.  It's the only one where she is sort of smiling.

I'm not sure how people without faith get through difficult times.  Without our faith, this would be so much harder.  Yet, we aren't walking this path alone! God's been with us this whole time and is holding us up through our trials.  He is our hope and stay.  He is writing this story, it's His story after all.  All the prayers of others has given us so much comfort. 

I bought this rose a day after Emme passed, and when it started to open, I had to capture it - I wanted to hold onto it's beauty in remembrance of her sweet spirit.  I thought she would touch many hearts when she came home, but in talking with others after they heard our news, it blew us away how many hearts she had touched and none of us ever met her.  Meeting her in Heaven one day, is going to bring me great joy.  The day I finally get to hold her.  We plan to plant a rose bush as soon as the weather warms up this Spring in her memory.

Our adoption journey isn't over, we still plan to adopt.  We just have a little extra time now.  God has been working out an amazing story, one we couldn't see before now.  Now we see it and it's awe-some.  There's another little girl waiting for us now and she's very special to us.  She deserves her own post - which I'll do a little later.  Hope, there's so much hope.  There's a verse that has been helping us get through that I'd like to share here.

In Romans 8:28, it says "and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  He loves us, sees us, and wants good for us.  So much hope in that.

And because there was a special Valentine's retreat (for parents only) this year which involved a concert featuring Stephen Curtis Chapman, I'm sharing this video.  A special song - because we know we will see you one day.